By sometime this summer, Joey Wignarajah and Jacob Johnson hope to have a newly designed Tulsa flag waving in the wind atop of city hall.
But that’s the end of the journey. To get there they must pass a series of milestones, the first of which was just accomplished.
The submission phase — where residents submitted ideas of what they thought most represented the city— just ended, leaving the Tulsa Flag group with more than 600 ideas to pull from.
“We were very pleased with the input,” Wignarajah said. “We wanted to make sure we had a good cross-section of ideas, so that we didn’t end up with a flag that was just something that midtowners liked.”
But how do you make sure all of Tulsa has a voice? The group did the vast majority of its outreach through Facebook, and in order to get the same amount of input from every section of the city, they split Tulsa into city council districts, then tracked the reach of their ads. When one district lagged behind, the group would re-focus the ad to that section of town.
In the end, they felt like they reached the entire city.
“We can say that within a percentage point, we reached all the districts equally,” Wignarajah said.
“I want to write a case study on using digital tools,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have to use a ground game or have a big ground team, we got to use digital tools. If the intention is there and seeking to include the right people, the ability to do it is there.
“We reached over half-a-million people with our Facebook campaign.”
When the community input section ended, six main themes emerged:
- Oil discovery
- Race riots
- Founding/Creek Council Oak Tree
- Art Deco architecture
- Route 66
- Tulsa Sound
The next phase
You don’t have to be a top-flight graphic designer to take part in the design phase, Johnson said.
“We really wanted to make it clear that we want everyone to have a part in this process,” he said. “We’re not going to turn away a design just because it wasn’t made by a professional.”
The desire to remake the flag is there, Johnson said. They announced that they were embarking on the process before they had a fully functional website, and they immediately were bombarded with “some amazing” design submissions before the campaign was even really off the ground.
So now they’ve set up a full-fledged design council to pare down the submissions. So how can an amateur sketch be expected to compete with some of the professional designs they’ll no doubt receive?
“If we get a drawing that we really like, or that we think ‘OK, there are some good pieces here,’ we’ll take it to a designer for them to use as inspiration,” Johnson said. “The real professional-grade stuff we won’t touch.”
The submission phase should last through January. The design panel will narrow down the submissions to three finalists in February, following which the public will vote and select the winner.
“We haven’t exactly worked out how the voting will work,” Johnson said. “It’s very important that we get all of Tulsa, but also that we get only Tulsa. If we open it up to literally everyone, you could have people who have never been to Tulsa that are helping select the flag.”
However that process goes, the group aims to have the final flag in front of the city council at some point in March or April. Wignarajah said they’ll keep voting open “as long as necessary.”
“We want to make sure that we’ve reached the entire city, so that when we take the flag to the city council, they can be sure that it’s representative,” Wignarajah said.
What happens then?
Wignarajah tells the story of how he was in another city once, and saw someone wearing a t-shirt from Tulsa boutique Ida Red. Instantly he felt connected to that person.
Tulsa’s current flag, the city’s seal set on a blank background, doesn’t exactly foster that same sense of closeness. It flies on city hall, but it’s perhaps most often seen on manhole covers and the trash cans given to city homeowners.
That’s because, unlike some other city flags, the design is copyrighted, meaning it’s illegal to reproduce.
“Why do people wear clothes with the logo of their school, or their favorite team?” Wignarajah asked. “Because they’re proud of it and they want to show it off. You literally can’t do with that Tulsa’s flag now.”
That’s another side-effect of the redesign that the group feels will be beneficial. Once created, the new flag will be free for people to do with as they wish, be it T-shirts with the design, or pillows, or blankets.
Or even tattoos.
“That’s my dream, to have a tattoo artist doing free tattoos of the flag at our launch party in May,” Johnson said. “I think that would be great.”
“There’s really the potential for a non-negligible amount of economic impact when this is complete,” Wignarajah said. “We want to have a design that people want to play with, and want to wear. It will take a while for the impact to be felt but if we’re letting people create and sell items with the new design, that could actually be an economic benefit.”
But that’s still down the road, Johnson cautioned.
“We haven’t made it until I see our design on a pair of underwear on Amazon,” he said. “You can quote me on that.”