Published: July 5, 2000
NEW YORK CITY – Through August 25, the AIGA National Design Center presents “: A Visual History of an American Icon,” an exhibition that vividly documents America’s enduring affair with a true national icon. With little in the way of legal guidelines to limit graphic applications of the nations’ flag. Americans have freely and proudly displayed the “,” as it was originally known, on many common objects – from embroidery on blankets to lapel pins. Despite various legal restrictions enacted by Congress to regulate popular interpretations of the flag, its motif has continued to appear in many forms.
According to the AIGA’s executive director Ric Grefe, the exhibition exemplifies the power of effective communication design. “The American Flag, as a branding device, has it all: history, iconography – the stars and stripes stand for concepts – and simple, immediate impact. It is flexible, elements can be used alone without compromising the identity and it looks great in a remarkable array of applications. Besides, I love it and have flown it off my porch for several decades. My Christmas tree is topped by an array of them. What more could I ask for the first Independence Day of the new millennium?”
Drawn exclusively from the extensive collection of internationally recognized graphic designer Kit Hinrichs, the exhibition will include a wide variety of objects that celebrate our national symbol and range from small historical campaign buttons to kitsch to modern-day sculptural interpretations that incorporate unconventional materials. Navajo tapestries, silk scarves, quilts, sneakers, tin can labels, toys, playing cards and cowboy boots – as well as paintings, prints and collages – are all included.
“The genesis of my 35-year fascination with the American flag was a family heirloom, a very old  and faded flag that was sewn by my great-great-great-aunt from Ohio,” says Hinrichs. “As a designer, it is remarkable to me that for the first 150 years there were vague government guidelines that outlined the graphic application of the ‘.’ This created a situation that allowed the American people to create their own national icon. And, with the admission of each new state of the union, a new star necessitated a reconfiguration of the flag’s design. No other flag in the world has undergone this type of metamorphosis.”
Since 1964, Hinrichs has been building a personal collection of American flag memorabilia that numbers approximately 2,500 objects. This comprehensive accumulation of rdf_Descriptions includes a variety of media and ephemera that date from the Civil War to the present, reflecting not only the graphic artistry of our nation’s flag, but the highly emotional personification of national spirit.
The origin of the “” design has been the subject of much discussion and research on the part of American historians. While some scholars credit Francis Hopkins with designing the American flag, legend has it that George Washington roughed it out in this verbal presentation to the Continental Congress:
“We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.”
Since its adoption on June 14, 1777, the flag has been reinterpreted by artists in countless ways for political, commercial and artistic uses. The results are comic, ironic, elegant and fanciful.
The AIGA National Design Center is at 164 Fifth Avenue. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11 am to 6 pm. Telephone, 212/807-1990.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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