The Howard County flag is one of the few official symbols that reflect our County. After more than 50 years since its original adoption, the time has come to update and modernize its design in order to align it to present values. On January 22, 2024, County Executive Ball announced the establishment of a diverse commission whose charge is to undertake a public process to solicit design submissions, evaluate design submissions, and recommend three finalists for the County’s new flag design.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball Appoints Commission to Guide New Design of Official County Flag

The Howard County flag should represent the vibrancy and incredible diversity of our community. Our process will invite the public to reimagine this central symbol and produce recommendations for a design that inspires current and future County residents.

County Executive Calvin Ball

Flag Submission Form

Accepting submissions between April 1, 2024 - June 30, 2024 11:59 PM EDT

Submit designs for the Howard County Flag Design process. Your submission must be accompanied by a description of the design and a brief statement about the participant’s connection to Howard County.

Flag Submission Overview

  • Individuals may submit up to three (3) designs.
  • Participants must describe their personal connection to Howard County, including how they live, work or play here.
  • All ages are encouraged to participate, but parents or legal guardians must submit on behalf of individuals under 18.
  • Each submission must be accompanied by a brief narrative describing how the design represents Howard County, including its enduring appeal, symbolism and color choices. 
  • Designs should be rectangular in shape and crafted at a 3:5 ratio.
  • Submissions must be made digitally through the online flag submission form as full-color, high-resolution images. 
  • Participants should review the Howard County Design Guidelines and Criteria for additional details prior to submitting.

Flag Design Submission Process


Howard County Design Guidelines and Criteria


The flag of Howard County should be a welcoming symbol which represents our entire community. The new flag will ultimately be flown outside of government office buildings and placed on all County web and social media content. 

The Howard County Flag Commission will recommend three design finalists to the County Executive pursuant to the procedures outlined herein. The Participants responsible for the creation of these three designs will receive an honorarium of $1,000.

Submissions Deadline

Eligible participants must submit entries online at www.howardcountymd.gov/flag

Entries may be submitted beginning April 1, 2024.

Entries must be submitted by June 30, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Eligibility, Criteria, Rules, and Requirements

The Howard County Flag Commission will score designs based on the criteria of simplicity, color scheme, symbolism, enduring appeal, and narrative – see pages 5 and 6 - "Commission Evaluation Table" below.  The Commission will pick up to ten top-scoring designs that will be posted to the website for public voting.  The Commission will review the five designs that received the most votes and recommend three finalists to the County Executive.  The Commission, in its discretion, may also forward to the County Executive any additional comments or written recommendations regarding the design(s). The County Executive will present one final design to the County Council for legislative adoption.

Flag designs will be accepted from current Howard County residents and anyone with a connection to Howard County. Your submission will include a description of your connection to Howard County.

Submissions by those under 18 years of age will be accepted ONLY with a Consent, Release, Transfer and Waiver of Liability Agreement signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Submissions must include:

  • Contact information for the individual who designed the flag (name, address, phone number, email, and age). If designer is under 18 years of age, their parent or legal guardian’s contact information must be submitted. Except as otherwise excluded by law, be advised that each Participant’s submission becomes a public record which may be disclosable under the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA).
  • Consent, Release, Transfer and Waiver of Liability Agreement.  If the designer is under 18 years of age, the designer’s parent or legal guardian must submit the Consent, Release, Transfer and Waiver of Liability Agreement.
  • A written description (250 words or less) explaining the design and color choices in the flag, their enduring appeal, what they symbolize, and how they represent Howard County.
  • A brief statement (100 words or less) on Participant’s connection (live, work or play) to Howard County.

Once submitted, design submissions will be assigned a number for anonymity. Do not put your name or identifying information on the image itself or in the designer’s statement. A number will be assigned to each entry. Participants will not receive feedback about their submissions from the Commission.

Participants may submit up to three (3) designs.

