The New Century Flag

The New Century Flag

January 15th, 2021 marks the 190th anniversary of the existence of Cook County. As we enter the final decade of the second century of the County, we look forward into the future, into a new century. The New Century Flag represents some of the most notable features of the County — from the rivers that run through it to the city of Chicago at its center — as well as some of its historical accomplishments, all with a cohesive, modern, and distinctive design.

The New Century Flag has two primary components: the Wheel, and the Stripes. The Wheel, in the leftmost third of the Flag, represents three separate aspects of the County:
● O’Hare and Midway, Cook County’s bustling airports
● the Ferris Wheel, invented in Cook County
● the geographic layout of Cook County

The Stripes, on the other hand, represent the four primary bodies of water in Cook County: Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, the Des Plaines River, and the Little Calumet River. In this labeled simulation, the waving New Century Flag is labeled according to its geographical representation of the County.

The Flag is made of three colors: red, white, and blue. This combination of colors evokes both patriotism and diversity — after all, the three colors make up not only the American flag, but the plurality of country flags around the world. The exact shade of red, Wheel Red, comes directly from the iconic Chicago flag, whereas the blue, Lake Blue, is nearly identical to that of the Cook County seal. Wheel Red and Lake Blue are just two of the colors used in this proposed Cook County design system; the rest can be seen below.

The New Century Flag is precisely gridded to ensure near-perfect dimensions and margins. Set in a 15:9 horizontal aspect ratio, the Flag is proportioned on the basis of a single measurement: x. When the Flag is
printed at a size of 15 inches by 9 inches, x is equal to about 0.43 inches. The ratio of blue stripes to the white margins that separate them is 2:1, with the former being a measurement of 4x and the latter 2x. The Wheel is drawn with x as the width of the stroke. The entire Flag consists solely of perfect circles and lines rotated by either 45 or 90 degrees.

Portions of the schematic of the Flag can be separated from the whole to form art-like structures, resembling the work of renowned Cook County architect Frank Lloyd Wright. These patterns have many potential applications, from usage in posters and advertisements, perhaps to frame content and images, to simple but unique Virtual Backgrounds.

The New Century Flag may be condensed into a small icon when it is necessary, known as the Minilogo. The Minilogo has a variety of applications, from the subtle branding of a slideshow as the schematic image above exemplifies, to profile pictures on social media as depicted below. The colors of the Minilogo adapt to the background to ensure contrast, and can come in full-color, two-color, and three-color.

This Flag represents a new step forward.
It embodies both history and future.
Its design is simultaneously familiar and unique.

Tim Mellman

Tim Mellman (he/him or they/them) Student Designer

Tim Mellman

Tim Mellman

he/him or they/them

1. How does the flag you designed represent who you are and what you care about? (2-3 sentences)

The flag I designed is representative of both the county’s national pride and its diversity — its three colors of red, white, and blue make up not only the American flag, but the plurality of country flags around the world. It is mathematical, with relative dimensions measured exactly to ensure equal margins, and also flexible and adaptable into everything from social media profile pictures to virtual backgrounds, or even could be applied to create a county brand system. Likewise, as a proud Jewish American, I am both patriotic and diverse, and my tendency to put great effort into the smallest details reflects the mathematical and adaptable nature of the design.

2. Why did you decide to join the Flag 2021 competition? (2 sentences)

To put it simply, I joined the Flag 2021 competition because I am fascinated by flags and vexillology, and am also a graphic designer in my free time. I also loved the idea that I could contribute directly to my community and have a lasting impact.

3. What did you learn about Cook County that surprised you? (1 sentence)

Prior to my research, I had no idea that Cook County has an official county flower, the purple coneflower — it was one of the models for the iconic red wheel, which I had initially designed in orange to match the center “cone” of the coneflower.

4. Tell us a short story about your collaboration with your flag mentor/partner(s). (3-5 sentences)

I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with Josh Witherspoon, a designer and advertising creative director at VSA Partners! I met with Josh several times over the collaboration portion of the competition and worked on making variations to the design live through Zoom screen sharing. Josh encouraged me to mock up a series of variations that ultimately enabled me to fine-tune the key elements of my design. His input was incredibly valuable, and while most of the changes between my initial design and final design were refinements, Josh’s advice was not just incredibly helpful in making an altogether more cohesive flag and design system, but also taught me the best ways to revise a design through experimentation and variations centered on a few core elements.