After watching a TED Talk about flags the other day, I was inspired to create a few simple designs for my own city flag. I'm not even sure our city has a flag. We have a logo that I've seen on flags and it's okay, but it breaks every rule that Roman Mars mentions in his TED Talk, "Why City Flags May Be The Worst-Designed Thing You've Ever Noticed". (You should watch it...really!)
So first off, let me tell you a little about my city's logo. It has a tree with the word "Indiana" on it, in a circle that says, "The City of Pride and Progress" and it's topped with a banner that sports our city name, "Greenwood". It's very dated, busy, hard to read, and looks like it was created long before computer graphics.
GREENWOOD...Green wood...a tree....what else?
Greenwood has almost always been represented by a tree. Long ago, before the settlers to this area shooed out (or worse) all the Native Americans, built their cabins, churches and farms, the area was covered by a rather dense forest. A lot of it was cleared for farming, but some of those old trees still remain on various properties. Trees are fairly plentiful in certain areas of town, and if you get up early enough and take a stroll, (before the morning rush hour), you'd swear you woke up in a quiet forest filled with crisp fresh air. Air that has been cleared out overnight by the "green" part of Greenwood.
Nowadays, most people know Greenwood, Indiana as the place with the a huge shopping mall. It's been there since the 1960s, (in one form or another), and come the shopping holiday season, it is so packed with automobiles that some people often park on the outlying grass. "The Mall" is the place we hung out at as teenagers, and the place that I rarely go to as an adult. As a matter of fact, I never even had a job in the mall, which might make me a rare native of Greenwood.
I moved back to Greenwood (2004) after living in larger, more metropolitan towns like Denver, Indianapolis and Chicago. Since I left in 1991, a lot of things changed. I'm happy to see that Greenwood has become more ethnically diverse, which includes quite a few more restaurants of international cuisines. A rather large industrial area has sprung up along the highway, which probably provides quite a few jobs in logistics and warehousing. There's a huge amount of urban sprawl where areas that were once family farms have been taken over by housing developments. Old Town (where I live) has seen a bit of a boost in redevelopment. Besides all the churches, tattoo and beauty parlors, we now have a few nice restaurants and other businesses. People even seem to be interested in rehabbing their own homes. It has been exciting to see the city investing more in the parks and sprucing up public spaces. I'm particularly happy to see healthier grocery stores, better roads and a broader choice of locally owned craft breweries, but it still isn't enough.
Greenwood still needs a better image. We need to break free from being the town with "The Greenwood Park Mall" and be a town with the awesome people, great schools, beautiful parks, safe places to ride bicycles, walk or run, fantastic small businesses, wonderful food, and some darn tasty craft brews. Greenwood should not only be a great place to live, but a great place to work and play. Greenwood seriously needs to re-brand!
With all these fantastic things going on, I don't see where the city has ever revamped (or even considered) its "brand". The brand of Greenwood, Indiana, just seems like an afterthought. (It could very well be that there is already something in the works, but I'm not aware of it. There doesn't seem to be a modern marketing strategy or effort to integrate social media. (Just try and Google to find the city's official twitter feed. If you do find it, you'll see that the City of Greenwood, has about 13 twitter followers when it should have tens of thousands.) To keep in line with the city's slogan "City of Pride and Progress", I'd like to see more progress and a wonderful showing of pride.
It's hard to find Greenwood's logo online. The image I found (above) was on an insurance website for the city's employees, and it isn't readily available in any type of good, large format file. The logo seems to just be used as some sort of government seal and that's about it. It is primarily seen on city stuff, like trucks, employee shirts and the sides of the city building. That's fine, leave it there, but also develop a design that is marketable and desirous. Develop something that citizens (who do have "pride" in their city) want to purchase and share with the world. Develop something that can turn a bit of revenue for the city....Why not develop a beautiful city flag?
FLAG DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
Taking the tree and the circle elements from the city logo, I started working independently on a flag project. The first design that I came up with was this:
Greenwood has almost always used the colors green and gold. They are the colors of our main community school and they are very good colors to represent our town.
This preliminary design incorporated the symbolism of golden fields at harvest time, the sun shining in our skies and the prosperity associated the precious metal, gold. Central to the theme is the green tree (green wood) with a green stripe representing the green lawns, gardens and farms of early spring and summer. The blue stripe above and encircling the golden sun, is the sky. The blue stripe below represents water in the form of our small creeks, both with the name of "Pleasant".
After the initial design I did several more with the same sorts of symbolism. I liked the stripes not being centered and felt they drew interest to the central tree/sun elements.
The designs are not complicated, but simple and can still be recognized from a distance.
What I eventually settled on as my final flag design contained the letter "G" which broke rule #4 (No Lettering or Seals) of The Five Basic Principles of Flag Design (the other 4 being #1 Keep it Simple, #2 Use Meaningful Symbolism, #3 Use 2-3 Basic Colors, and #5 Be Distinctive or Be Related). After all this IS Indiana, and people here are a bit less complicated than the rest of the United States. It contains all the same symbols, except as the design evolved, I got rid of the water/sky color of blue, because I didn't feel they were as important. The water in our town is just a small creek (or as we Hoosiers pronounce it, "crick"). Although Pleasant and Pleasant Run Creeks are not major waterways they only provide minimal irrigation and drainage, so I felt that they could easily be omitted to bring the design down to two basic and dominate colors.
Here is the final design I would propose to the City of Greenwood, Indiana and I would propose that they sell it not only on flags, but everything they possibly could...
Utilizing the design, colors and symbolism of this flag, I would re-brand the City of Greenwood and start utilizing social media more diligently (as in, several times a day). I'd suggest that Greenwood use social media as a serious tool not only to promote itself but to promote the community, including local businesses, schools, events, real estate, etc. and consider it a vital form of communication in announcing city plans, meetings, happenings, road closings and other awesome events. Most of all, it should use social media to encourage community involvement and treat it as a place for purposefully engaging citizens and responding in a way that makes them feel like they are a part of the process. Greenwood needs to promote itself to attract great people and great businesses. Let the world know that Greenwood IS progressive and that its residents ARE proud to call it home.
That's my two-cents worth of free advice for the City of Greenwood.
Personal note: My family has been part of the Greenwood community for over 100 years, (starting with the Carsons and Waldens) and it is where we still live, work and play.
P.S. If you'd like to check out other Indiana city flags, I highly recommend the website CRW Flags. My Indiana favorites are Clarksville, East Chicago, Elkhart, Indianapolis, Lafayette and West Lafayette. The rest are dysfunctional at best, and a few simply make me cringe. Greenwood could definitely have a better flag than the City of Carmel...
You can also read the North American Vexillological Association's book on flag design, "Good Flag, Bad Flag" by Ted Kay, HERE