Designs should be provided in a digital file (PDF preferred) no smaller than 600 x 1000 pixels (3:5 ratio).  Digital designs should be rectangular and submitted as full-color, high-resolution in landscape format. 

Designs must be original and may not include copyrighted content.  Participants must review these Guidelines and Criteria and certify and warrant, among other things, that they are the original creators of the design, that the design is not copyrighted or trademarked, was not created or enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI), and has not been published previously. A Participant’s design will not be considered unless all documents are provided.

Designs are NOT eligible if they:

  • Are generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • Contain religious symbols, depictions of violence, gang, or sexually-related material, nudity, profanity, or political images or themes.
  • Are construed as hateful, defamatory or discriminatory.
  • Are incomplete or submitted after the deadline.
  • Have references to alcohol, drugs, illicit or illegal activities.
  • Any such designs will be discarded.

Participants will not be compensated nor rewarded for their entries other than as specifically stated herein.

In accordance with the Howard County Public Ethics Law, members of the Howard County Flag Commission and their immediate family are not eligible to submit designs to Howard County Flag Design Process.

Please find the Consent, Release, Transfer and Waiver of Liability Agreement: here

Five Principles of Flag Design

According to “Good Flag, Bad Flag:  How to Design A Great Flag” published by the North American Vexillological Association, designs should be created with 5 basic flag design principles in mind (which will be part of the criteria the Committee will use to review the designs – see pages 5 and 6 - "Commission Evaluation Table" - below):

  • Keep it simple. The flag should be so simple a child can draw it from memory.
  • Use meaningful symbolism. The flag's images, colors or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
  • Use 2-3 basic colors. Limit the number of colors, use colors which contrast well and come from the standard color set. (Designs with more than 4 colors are discouraged.)
  • No lettering or seals. Never use writing of any kind or an organization's seal. These get small, blurry and can't be understood from a distance.
  • Be distinctive or be related. Avoid duplicating other flags but you may use similarities to show connections.

Remember, the design should be easily displayed on a 3’ by 5’ cloth flag to be flown on a flagpole. Please consider how the design may appear when draping and when blowing in the wind; and when displayed beside the Maryland and United States flags.

Grant of Rights

As more fully outlined in the Consent, Release, Transfer and Waiver of Liability Agreement, upon submission, in consideration for the opportunity to participate in the Howard County Flag Design Process, each eligible participant understands and agrees that upon submission to the Howard County Flag Commission that the participant conveys and relinquishes any and all rights to the design, and any derivative work therefrom and all designs and related submissions shall become the sole property of Howard County, Maryland and will not be returned to the participant.

By submitting a design, each participant warrants that the design is an original work designed by the participant (or their child/ward); has not been copied from others or from previous designs; was not created or enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI); and does not violate any property or statutory rights of any other person or entity.  Each eligible participant understands that any plagiarized works, if discovered, will be disqualified and the offending party will be liable for any damages to the County.

Howard County, Maryland reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to revise, withdraw, and/or reissue the Howard County Flag Design Process at any time and for any reason, which includes, but is not limited to, the right to extend the deadline and timeline, reject all submission entries, ask participants to revise or resubmit entries, and/or solicit additional design submissions, which may revise the selection timeline.

Howard County, Maryland reserves the right to accept or reject, at any time, any or all designs or any part thereof submitted in connection with this Howard County Flag Design Process, to waive any defect or technicality, and to advertise for new submissions, where the acceptance, rejection, waiver or advertisement would be in the best interest of Howard County, Maryland or to terminate the Howard County Flag Design Process at any time.

Failure to agree to the terms and conditions outlined in these Guidelines and Criteria and, in the Consent, Release and Waiver of Liability Agreement, disqualifies any submission. Further, Howard County, Maryland reserves the right to disqualify any submission which breaches any terms and conditions.

For Questions: Please contact flag@howardcountymd.gov


Commission Evaluation Table


Commissioners will use the following to assist in their evaluation of design submissions.

