Tuesday night, at an event at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, the “People’s Flag of Milwaukee” was finally unveiled. The winning design was “Sunrise Over the Lake,” designed by Robert Lenz. According to Lenz, “the sun rising over Lake Michigan symbolizes a new day. The light blue bars in its reflection represent the city’s three rivers and founding towns. Gold symbolizes our brewing history and white represents the city united.” DeChazier Stokes-Johnson’s “M” Star finished a close second.
“Sunrise Over the Lake” was picked from more than 1,000 initial entries, which were narrowed down to the top 50, then narrowed down to the top 5 by a panel of judges, and then voted on by the public. Roughly 6,000 votes were cast in total. Merchandise with the winning design was immediately available at the 88Nine event, including a 3-by-5-foot banner for $50. More “People’s Flag” merch will be available at Saturday’s block party and arena ground-breaking for the Milwaukee Bucks. An online shop is expected to carry merch soon. The design has been released under a Creative Commons license.
The main driver behind the competition was graphic designer Steve Kodis, whose efforts to change the flag—or at least produce an alternate, unofficial flag—go back to at least 2013. Kodis’ most recent push was inspired by a 2015 TED Talk in which designer and podcast host Roman Mars called the Milwaukee flag a “hot mess” and one of the worst in the country. Joined by local heavy-hitters like Greater Together and 88Nine, the current campaign generated tons of press, inspired at least one tattoo, and may or may not lead to “Sunrise Over the Lake” being adopted as the official Milwaukee flag. Kodis is urging people to contact the Milwaukee Common Council on that last bit.
The still-official Milwaukee flag was adopted in 1954, and doesn’t look great on a T-shirt.