In the heated debate surrounding the Confederate Flag, the defense offered by many has been that the symbol isn’t representative of a culture built on slavery and racism but is, instead, a banner representing that Southerners are simply proud of their home, their people and their culture.
“What other symbol immediately lets the world know you are from the South?” they argue.
To tackle the problem, Studio 360, a national public radio program, commissioned a Texas-based design firm to design a new flag to represent the modern South. With a diverse team of designers with ties to both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, 70kft embraced the challenge with an understanding of the importance of their task.
“The South is unique as a region in that it already has an informal definition,” Gus Granger, founding principal of 70kft and a lead creative on the redesign project, said in a conversation with AL.com. The problem is that, obviously, this community that people feel so passionate about “has out of date visual assets to help define its identity.”
He’s right. The South is the only part of the country that seems dead set on having its own particular brand ethos – you don’t see the West or New England rallying around a regional flag. And if we are going to define ourselves as a region, maybe it is time for an update. After all, for 150 years, we’ve essentially maintained the same branding even though our product has changed.
Could a new design offer Southerners the chance to embrace Southern pride, without embracing a symbol that hurts so many of our friends and neighbors? That sounds the toughest uphill battle since Pickett’s Charge.
Granger said their goal was to “bring a modern visual language into the space for people that want to celebrate their legacy as Southerners,” not by eliminating or ignoring cultural differences but by respecting them.
In an online presentation, 70kft suggests: “the Confederate battle flag is a divisive symbol. Some see family and honor. Some see bigotry and hatred. If we can’t agree on the meaning, we can never be unified by it.”
Their new flag is representative of “the diverse array of backgrounds, opinions, values and perspectives now found throughout the region create the very fabric of the modern South.
I’ll admit it. I’m kind of in love with this flag.
It’s a flag that doesn’t try to capture “a mythical idea about what the South used to be” but instead looks “forward to the future.”
The flag employs the tried and true colors of red and blue that make up the American flag (and, yes, the Confederate battle flag as well). However, these “reds and blues are more vibrant than how they are traditionally used, to reflect a younger, energetic and modern personality.”
The stripes are also designed to “represent different people, with unique backgrounds, experiences and values. They are equal to each other, but different in color.”
And when these diverse peoples, cultures and backgrounds intersect? That’s what really makes up the modern South – a South that we should all be proud of. The team at 70kft captures this by having the moments of intersection point southward.
The pattern is scalable and their designers have offered images of what it could look like on hats, shirts, buttons, pillows, bow ties, even the front of a truck covered in mud. It works on all the Southern staples. Granger said they’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response and are currently considering their options for creating physical copies of their mocked up products.
And, apparently, it wasn’t enough to tackle one divisive southern symbol. In order to completely overhaul the South’s brand, 70kft proposed a new campaign to redefine the “rebel.”
“So many different heroes and movements have come out of the South aren’t necessarily celebrated as having roots in the South,” Granger said. “There are a lot of stereotypes applied to the South rather than recognizing their impact on the trajectory of America and the changing of our culture.”
Vestavia Hills, you may want to take note because, combined with the new flag, their reinterpretation of the word rejects the stereotype of 19th century Southern rebel and instead highlights the “rebellions” of Southern innovators. A “rebel” is now anyone that is willing to challenge convention.
Alabama’s Jesse Owens overcame discrimination to win four Olympic gold medals right in Hitler’s backyard. Sounds like a rebel to me.
Helen Keller? She’s a rebel too. Harper Lee, Rosa Parks, Elvis Presley were rebels. As were Janis Joplin and Martin Luther King, Jr.
By expanding the definition, 70kft draws national attention to the South as a place where change happens – where rock ‘n’ roll was born and where Americans figured out how to put a man on the moon.
Embracing a positive South? Now that would be rebellious.