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GBS Student’s Design Named New Cook County Flag

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Drew Duffy delivery comments from a podium.

GBS Student, Drew Duffy '23, delivers comments during the unveiling of the new Cook County flag. 

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GBS Student’s Design Named New Cook County Flag

While many people picked up new hobbies and routines during the pandemic, Glenbrook South senior Drew Duffy entered a contest to redesign the Cook County flag.

“I wasn’t going to do it at first because I didn’t think I would win. I thought there was no downside to doing it. I am very happy I did it now,” Duffy said.

The high school student competition hosted by Cook County created a hands-on learning experience for students to understand more about flag design and uncover history within the county. In total, 297 submissions from 40 different high schools in the county were received. 

Duffy’s mother was the one who initially told him about the contest in the spring of 2020. With no graphic design experience, Duffy began researching what makes a good flag. Duffy said themes he was coming across included no words, seals, or maps and to keep it simple with a few colors and symbols. 

“There is a very large online community of people who are really into flags. They call it vexillology. There is a North American vexillological association with a website, pamphlets and books. I looked up their resources and found what makes a good flag,” Duffy said. 

Once Duffy had a good idea for designing a flag, he started looking into the history of Cook County and identifying key symbols that he could use. The main symbol you will see on his design includes a large light blue ‘Y’ that represents the north, south and main branch of the Chicago River.

“I was a little hesitant to use it because I didn’t want it to just be about Chicago. I saw a picture of the very first Cook County seal carved into the side of the county building and it has the giant ‘Y’ symbol that I was referencing and thought I have to use it now,” Duffy said. 

The green border surrounding the ‘Y’ symbolizes the county’s forest preserves. People will find six seven-point red stars on the flag. Each point of a star represents different regions in Cook County, which include: north, north-west, west, south-west, south, Chicago and the forest preserves. The color red on the star symbolizes positive social change.

 Duffy’s original design looked a little different from what people see today. It only had one seven-pointed star on the flag and there was no green outline. “I got into the semi-finals and added the green for the forest preserves. I looked up important things in the county and the forest preserves kept coming up repeatedly. And then I added more stars to give it more meaning that encompasses historical parts of the county.”

The six stars on the flag represented historical events from Cook County, including the founding of the county in 1831, the founding of Cook County Health Hospitals Stroger and Provident in 1832 and 1891, the founding of the Cook County Department of Public Health, the founding of the Forest Preserves in 1914, the founding of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and the importance of both townships and local governments, symbolized by the 30 stars on the old flag.

Each student was assigned a flag mentor. Martin Burciaga, a graphic designer for Cook County, helped Duffy throughout the process. In addition, Duffy reached out to social studies teachers at GBS for their feedback. 

GBS social studies teacher Nick Morley is interested in vexillology and was excited when Duffy reached out to him.  “He put a lot of hard work into this and seemed to respect the importance of the symbols we portray over and throughout our government buildings. The representation he created with many Cook County aspects is a credit to the breadth and depth of the people and spaces in the county.”

In June 2022, Duffy learned that his flag was chosen to replace the 1961 Cook County flag. “I had been waiting a long time to try and see if my flag would be the one waving over Daley Plaza, and it was. It was really cool to see that come to fruition,” Duffy said.

In September 2022, a ceremony was held at Daley Plaza in Chicago to celebrate the new flag. 

“I wanted to represent all the 5.2 million people in the county and for it to, essentially, be almost a painting that represents different cultures, towns, and people and tells a story of our history,” Duffy said. 

This is the second flag Cook County has ever had. You can see Duffy’s flag flown at Cook County buildings. 


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