Colorado adopted its state flag in 1911 — but it's never been as popular as it is today. Over the past half-dozen years, the popularity of the flag — with that circle of sun (signifying 300 dubiously counted days of sunshine) or gold (which set off the Rush to the Rockies), inside a bright red C (for the color of earth that inspired this state's name), positioned on a white stripe between two strips of blue — has inspired numerous members of Colorado's creative class to get very, very creative. At a festival in Central City this weekend, for example, we picked up a cunning crocheted headband designed like the flag, as well as a tie-dyed T-shirt with the symbol. Just inside a casino, we spotted a Colorado flag wife-beater. And beyond that, a cool Colorado flag tattoo.
But when Colorado announces the result of its rebranding process next week, the new icon will not be the state flag, or even a portion of it. And was some version of the newly cool Colorado state flag even an option? "No. We don't own it," Aaron Kennedy, the state's chief marketing officer, says simply. By the law that made it the state flag over a century ago, it belongs to the people — which means the people can, and have, and will continue to do anything they want with it.
Meanwhile, Kennedy and his CEO, Governor John Hickenlooper, wanted a uniform look for official Colorado business, for the 22 state agencies and their assorted departments and offshoots that have taken a very polyglot approach on business cards and websites. "We needed a solution," says Kennedy. "We have a flag, we have a state seal, and we need to return them to their purest form." So the cool flag will belong to the people, the clunky seal will be used on legal documents, and for months the folks recruited to help Kennedy collect input and ideas for makingcolorado.com have been working to come up with a symbol that captures how people feel about the state (Off Limits, July 25) — and can still fit on a business card.
It won't be a joint. Kennedy is keeping mum on the final icon, but he did allow that it was something of a challenge to come up with a symbol that emphasized Colorado's beloved mountains at the same time the rest of the country, the rest of the world, now equates our "Rocky Mountain High" with something entirely different than altitude. "Quite a number of contributions referred to Amendment 64," Kennedy admits. "But the mountains capture people's hearts." As a result, he allows that the final symbol will be some variation on the green-and-white triangles — or are those tortilla chips? Or yield signs? Or mountaineering badges? — you see here, semi-finalists leaked to Off Limits from a collection of designs that once numbered in the hundreds but have been boiled down to something that in color and concept echoes Colorado's traditional license plate, "the coolest license plate in the country," says Kennedy. Maybe so, but we can't see any version of these inspiring a headband. Or a T-shirt. Or a tattoo. And maybe that's the point! There's no need to worry about trademark violations when no one would want to violate the trademark.
What would you like to see as the state's new icon? Go to our poll on the Latest Word, where you can choose between these three variations — or, what the heck, vote for the pure, unsullied state flag. But your work won't be over then. In addition to a new brand, the state will be announcing a new slogan. Kennedy assures us that just as none of the leaked symbols were the final choice, neither are these leaked slogans (and a good thing, too): "It's Our Nature," "Live the Life You Want," and "Rising."
Rise up, Colorado!