Did you know that Raleigh has a flag? Created in 1899 as a gift for the USS Raleigh warship, the historic Raleigh flag is a double-sided triband flag bearing the city seal on one side and Sir Walter Raleigh’s coat of arms with a crest and motto on the other.
Raleigh Flag of 1899
Sadly, you won’t see many instances of the historic Raleigh flag flying around the city. Many citizens don’t even know it exists. We think this is because the historic flag isn’t especially memorable, or even easy to recognize. It doesn't follow the principles of good flag design. And indeed, its designers didn't intend for it to be adopted as an official city flag. Rather, they created it as a hand-painted piece of art meant as a one-time gift. This flag wasn't designed to fulfill the main function of a flag: to signal identity at a distance. It isn't fit for purpose because it wasn't designed for purpose.
Lack of a well-designed flag is a problem common to many cities. See podcaster and radio host Roman Mars explain how most city flags don’t follow good design principles in this humorous and informative TED talk.
Contrast the cluttered design of the historic Raleigh flag with the crisp, compelling imagery in the flags of other cities such as Chicago, Denver, or Washington, DC. These flags are so effective and well-loved that you see them everywhere in their home cities. Not only do local residents and businesses fly these city flags, but you can see the flags depicted on souvenirs, signs, clothing – you name it. Some proud citizens of Chicago even have tattoos of the Chicago flag!
Adaptations of some well-loved city flags
In fact you need look no further than our neighboring cities to find some simple, effective flags. Note the clean, distinctive designs of the flags of Durham and Charlotte, adopted in the 1980s. You’ll find these flags all over our fellow Carolina cities. They're a source of civic pride.
Flags of Durham & Charlotte, NC
As awareness of flag design principles has spread in recent years, many municipalities have undergone movements to redesign their flags. Cities have recognized that a handsome, emblematic flag is a standard under which the citizens of a town can rally. See examples of some updated city flags here:
Use slider to compare old flag (left) vs new (right)
The city of Raleigh deserves an iconic flag. While the flag of 1899 will always be an endearing piece of history, a new, well-designed flag can be a highly recognizable symbol that provides our citizenry with a sense of common identity. The new Raleigh flag campaign seeks to establish that symbol and make it official.
Join the effort and help promote the new flag. This grassroots movement will continue to spread awareness and entreat the Raleigh city council to adopt the new Raleigh flag as an official flag of the city.