Drew Duffy Designs New Cook County Flag


Duffy holds up his designed flag for Cook County. Photo courtesy of The Daily Herald.

Andrew Collaku, Mia Hermann, and Anna Ivanov

People stand to face the American flag everyday, but rarely consider what it means. As well as cities and states, flags also symbolize cultures and communities. When the opportunity opened to design Cook County’s new flag, senior Drew Duffy, Student Body President, took the chance, as there was nothing to lose, he said. But this past summer, Duffy’s design was chosen to represent the county for years to come. 

In December 2019, a competition started for high school students across Cook County to design its new flag; Duffy’s design, highlighting the county’s natural and historical elements, was selected from 297 entries, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Duffy is grateful that his flag was chosen and is happy to have contributed to his community.

“A better designed flag results in a higher sense of pride for where you come from,” Duffy said. “I’m really happy that my design was chosen, and that Cook County has a new flag because of it.”

Duffy’s flag depicts a blue “Y” symbol with a green border on a white background, representing the Chicago river and its surrounding forest preserves. To the left, there are six seven-pointed red stars in a circle. The six stars represent the six regions of Cook County, and the points represent different historical events in Cook County, Duffy explained. 

“Water has been a significant part of Chicago and Cook County’s position as a global economic power because of our proximity to water and our use of it for trade,” Duffy said. 

Duffy entered the competition at the end of his freshman year because of his admiration for culture and urban history, Duffy said. When Drew was younger, he wrote a letter to former Governor Pat Quinn saying Illinois should have a new flag, Ellen Duffy, Drew’s mother said.

As a quarter-finalist, Drew was given the opportunity to work with a professional graphic designer who helped convert his design to a digital version, Drew said. 

“When he was able to transform the image on paper into an actual piece of visual art, it made it look much more professional,” Drew said. 

Drew also turned to South’s Social Studies Department to fact-check his symbolism for historical events, he said. Drew’s design was mostly developed, so Nick Morley and  Dan Rhoades, Social Studies Teachers, were there to offer a second opinion, Morley said. 

“A lot of it was just [Drew] running ideas by and saying ‘Hey, am I forgetting anything, are there any groups of people that aren’t getting represented in this flag?’” Morley said. “I think we were more of a light guiding force at the end of things.”

Cook County’s old flag was simply the county’s seal on a white background, which does not make a memorable flag, Morley said. Drew improved the flag by including symbols of our landscapes and people that make our county unique, Rhoades said.  

“He does an incredibly effective job at incorporating all of the different elements and attributes of the county, so that it’s inclusive of all the diverse peoples, landscapes, and natural resources that put the county on the map,” Rhoades said.

This past summer, Drew got a visit from Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton where he found out his design had won, Drew said. When Britton told him the news, Drew and his parents were surprised and extremely proud, Ellen said. 

We have the flag hanging by the entrance and smile every time we pull in our driveway,” Ellen said. 

A flag raising occurred at Daley Plaza on Sept. 24, Ellen said. The previous flag has been around since 1961, and it’s amazing to have the new one designed by a South student, Rhoades said. 

“It will literally be atop county buildings, government offices, hopefully flying in front of school buildings, and that’s pretty amazing,”Rhoades said. “I think that long after this conversation, and long after a lot of people will have forgotten the story of the creation of this flag, it’s gonna be flying,” Rhoades said.