DeKalb County Opinion

Eye On Illinois: Do we really need to ponder a new state flag?

“The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.”

That’s the first principle of flag design per the North American Vexillological Association (, and it must be said Illinois’ banner fails on that front, and two of the other four: using more than two or three basic colors and including lettering and the state seal.

But does it need to be replaced?

If Gov. JB Pritzker signs Senate Bill 1818 – our statehood year – we’ll have a commission to consider new designs and possibly recommend replacement.

Capitol News Illinois said the commission’s appointed members would be unpaid other than a per diem reimbursement. Tasks include setting “guiding principles,” raising awareness and creating a design submission process. Although Illinois has a track record of task forces failing to meet deadlines, or complete their work at all, the stated goal is to select 10 designs by Sept. 1, 2024, and make recommendations to to the General Assembly three months later.

Scott T. Holland

The current flag is only 52 years old, but the basic design principle dates to 1915. Drawing it from memory is a tall order for an adult, especially the part where the word “sovereignty” is written upside down because the banner on which it is emblazoned has twisted while in the mouth of the bald eagle holding it and … the confusing part starts to make sense, right?

A sesquicentennial flag adopted in 1968 checks more vexillological boxes: a dark blue banner with a capital white I ringed by 20 white stars and a larger, 21st star in the upper right. Inside the stylized I is the state’s shape in red. Illinois is an odd perimeter for anyone to draw freehand, but it’s at least recognizable and unique.

To be fair, most state flags are bad. Very few are instantly recognizable to any American – provided the name is obscured – and generally the ugly ones aren’t widely flown. We all know the good flags (Texas, Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, New Mexico) in large part because people are proud to display something that looks neat. Maryland also somehow fits this bill in spite of itself.

Illinoisans understand how a flawless flag design becomes a ubiquitous, pride-inspiring pennant because Chicago’s is one of the best anywhere. NAVA should consider adding additional principles for flag design: must look cool as a tattoo, as a patch for city workers and vehicles, or easily blended into sports logos and uniforms.

SB 1818 passed the Senate 39-16, the House 72-40. That’s 56 lawmakers who know we’ve got bigger problems or understand a new flag is unlikely to generate legitimate excitement.

If we’re going to revisit anything adopted five decades ago, how about the 1970 state constitution?

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at