Norman residents have a chance to vote on a new official flag from now until April 30.
After months of hard work from a citizen-led flag committee and 117 design submissions from 58 designers, five flags remain for the public to vote on.
The committee is made up of Norman citizens from a wide variety of backgrounds including historians, former city officials, artists and designers.
“What I’d like people to do is score each flag on a scale from 1 to 10 on how much they like it,” Bird said. “That way, you don’t have to pick one over the others — you can just score them all.”
Bird said there are five basic flag design principles: keep it simple, use meaningful symbolism, use two or three basic colors, no lettering or seals, and be distinctive or be related.
Bird said the current flag uses the right amount of colors and the symbols are meaningful, but there are problems with it — it’s not seen flowing around town and is “too busy” based on the design principles, Bird said.
“When we say a simple design, we’re talking simple enough for a 5-year-old to draw it from memory,” Bird said. “It’s too complex — that’s the biggest problem with it.”
Norman’s current flag doubles as the official seal of the local government, which is why a lot of people don’t realize it’s the city’s official flag, Bird said. The flag is found on street signs, utility bills and city vehicles.
Bird said that while the flag’s redesign will be implemented, the current flag will remain the city’s official seal.
“There’s a lot of value in separating those two things,” Bird said. “We won’t have to change street signs, city vehicles, none of those things. The only thing that actually is changing is the flag itself.”
Bird, a dentist at Gabriel Bird Dentistry in Norman, said the inspiration for adopting a new flag started several years ago. The idea struck after listening to a podcast episode that talked about city flag designs and the significance city flags have.
After listening to the podcast, Bird wondered if Norman had a flag, and he found out Norman has had its current flag since 1995.
“(Separating them) ends up being a really eloquent solution,” Bird said, “because then it keeps us from having to take on the cost of replacing all of the infrastructure where that current design shows up, and culturally, we get an independent flag that is not synonymous with just the work of our government.”
Bird talked to city council members and eventually formed the citizen-led initiative. Citizen-led initiatives allow citizens to take action rather than tasking the city with the redesign, and no resources or money comes out of the city’s budget.
People from all over the country submitted one or more designs, Bird said, and narrowing them down to just five wasn’t easy. Bird said he plans on releasing all the designs after the redesign is voted on.
“I’d love for these designs to somehow see the light of day,” Bird said. “If (local groups or organizations) see a design that they like, I’d love to connect them with those artists.”
Some artists have released their designs online, and a Facebook group has been formed for updates from Bird and public discussion.
“Hopefully people do enjoy it, and at the very least, we’ll have a flag that’s an improvement over our current one and is free of that restraint of its double duty as the seal and the flag,” Bird said.
The committee will recommend the highest scoring flag to the Norman City Council, and the winner will receive a $500 award from the Norman Board of Realtors, Bird said.
Voting is open until April 30. The winning flag will be revealed at the June 9 City Council meeting, where its meaning and symbolism will be discussed.
Bird said the committee will recommend the new flag be officially adopted on June 14, Flag Day.