The ubiquitous logo of America would be the flag. It evokes immediate recognition and numerous associations whether you’re American or not. Serving as an abstract map, it holds 50 stars for each state and 13 stripes for each of the pre-American Revolution colonies. It represents both the territorial past and present. As the logo of the United States, it’s a symbol and object expected to be respected—that is if you respect this nation. Similar to how legacy brands like Coca Cola have rebranded their logos overtime, so has the American flag. The creation of the flag is a myth itself, Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the first flag during the American Revolution but there is a lack of historical evidence of her doing so, yet she is upheld as the original designer. Additionally, there have been variations on the flag such as the Confederate, Blue Live Matter, and Trump flag reflecting the thin line between white supremacy and patriotism.
If the American Flag is the primary logo of the United States, the coat of arms serves as a secondary one. However, the coat of arms is a flexible logo, elements of it often take shape in government seals. In the context of being used as a government seal, all of the pieces within the coat of arms signals legitimacy and authority. Let’s break down the symbolism within this loaded icon. The repeated motif within the seal is number thirteen bringing it back to the settler origins of this country. These logos work to reinforce a common history, or a brand story(more about that later).
- ❶ Eagle: The eagle could be considered as one of America’s many mascots. A predator that mainly preys on fish, the bald eagle contributes to the aggressive and dominant image projected by the United States. It’s holding an olive branch and thirteen arrows to symbolize war and peace.
- ❷ E Pluribus Unum = From many, one : This refers to the original thirteen colonies coming together as one nation. It could be extended to the US’s continual expansion and usurpation of land from Indigenous people to morph into a single national identity.
The US Flag code is a set of recommendations and guidelines for usage of the flag, similar to a brand style guide. These codes contribute to instilling respect and trust in the logo as a sacred symbol. By defining these guidelines, it becomes sacrilegious to mutilate the flag in any way.
It’s time to repurpose some of these flag codes to create more nationwide visibility, solidarity, and accountability for issues like police brutality or, furthermore, reimagine American symbols like the flag. — Ekene Ijeoma
The People’s Flag Show was hosted by Faith Ringgold, Jean Toche, and Jon Hendricks in 1971. It aimed to push the limitations of flag desecration laws and to protest against the Vietnam War. It was inspired by a lawsuit against a gallery owner, Stephen Radich, who displayed work with the flag. The People’s Flag Show was raided by the police but the charges against the artists were ultimately dropped. The key line in this poster I want to point out is “artists, workers, students, women, third world peoples-you are oppressed-what does this flag mean to you?”.
This piece is from Indigenous Action, “a radical volunteer crew of anti-colonial & anti-capitalist Indigenous media makers, designers, artists, writers & agitators that work together on a project by project basis for liberation for Mother Earth and all her beings.” They view burning the flag as a symbolic political act and a sign of protest. Since the flag is the logo of the United States, and therefore the face of the American brand, burning the flag will “break down the legitimacy of their power”—this is how to subvert these symbols which hold up the seemingly powerful American brand.