Unofficial Bellingham flag gains popularity around town

Brad Lockhart holds the Bellingham flag he designed on a city rooftop at sunset.
Brad Lockhart holds the Bellingham flag he designed on a city rooftop at sunset. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Have you noticed that new flag with the green stripes, blue half circle, stars and wavy white lines popping up around town?

It’s the unofficial Bellingham flag, designed by graphic designer Brad Lockhart as part of a contest put together by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, but he hopes it can become official.

Lockhart presented the flag to the Bellingham City Council on Monday, Aug. 29, to explain the symbolism and process that went into making it.

Just before Lockhart spoke, Council President Pinky Vargas told the crowd she had been asked to note that the flag came from an “organic uprising” and was not “legally sanctioned” by the city or its planning department.

Bellingham is one of many cities around the country experiencing a push to get well-designed flags to unite the community and foster civic pride, Lockhart said.

“It’s complicated to go back and change old city seals and logos. It can be expensive,” Lockhart said. “Rather than fix something old, let’s make something new.”

We’ve been a city for 112 years and we’ve never had a flag.

Brad Lockhart, designer of unofficial Bellingham flag

Lockhart’s Bellingham flag was designed with basic criteria for good flags laid out in a Ted Talk by Roman Mars, who was really citing Ted Kaye’s 2006 guide, “Good Flag, Bad Flag.”

To be well-designed, Kaye writes, a flag should be simple (so simple a child could draw it from memory), use meaningful symbolism, use basic colors, have no letters or seals, and be distinctive or related.

Applying those principles to Bellingham, Lockhart included:

▪  A blue half circle on the left of the flag, representing Bellingham Bay to the west, when the flag is flown horizontally.

▪  Two white, four-sided stars inside the half circle, representing Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Indian Tribe.

▪  Three wavy white lines between the stars, representing noisy waters, “which is the translation of the word Whatcom, that comes to us from the Nooksack people” and refers to the mouth of Whatcom Creek.

▪  And lastly four green stripes, in two shades, representing the four cities that joined to become Bellingham: Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham and Fairhaven.

Life of its own

Since winning the partnership’s contest, Lockhart helped set up a Kickstarter to sell full-sized flags, has helped print thousands of stickers, and continues to field requests from businesses that want to use the flag, citizens who want to fly it, and even public offices that want to hang it proudly.

“The biggest support though by far has come from businesses,” Lockhart told the council.

The flag is hanging in dozens of them, such as The Bagelry, Casa Que Pasa, The Wild Buffalo, The Shakedown, BBay Running, Wander Brewing, Faithlife, The Black Drop – and the list goes on.

Some businesses have even integrated the flag into their own brand: There is a pint glass from Kulshan Brewing, a patch from Aslan Brewing, and a large run of reusable shopping bags for the Community Food Co-op on the way, Lockhart said.

“It just keeps pouring in and I just keep saying yes, take it, yes it’s yours, it’s not mine,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart said he is aware that the contest by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership wasn’t an official process, but the flag idea has started taking on a life of its own, and he is fully aware that if it were adopted, it would be in the public domain.

“Legally it wouldn’t be mine. ... It would be everybody’s, which I think is really cool,” he said. “This flag is just little pieces that tell a story of Bellingham that I didn’t write – I wrote it down in the way that I know how to do, so I feel like it already isn’t mine. I want all citizens, all businesses, whoever wants it, they can have it.”

Frankly I would like for it to become so successful the council has no choice but to make it official.

Michael Lilliquist, Bellingham City Council member

For the record, Lockhart volunteered his time to design the flag, and said he gives anyone and everyone permission to use it.

In an interview, Lockhart said no one has explained what process he would need to go through to make the flag official, but he wants city officials to know he wanted them to have it from the beginning.

“I don’t know what their decision will be, because they weren’t involved from the beginning, and maybe not all the right steps were taken,” Lockhart said. “But I hope the positive reaction could overrule that maybe. ... We’ve been a city for 112 years and we’ve never had a flag.”

After Lockhart’s speech, Council Member Michael Lilliquist quoted Mars, who said that really successful flags are as successful unofficially as officially.

“Frankly I would like for it to become so successful the council has no choice but to make it official,” Lilliquist said.

Where to find it

People hoping to get their hands on a flag have a few ways to do so.

There are flag stickers, patches, and other items for sale at a variety of places, such as Penny Lane Antique Mall, Hardware Sales, Novato Shop & Studio, Third Planet, The Comics Place, and The Lucky Monkey.

People also can buy flags and patches online at BellinghamFlag.bigcartel.com and find information at BellinghamFlag.com.

It’s gotten some big endorsements so far.

Mars bought a Bellingham flag and posted a picture of it on his Instagram with the comment “The would be, should be official flag of Bellingham, WA.”


The would be, should be official flag of Bellingham, WA.

A photo posted by Roman Mars (@theromanmars) on

Lockhart also gave a flag to Macklemore at his show at the Wild Buffalo on Thursday night, Sept. 1.

“He was running around with it on stage,” Lockhart said. “That’s another fun celebrity endorsement.”

Lockhart has been asked by several groups to give presentations on the flag, have a table at events, and do workshops with kids, to teach them the history behind the flag and graphic design principles.

Some time in the next few weeks, he said, he will be at Whatcom Middle School working with an art teacher and students on designing their own Bellingham flags.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil