We've planted our flag in Newport.
We have an old-school maps-and-flags view of history, and the world here and now at the Academy – they are the physical incarnations of borders and loyalties, and also represent allegiance, home, and the cultural ties that bind going way back.
As part of our traditional skills instruction we teach our students how to use a sewing machine, and our history course offers a brief overview of vexillology, heraldry, and cartography among, obviously, many other things. One of the class projects is for each student to re-design their hometown flag, because we're all about improving (and galvanizing) communities, and what better way than rallying the troops around a beautifully-designed flag?
Seriously, cities and towns have a fantastic opportunity to encourage civic pride by turning their citizens into literal flag wavers, but the unfortunate truth is most municipal banners are known as SOBs (Seals on a Bedsheet). We started with our own: even though Newport’s flag is historically significant, it probably won’t delight any of the residents or tourists who don’t know its importance:
With that in mind, we thought we’ve re-designed the Newport flag to capture the inspired and inspiring spirit of the City by the Sea.
According to the Vexillological Society, there are a few rules for designing an authentic and memorable flag, and we thought we’d lay them out here as guidelines for everyone to understand, and judge by:
First, a flag’s design must be simple–a six year old should be able to draw it from memory.
Second, it should have meaning and appropriateness.
Third, two or three colors, max.
Fourth, no text or writing.
Fifth, it should be original, and/or related to other flags or symbols associated with the city.
We thought a modified swallowtail burgee would be exactly right even though most flags are rectangular–since this distinguishing shape is associated with boating in general and yacht clubs in particular – perfect for Newport given its maritime heritage and exciting sailing culture. We chose navy blue for trust and truth (and the ocean) and white for light and purity–the same color scheme as the Rhode Island state flag.
The 5-pointed star is a nod to the Navy, a welcome long-time resident and partner in Newport’s growth and reputation, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War.
The smaller, superscript star multiplies the first star’s power exponentially, and visualizes perfectly the multitude of wonders and events that can be found in Newport. It's also a hat tip to the North Star, used by explorers for centuries to navigate, and the mariner at sea’s best friend.
We've sent a letter to Mayor Napolitano and the rest of the city council suggesting a Newport flag redesign contest, so everyone in town, residents and tourists alike can chime in with their own design, and we'll let you know when she gets back to us. Wouldn't it be fun to win, and have a bit of Old's Cool glory flying atop every flagpole in town?