Speculative designs for a new City of Tampa flag are appearing online after Tampa-based creative agency Tack United issued a public challenge for submissions.
Tampa’s often-ridiculed current flag, designed by an accountant and “officially accepted” by Mayor D.B. McKay in 1930, has long been mocked by flag enthusiasts and graphic artists who say it breaks nearly every rule of good design, especially those laid out in a viral 2015 Ted Talk titled “Why City Flags May Be the Worst-Designed Thing You’ve Never Noticed.”
Unlike city flags from Chicago and Denver, the oddly-shaped Tampa flag isn’t a popular choice for T-shirts and front yards, though it does fly in some public parks.
Mark Anderson, a co-owner of ad and design agency Tack United, wants to change that, and said the call for design submissions, which appear under the tag #fixourflag on Instagram, is only the start of the Fix Our Flag campaign.
“If you’re going to have a flag,” Anderson said, “why have one that is historically inaccurate, that has nothing to do with the city, the people or the culture?”
He is asking for people to continue posting better designs for a Tampa flag using the hashtag, but also encourages anyone who wants a better flag to post “#fixourflag” in the comments on any social media posts by Mayor Jane Castor and the City of Tampa.
Anderson said he’s organizing an email letter-writing campaign to let the mayor and city council know that there is political will to change the flag, and that he is organizing a group to make public comments on the flag during upcoming city council meetings.
Tampa residents, he said, should expect to see tiny flags on toothpicks popping up around the city in coming weeks.
“The flag is a symbol of the city as it is now,” Anderson said. “You have a well-designed flag, and it represents well-designed parks, that you care about well-designed transit, well-designed restaurants, everything.”
A bad one, he believes, even affects the city’s ability to pitch itself as a destination for film or to attract innovative businesses.
“Tampa has this vibrant creative community, as vibrant as Nashville or Portland or other places,” he said, “but our flag feels misrepresentative.”
Among the local firms that have submitted designs for a new flag are Tampa’s Sparxoo and St. Petersburg design and marketing agency Hype Group.
The flag is a way to “show the world what Tampa has to offer,” said Shayna Lawler of Hype Group. “And this is what we’re working with? Yikes. This isn’t the best we can do ... .”
“In my other job I am a branding consultant, so I agree that we need to relook at our flag design,” Tampa city councilman Bill Carlson said, noting that another Tampa resident, Mario Nunez, host of the Tampa Natives Show, has been leading an effort to change the flag for several years. “Hopefully these two initiatives can work together. We need to make sure that the process is broad and inclusive and we shouldn’t change without community consensus.”
Anderson wants to grow the Fix Our Flag campaign beyond just the creative design community and is asking those interested in getting involved — “we need radio stations, non profit organizations, regular people who think this matters, anyone” — to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow @tack.united on Instagram for updates on the campaign.
Dozens of U.S. cities have changed or started the process of changing their flags since 2015. Orlando changed its city flag in 2017, choosing from more than 1,100 public submissions from around the world.
Galveston, Texas residents voted last week on flag designs submitted by the Cultural Arts Commission, and the city is set to choose from three finalists this month.
Tampa, Anderson said, could adopt a new flag through a similar process. Because the flag does not appear in the Tampa city charter, the mayor alone has the power to change it, city officials told the Tampa Bay Times in 2017.