Creativity in Action: Eau Claire and La Crosse Have Their Own People's Flags Campaigns Now

Vexillology is suddenly the Badger State's hot new craze

Jun. 6, 2017
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The People's Flag of Eau Claire - Mike Berge/

Because there’s no better way to celebrate the unique character of your city than with a contest directly Xeroxed from another city’s, two Wisconsin municipalities have launched campaigns that might look mighty familiar to Milwaukeeans. “Artist submissions are being sought for The People’s Flag of La Crosse, a project to connect the people of La Crosse through a shared symbol of unity and togetherness, and promote La Crosse’s creative culture,” the La Crosse Tribune reported in February. If Milwaukee’s remarkably similar People’s Flag campaign is anything to go by, that part about promoting the city’s creative culture probably should have been in bold.

This Saturday the winner of that contest will be unveiled. The winning design will become an alternative to the La Crosse’s current flag which—again, this may sound familiar—is a quaint but dated relic with the audacity to capture the character and feel of the city. It’s charming as hell; just look at how many beams of joy are radiating out of the sun:

Seriously, stare at that flag for 10 seconds and you’ll feel a little bit better about the world. Replacing that flag would be like throwing away the blanket your grandma hand-stitched for you because it doesn’t match your iPhone case.

Meanwhile, this week Eau Claire announced the winner of its own People’s Flag campaign—no, it’s not a coincidence that these campaigns all share the same name, contest models and website designs. The one's harder to criticize, since Eau Claire doesn’t actually have an official flag for the people to usurp. The winning design, “Clear Water Revival” by Mike Berge, is clean, pleasant, modern and utterly nondescript, using blue to symbolize the most unique thing about any city: water. Again, stop me if this sounds familiar.

Eau Claire’s winning design was just announced Monday, but in the spirit of unity and togetherness, the People’s Flag campaign has already set up an online shop selling prints, posters, hoodies, T-shirts, cell phone cases, laptop skins, throw pillows, tote bags, mugs and, uh, an acrylic block. To be fair, that’s a fraction of the swag the Milwaukee People’s Flag campaign is hawking (nine different kinds of bedspreads!), but still: an acrylic block.

So what’s going on here? Honestly, is there some sort of powerful vexillology think tank raising money to launch these campaigns all over the country? Is Roman Mars overseeing a vast conspiracy to remake every city flag in America in the image of a circa-2014 fast-casual restaurant logo? Is this the strangest astro-turf phenomenon of our time, or are Millennials honestly just that passionate about flag design? All I can say is watch out, Town of Winchester: The creative class is coming to wipe that smug rural image off your face.


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