Runaway cultural phenomena — the kind that adsorb into the fabric of social history and remain vital after decades and centuries — never have a chance at longevity unless they’re birthed by eggheads whose sole aim is to artificially influence human tendencies and behaviors.
Do you have a problem with that statement?
Apparently, the folks at National Public Radio don’t. In one of those top-down, sterile, abstract thought exercises — the kind in which the participants confuse their own gratification at being a part of the process with an expectation that the rest of the messy, self-willed world should care — NPR’s Studio 360 program has teamed up with a graphic design firm to come up with a modern-day replacement for the Confederate flag.
This is it:
What are you looking at here? The creators, Stefan Reddick and Gus Granger of the Dallas-based 70kft design firm, tried to explain it to NPR:
“We went through several hundred different symbols that could potentially represent the South — everything from magnolia trees to pecan pie, anything and everything,” offered Reddick. “That’s great for one small group, but is that telling the full story of everyone in the South? We didn’t want a mythical idea about what the South used to be, we wanted to look forward to the future.”
OK, so what about the design of the flag itself? It’s reportedly a quilt-based design. NPR asked Granger and Reddick about it:
When we heard from you last week, your design team had split into two groups: a rebel team and a quilt team. Who won?
Gus Granger: Team quilt ended up with the upper hand.
SR: We realized that the quilt worked best for the identity perspective, and the rebel theme became a great advertising moment. So the quilt informs the symbol most directly, but that rebel attitude is still a big part of our design treatment.
Where did the inspiration for the rebel idea come from?
GG: America has been informed by the act of rebellion since its earliest days, not just in the Civil War. And many of our proudest moments of social reform come from people rebelling against the status quo: the Civil Rights Movement, women’s suffrage, the Underground Railroad. All these things required rebelling against convention to help our nation get better.
Not sure where this new flag fits into any of that, nor of how it affixes itself to any historical context –something the real Confederate flag, as well as its many permutations, all have working in their favor.
… Or not, if you’re the design team.
Unifying all the people in the Deep South under any flag is kind of missing the point, though, isn’t it?
And if history offers any guidance, have these designers really thought about what they’re wishing for?