The Founding Fathers of the United States of America considered numerous designs before establishing the guidelines of the nation’s most enduring symbol at the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777: “Resolved, that the Flag of the united states be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” In 1986, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, Kit Hinrichs, a partner in Pentagram’s San Francisco office at the time, invited 96 graphic designers and illustrators to reinterpret the iconic stars and stripes of the American flag. The resulting flags were presented in an exhibition organized by the San Francisco chapter of the AIGA that opened on the 4th of July, 1986, and were collected in Stars & Stripes, a book designed by Hinrichs and published by Chronicle Books in 1987.
Contributors to the project hailed from all over the country and beyond, and included such leaders in the field as Saul Bass, Massimo Vignelli, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Louise Fili, Michael Vanderbyl, and many more. The designers were given the freedom to present their flags in any art medium within a twelve-by-eighteen-inch format, and the finished works ranged from drawings, oil paintings and prints to assemblages of pressed flowers and colored pencils to shadow boxes and sculptures. Some designers approached the assignment as an exercise in pure design; others used the brief as an opportunity to express editorial comment.
The year 1986 also marked Pentagram’s westward expansion in the U.S., as the company established its San Francisco location when Kit Hinrichs, Linda Hinrichs and Neil Shakery joined Pentagram as partners. These and several other Pentagram partners were among the designers featured in Stars & Stripes, including Pentagram co-founder Mervyn Kurlansky and partners John McConnell and David Hillman from the London office, Peter Harrison from the New York office, and future partners Woody Pirtle, Lowell Williams and Paula Scher. The Stars & Stripes exhibition later traveled to Japan, and several of the flags, including Hinrichs and Scher’s, were used to illustrate a special CD released to commemorate the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.
Here we present a selection of flags from Stars & Stripes. Happy 4th of July!