Michael Greshko: Redesign of the city flag for San Francisco

A while back, I blogged about a TED Talk that was about flags.

Watch the TED Talk

The basic rules of flag design include:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Use meaningful symbolism.
  • Use two to three basic colors.
  • Don't use lettering or seals (too hard to read from the ground when the flag is atop a pole).
  • Be distinctive.

I live in Alameda, California. Alameda resident, Donald Ingraham, designed the Alameda flag back in the late 1980's/early 1990's as part of a city-wide contest for the design.


Based on these rules described in the TED Talk, our Alameda flag is well designed.

  • It is simple — easy enough for a child to draw.
  • It uses meaningful nautical symbolism to compliment Alameda's "Island City" reputation.
  • It uses three basic colors: red, white, and blue.
  • It doesn't use lettering nor seals.
  • It is distinctive — incorporating the A for Alameda into the anchor in the middle.

Though I live in Alameda, I work in San Francisco. San Francisco, on the other hand, was specifically called out as having a bad flag design in the TED Talk. Here's how Autodesk is pitching in to help out.

Sign up today

You too can get involved. Visit www.sanfranciscoflag.com today.

Recently, It's Alive in the Lab reader, Michael Greshko, shared his entry for a new San Francisco flag with me:


Dear Mr. Sheppard:

I wanted to contact you today to share with you my redesign of the San Francisco flag. I am not from the city or state, but I have enjoyed my visits, and I like a good design challenge. (I am not a professional designer, but it's fun for me in my spare time.)

  • The green and blue represent land and water/sky. (The two green triangles also represent the Twin Peaks.) The white between them represents unity, as well as surf (land/water) and the city's fog (land/sky).

  • The red represents progress, in two ways:

    • The rising phoenix on the current flag, as it flies rightward from land up and into the sky. (The red band is approximately the color of the current flag's flames.)
    • An overhead glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge midway through its span across the strait. The pink at the heart of the flag represents diversity, an important source and mediator of unity and progress. It also nods to the gay liberation movement and the city's LGBT legacy.

Do let me know what you think of it.

Michael Greshko

I like Michael's better than mine:


Flags are alive in the lab.