Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Will People’s Flag Become Official Milwaukee Flag?

Trio of council members introduce resolution to change city flag.

By - May 31st, 2018 03:49 pm
Peoples’ Flag of Milwaukee. Photo from

Peoples’ Flag of Milwaukee. Photo from

Since being unveiled in June 2016, the people’s flag of Milwaukee has become ubiquitous. In addition to hanging from flagpoles across the city, you can find the design on beer bottles, bicycles and as of last week on Milwaukee Brewers merchandise.

There is one place you can’t find it – on any official city document. The city has yet to formally adopt the new flag.

Designed by graphic designer Robert Lenz, the new flag symbolizes a number of tried and true Milwaukee elements. The gold represents beer or wheat. The circle represents the sun rising over Lake Michigan. The blue represents the city’s connection to water, with the lake and Kinnickinnic, Menomonee and Milwaukee rivers. The three lines represent the city’s three founders, Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn and George Walker, and how they merged their communities together to form Milwaukee.

A group of Common Council members has introduced a resolution to make it official. Aldermen Khalif Rainey, Cavalier Johnson and Robert Donovan are listed as sponsors on the measure. When asked what led him to sponsor the measure, Johnson stated: “Milwaukee needs a symbol that we all can be proud of and rally around.”

The new flag, selected from a design competition led by Steve Kodis, would replace a hard-to-find city flag that dates back to 1955. Kodis, a graphic designer, was inspired to lead a contest to create a new flag as a way to engender civic pride.

The 1955 flag was designed by Alderman Fred Steffan. The alderman took elements from submissions to a design contest and mashed them into one flag. Matthew J. Prigge attempted to dissect all of the elements in 2015, including County Stadium and City Hall, but the history buff found himself stumped by at least one element. Further compounding the confusion surrounding the current flag, no one seems to have a record of when the design was value engineered, with City Hall and other elements in the flag took on a much simpler design.

Two Milwaukee Flags (original on left)

Two Milwaukee Flags (original on left)

The existing flag became the subject of ridicule in 2015 when Roman Mars singled it out in a TED talk as the worst designed civic flag. “Nothing can quite prepare you for one of the biggest train wrecks in Vexillological history. Are you ready? It’s the flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” declared Mars before playing a clip of Kodis describing the flag. The two jointly ridiculed how the flag design goes far enough to include an image of a flag on the flag.

But even if the current flag’s design wasn’t an issue, it’s no wonder the new flag has proliferated. Try to find design files for either version of the 1955 flag and the appeal of the royalty-free people’s flag becomes immediately apparent.

The 1955 flag does have its defenders, although Matt Wild, one of the most high profile critics of Kodis’ effort to change the flag, has recently given up.

The measure is slated to be reviewed by the Steering and Rules Committee on June 7th. The full council could adopt the flag at their regularly scheduled meeting on June 20th, less than a week after Flag Day.

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More about the People's Flag of Milwaukee

Read more about People's Flag of Milwaukee here

14 thoughts on “City Hall: Will People’s Flag Become Official Milwaukee Flag?”

  1. Chris says:

    Can we have a flag that doesn’t look like the logo for the Obama Campaign or Adidas?

  2. John says:

    I’m sorry and it’s no big deal but having a flag the needs to have it’s colors and design explained in order to know it’s for the City of Milwaukee seems a bit ridiculous. The old designs can certainly be improved on but symbolic colors that only mean something to the designer and will not be understood by anyone who sees it, is silly.

  3. Elllie K says:

    No, no, no. It’s too similar to the flag Reno just adopted. God, I can’t believe such a poorly run, poorly attended, competition with such hamstrung rules can have any influence. But I give up. Maybe we had the worst civic flag, but at least it was noteworthy. This new flag is SO generic that it might as well be a black barcode on a white background. I want this flag to go away so bad, but the noisy, pesty, hipsters are relentless in pushing their vanilla, limited view of “good design” on everyone else.

  4. sharon pendleton says:

    That flag looks like something one would fly off the mast of a sailboat…Maybe the designer should invert the circle so that the two arcs meet in the center, and issue outward to the top and bottom edges. At least this would be less like a logo, which it surely looks like today.

  5. 2fs says:

    Sure, John: now tell me what the colors of the US flag stand for.

    They’re not immediately obvious either.

  6. Andrew says:

    The new flag is a great improvement, and I am looking forward to it being adopted.

  7. Patrick says:

    When all the app logos at the bottoms of web pages have changed their aesthetic in five years, Milwaukee would still be stuck with this mediocrity that mimics them.

    Still, it’s good to learn the history of this thing. It makes it a meaningful symbol, after all. Few things so characterize the outlook of fashionable Milwaukeeans as their cringing response when pretentious outsiders tell them they live among rubes. The dread of being thought provincial drives your average east-sider to work so hard at disowning 60th and Oklahoma that he ends up adoring absurdities like this flag.

  8. MKE Kid says:

    Extremely bland and stupid. Just keep the current flag and save everyone a shitload of money, Milwaukee has a helluva lot more pressing issues than redesigning the flag. Fast Eddie Flynn redesigned the MPD emblem (how much did that cost?) and then he squirted out of the City.
    BTW, still am wondering who is occupying the million dollar condo Milwaukee taxpayers bought for Flynn as part of his sweetheart deal he had with Barrett?

  9. Andrew says:

    Wow, the self righteous comments against the flag and the city are quite disappointing

  10. Jack Douglas says:

    I bought a 414 flag and fly that instead.

  11. DAG999 says:

    How about one with a giant POTHOLE on it. We would all know what that means

  12. Keith says:

    I like the “People’s Flag”. I fly it from my house and give it as gifts. Glad to see it gain grass-roots acceptance. A new Milwaukee needs a new flag. I vote YES!

  13. Rob says:

    Simple and catching. I like it a lot. Something to fly proudly vs the old jumbled mess.

    Great to see mke rallying around something (except for a handful of negative nancies who often seem to post here).

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