Visual Art Neighborhoods

A Flag for the People

Tom Giffey |

People’s Flag of Milwaukee, adopted earlier this year.
People’s Flag of Milwaukee, adopted earlier this year.

What does Eau Claire look like? That’s a question that C.J. Krueger has been asking himself lately, and it’s not a rhetorical one. It’s a question of symbolism and civic pride, the kind of question that could potentially be answered in the form of a city flag, something Eau Claire doesn’t have – yet. Krueger hopes to change that with a new initiative to select a People’s Flag of Eau Claire.

“It would be very nice to have a uniting symbol, especially in a divisive time.”– CJ Krueger, founder, People’s Flag of Eau Claire

“It would be very nice to have a uniting symbol, especially in a divisive time,” he explains. Krueger’s desire to see the creation of a city flag was inspired by two sources. The first is a 2015 TED Talk by Roman Mars, host of the popular design-focused podcast 99% Invisible. The title of the talk was “Why City Flags May Be the Worst Designed Thing You’ve Never Noticed.” Mars explained that many city flags are aesthetically displeasing jumbles of symbols, colors, and words, and he singles Milwaukee’s flag out for specific criticism, calling it a “hot mess.” This critique helped spur Krueger’s second inspiration, a successful effort to create a People’s Flag of Milwaukee. Judges in that city selected finalists from more than 1,000 entries, and online voters chose a winner earlier this year.

“Very selfishly, I thought, ‘Why doesn’t Eau Claire have something like this?’ ” Krueger says. With a newly launched website – – Krueger is running a local version of the idea up the proverbial flagpole. Now through March 31, Eau Claire County residents are invited to submit their flag designs to the website. If your creative juices are flowing, check out the North American Vexillological Association’s “five guiding principles of flag design” on the website (keep it simple, use meaningful symbols, stick to two or three colors, avoid lettering or seals, and be distinctive or related to other flags), then fire up Adobe Illustrator.

Krueger created the website and is assembling a panel of judges – including graphic designers and “local luminaries” – who will help winnow the entries. Finalists will be announced on April 30, public voting will run through May 31, and a winner will be announced June 5. Krueger has already heard from a few people interested in designing flags, but he’s received no submissions to date.

At this point, Krueger isn’t concerned with getting the winning flag officially adopted by the City Council (although that’s always a possibility), nor is he trying to make money off the idea (the winning design will be available for anyone to use). He simply wants to create a fun process that encourages Eau Claire residents to think about their hometown’s aesthetic possibilities. Rivers? Eagles? Paul Bunyan? Look around you, then let your imagination go to work.