A youth organisation has decided to try to change the flag of Topeka; the state capital of Kansas, USA. FORGE is a youth initiative that aims to aid the economic development of Topeka partly by helping train young people to a high standard to help drive the quality of the city’s workforce. The group has seen the current economic upturn of the city and feels that a new flag is needed to represent this.
The flag that is presently used by the city has been in place since 1977. It was designed by a 13 year old scout, who incorporated the already existing emblem of the city. The hoist side of the flag is white, while the fly side is split horizontally into gold and green.
The colour green symbolises the fertility of the land around the city and agriculture. Corn is an important product of the region thanks to the fertile soil. The gold of the flag is representative of the city’s nickname – “The Golden City”
The emblem that is on the hoist side of the flag also has plenty of meaning packed into it. The shield has the city’s nickname in the top section. Below that, the remainder of the shield is split into three sections by a chevron. In the chevron is a zig-zag pattern that represents the first bridge that was built over the river Kansas, a development crucial to the Topeka’s early development. Nine stars also appear in the chevron, which are to represent the 9 founders of the city.
In the 3 sections divided by the chevron are aimages related to the city. In the bottom thrid is the State Capitol, the building that houses the government for the whole state of Kansas, which is located in Topeka. The top left section has a locomotive wheel and a beehive, to represent industry, and the importance of the railroad to the region. Finally in the top right third is a traditional grass hut, which is what was used by the Kaw Tribe; the original settlers of the land. Finally, beneath the shield is a scroll, enscribed with “TOPEKA 1854 KANSAS”.
Why The Change?
From a vexillological standpoint, the current flag is not ideal. The design is far more interesting than the “seal on a bed sheet” pitfall that so many US state and city flags have fallen into, as it has three separate colours rather than just a field of dark blue. However, the presence of the emblem breaks a couple of the famous Five Basic Principles of Flag Design. One of the rules is “no seals or lettering”. This is of course a two-for-one, as the seal itself features a fair amount of lettering. The reason for the rule against lettering is that if you have to tell people what the flag represents, then the flag cannot be effective.
It also breaks the rule “keep it simple”. While the images in the emblem are great symbols of the city, they are too intricate. A flag should be simple enough that a child could draw it.
But aside from purely design based reasons, the flag has been in use for over 40 years. FORGE believes that the city has evolved in that time, and now needs a better flag to represent it. They came up with a set of themes that the new flag should be able to capture.
FORGE would like the new flag to use a colour palette of gold, green, blue and/or white. They also stipulate that redesigns should follow the aforementioned Five Principles of Flag Design from NAVA. Other than that, they have provided design themes that the new flag ideas should draw from. Here are the themes from their website:
Pathways traversed the Topeka area even before the Santa Fe Trail commerce route opened in 1821. The trails were the precursors to many of Kansas’ major railroads. Today, Topeka sits at the intersection of major highways that connect the United States. The community continues to develop new pathways, like the expansion of the Shunga Trail and recently improved bike routes. Pathways also refers to the historical significance Topeka has played as part of major national historical movements.
The people of Topeka are proud to see the community continue to grow and evolve. In June 2018, Topeka City Council passed a resolution to grow Topeka by 1,000 citizens by 2020.
Topeka has a strong history of civic engagement and social change. As the capital city of Kansas, Topekans are consistently willing to challenge the status quo. From our roots as the Free State Capital to Brown v. Board of Education, advocacy continues to shape our lives today.
Topeka embraces all of its neighbors – visitors and residents alike. We celebrate who we are while inviting all to the table. We continue to have the tough conversations necessary to make progress toward a united community because first and foremost, we strive to be ourselves – authentic.
The submission stage closed at the end of last month. 268 entries were recieved, a fantastic amount! The guys over a FORGE are now reviewing the entries, and whittling them down to four finalists. Topeka residents will then have the chance to give their opinion on the designs, and a final design will be created from this input. Sadly, it is not definite that this new design will be adopted, but it will be presented to Topeka City Council, who will have the final say on whether the flag will be changed.
UPDATE – 9TH FEBRUARY 2019
The submissions were narrowed down to four finalists, which you can see below!
FORGE will now consult members of the public on which design elements best represent the city. From this feedback, the final flag will be created. We will be keeping a keen eye on this story to see how it develops! If you’d like to keep up to date, make sure to follow us on social media. You can find the follow buttons below! Also, be sure to let us know which of the four flags is our favourite!