The West Chester Flag: creating a local symbol
February 28, 2019
By Malcolm Johnstone
West Chester PA – In January of 2019, the West Chester Borough Council adopted a resolution establishing a design for a borough flag. This was a culmination of a project created by the West Chester Public Arts Commission (PAC) that chose three designs submitted by local artists and designers.
The winning flag design by Julie Allen was selected by a thorough, well-publicized and multi-stage process. The call for art ultimately reached over 25,000 people through a combination of website posting (Borough, PAC, and Fence Authority homepages), social media, email blasts to regional artist groups including the Studio Tour and the Artist’s Collective, presentations to WCASD and the West Chester University Arts program, and a feature by Vista.Today.
Additionally, Allen’s design captures all five principles of good flag design put forth by the North American Vexillological Association:
1. Keep It Simple: The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
2. Use Meaningful Symbolism: The flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
3. Use 2 or 3 Basic Colors: Limit the number of colors on the flag to three which contrast well.
4. No Lettering or Seals: Never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal.
5. Be Distinctive or Be Related: Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.
Allen’s design was ultimately selected because it symbolizes the modern character and vitality of West Chester as well as its historic roots. Within the design, six primary streets are symbolized as they intersect. It is anticipated that it will become a signature image and modern representation of the West Chester that citizens all know and love. The history of the streets that are depicted is that on April 9, 1784, (same year that the first courthouse began construction) the first map of West Chester was laid out into four square blocks divided by Gay and High Streets and bounded by Chestnut, Walnut (originally East Street), Market (originally South Street), and Church Streets. The grid was divided into 32 parcels.
The flag design is not meant to replace other official design items – such as the municipal seal or the downtown logo – which serve other purposes. Rather, it complements rather than negates those current visual representations of West Chester. The seal is formal and comprehensive, meant to be used on official documents where its detail can be appreciated. The downtown logo is intended for branding and uses large lettering and a sketch of the courthouse. The flag represents place with intentional simplicity meant to be instantly recognized from a distance and while moving. It’s in the public domain making it widely available for reproduction in quantity and multiple sizes.
Allen’s design meets the stipulations set forth by the Public Arts Commission in this Council-approved call for art that asked for original artwork in digital format with ratio of 1:1.5 that does not include lettering or the municipal seal and does include the official Borough primary colors: WC Gold: Pantone 123C; WC Indigo: Pantone 7455C.
However, at the urging of residents and Mayor Dianne Herrin, the Council will hold a public hearing to accept comments from the public and consider an ordinance to further officially establish the design as the West Chester Flag.
Members of the West Chester Public Arts Commission contributed to this article.