Does Miami Need a New City Flag?

Should Miami switch to this design for its official city flag?
Should Miami switch to this design for its official city flag?
rendering via A New Flag For Miami

William-Jose Velez doesn't necessarily hate the City of Miami's flag. In fact, his problem is that he doesn't think Miamians love the orange and green emblem enough.  

"There are cities that have flags they're really proud of, like Washington, D.C., or Chicago, or states like Maryland, and the flag is just everywhere," Velez says. "In Miami, I don't see that same sense of community around the flag. It's a small thing, it's not a big problem, but it's a little thing we could fix."

So Velez is trying to do something about it. He started a Facebook page, began designing alternatives and started posting them on Reddit and other message boards. His goal isn't necessarily to get the city to adopt his designs — which tend toward geometrically odd depictions of palm trees — as much as it is to spark a debate about what Miami's flag should look like. 

"I'd love it if this all snowballs into a real community discussion about making a change," Velez says.

The orange-and-green emblem of the City of Miami dates back to 1933. That's when it was designed by one Charles L. Gmeinder on behalf of the Miami Women's Club, which the City Commission had asked to come up with a flag idea.

A Women's Club letter dated Nov. 13, 1933, suggests the commission planned to adopt the design a few days later. FIU's archives include this early shot of the flag design:

None of the documents from that time give any hint as to why Gmeinder chose the design he did. Paul George, a Miami history guru and professor at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus, could only offer a guess.

"My educated hunch is that its colors are inspired by the orange tree," he says.

Miami is fortunate, at least, that the flag doesn't conjure up Confederate controversy (as the state flag and — by connection — the similar Miami-Dade County flag do).

But Velez isn't the first to complain about the flag. For years, the most common concern has been how similar Miami's flag looks to India's banner. More than one visitor has confusedly wondered why Miami shows so much Indian national pride around town.

Velez, a 26-year-old biomedical and industrial engineer, split his childhood between Miami and his native Puerto Rico before moving back to Miami full time in 2007. He was inspired, he says, by a recent contest in Milwaukee to redesign that city's truly hideous municipal flag.

So he started cooking around with ideas and came up with this geometric palm tree design. (It's a simplified version of his first crack, which commenters on Reddit tore apart for being too complicated.)

He says the idea was to keep the orange-and-green for historical reasons, but to update the palm tree to reflect Miami's crazy mix of cultures and ideas. 

"I took inspiration from Miami's diversity, its mosaic of cultures where everything is very mixed," Velez says. "For the visual style, I thought about the Wynwood Walls and maybe even a little bit about Britto."

The design hasn't exactly taken fire online. Reddit commenters again mostly slammed the idea, but Velez says he hopes it starts as a jumping-off point for conversations. In Milwaukee, residents ended up voting on five different flag designs

"I would love anyone with ideas about a Miami flag to share them on my Facebook page," Velez says.


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