In December 2019, in celebration and recognition of the 190th anniversary of the founding of Cook County, the Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to create a contest to redesign Cook County’s flag.
The original resolution creating the Flag Advisory Panel and redesign effort can be found here.
In 2020, the Flag Advisory Panel received nearly 300 submissions from students at 40 schools throughout Cook County and narrowed the field to 25 semifinalist teams.
In November 2020, top 25 semifinalist teams were selected by an appointed Flag Advisory Panel. In December 2020, semifinalist teams were paired with volunteer professional design mentors to clarify and refine the students’ artwork, symbolism, and descriptions. In July 2021, the Flag Advisory Panel selected the top six finalist flag designs based on composition and representation. The top six designs are being presented to the Board of Commissioners for final determination as a new flag for Cook County.
“As we approach Cook County’s bicentennial, we look forward to presenting a flag that will represent the County for the next 200 years. Our gratitude goes to the Cook County youth that put their minds and hearts into their designs. Their work will serve generations of Cook County residents to come.”
— Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle
“The best flags are symbols of the values and spirit of everyone in that community. I thank the student designers, professional mentors, and Flag Advisory Panel members for their time, expertise, and passion for Cook County. It has been an honor to usher in this new era of representation for Cook County that engaged every corner of the County.”
— Scott Britton, 14th District Cook County Commissioner and Flag Advisory Panel Co-Chair
“Cook County’s high school students answered our challenge to design a flag for the 21st Century that connects our past and present together. The unique role Cook County played in the growth and development of the region, the state, and the nation is a story that should be told, and I am confident the Cook County Board will select a flag which will help to do just that.”
— Matthew DeLeon, Cook County Historian and Flag Panel Co-Chair
About the Current Cook County Flag
Cook County Government was established in 1831. Some 130 years later, Cook County adopted its first and only County Flag in 1961.
The current Cook County flag was created in 1961 and consists of a simplified version of the Cook County seal along with the words “Cook County” on a white backdrop; indeed, it is described by vexillologists as a “seal on a bedsheet.” This design was a result of the work of Cook County public relations director and historian Charles B. Johnson, Cook County Highway map division employee Edwin A. Back, County cartographer and artist Clarence C. Higgins, and Cook County Treasurer Francis S. Lorenz. Then-County President John J. Duffy raised the flag over the County Building for the very first time on Tuesday, June 13, 1961.
The Seal of Cook County was created by Frank Wenderski and established in Chapter 2, Article 1, Sec. 2-1. The outline in the center of the Seal is a map of Cook County. The scroll bearing the legend January 1831 represents the time the County was created by the State Legislature. The ship sailing on Lake Michigan is symbolic of the County’s geographical location as a shipping port and a center for all transportation. The group of diversified buildings are symbolic of the government, schools, churches, fine arts, dwellings, business, and industry that comprise Cook County.
While considered a standard operating procedure for that time, flags have started to move away from this model and more towards designs that are representative of the history, geography, and people of a region. Furthermore, the current flag is not easily memorized as are the word’s more iconic flags. The flag also does not highlight important aspects of Cook County such as the diversity of residents, the iconic history, the Forest Preserves and many other natural resources, the hospital system, and the role the County plays in criminal justice and social change.