  1. Ability of the design to meet the North American Vexillological Association’s “Good Flag, Bad Flag” 5 principles of flag design:
    • Keep It Simple
    • No Lettering or Seals
    • Use Meaningful Symbolism
    • Use 2-3 Basic Colors (For purposes of the Howard County Flag Design process, we encourage no more than 4 colors)
    • Be Distinctive or Be Related
  2. Enduring Appeal - Ability of the design to reflect Howard County’s shared history, values, aspirations and diverse cultural communities.
  3. Written Description - Ability of the designer to describe the design and color choices, what they symbolize, and how they represent Howard County. And depict all in the flag design.


Flag Design Guidelines




Does not meet guidelines

Keep it Simple

Design should be rectangular in shape and so simple that a child can draw it from memory and can be easily recognizable from a distance or when it is reduced/enlarged.

No Lettering or Seals

Lettering is not as effective as graphics.

Design is simple, understandable, unites the layout, and is visually arresting and memorable.  Design and graphics are scalable and recognizable when moving or seen from a distance.

Design is effective and meets minimum guidelines.    

Design is complicated.  There is lettering and/or other design elements which detract from a strong, cohesive impression.

Is not rectangular, too complex, no visual cohesion, lettering and (or) seals are used, design and graphics are unrecognizable at a small size or from a distance.


Use Meaningful Symbolism

Images, colors, or patterns relate to what they symbolize, as described in the entry


Symbolism directly relates to Howard County and is

instantly recognizable.

Symbolism meets minimum guidelines.

Too many symbols used, or symbols are too complex.

Symbols detract from the design and/or are not relatable to Howard County.

Use 2-3 Basic Colors

Limit the number of colors to three which contrast well and come from the standard color set.

(For purposes of this process, we encourage no more than 4 colors)

 2-4 colors are used to create a strong visual impression and to connect the design and symbolism to Howard County.

2-4 colors are used, but in patterns that detract from the appeal of the design; meets minimum guidelines.

More than 4 colors and/or colors are overused in patterns that obscure the design.

No visual cohesion due to distracting colors and/or patterns.

Be Distinctive or Be Related

Design should represent a cohesive theme with related components that connect with Howard County.  Avoid duplicating other flags,  can use similarities to show connections.

Design is unique, thematic, and distinct and/or references existing design elements in a distinct way that may connect with more than one Howard County strength

Design is unique and/or references existing design elements; meets minimum guidelines.   

Design is not thematic, awkward in design elements and does not connect with Howard County.

Design duplicates others, or has no theme, nor relatable components or does not connect to any aspect of Howard County.

Enduring Appeal

Design should reflect Howard County’s shared history, values, aspirations and diverse cultural communities.

Design has strong visual appeal and reflects Howard County’s shared history, values, aspirations and diverse cultural communities.

Design meets minimum guidelines.

Design is not appealing and reflect only one or either historical, value-based, aspirational and/or cultural perspectives.

Design does not reflect any of Howard County’s shared history, values, aspirations and/or diverse cultural communities.

Written Description

Description explains the design and color choices, what they symbolize, and how they represent Howard County. Description is depicted in the flag design.

The description is compelling and clearly articulates the connection to one or more aspects of Howard County.  And is depicted as such in the design.

The description meets minimum guidelines. 

The description is vague and/or unclear, with unjustified connections to Howard County, and the flag design is also vague.

There is no description or it does not connect to Howard County or the description is not depicted in the flag design.


The following language appears in the design submission form and must be acknowledged with each submission. 


I, THE UNDERSIGNED, HAVE READ, UNDERSTAND AND VOLUNTARILY SIGN THIS CONSENT, RELEASE, TRANSFER AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY AGREEMENT and further agree that no oral representations, statements, or inducements apart from all the terms and conditions related to the Howard County Maryland Flag Design Process have been made. I understand that by signing this form, I may be waiving valuable legal rights.  In conjunction with my participation in this event, I hereby declare the following:

1. That I am the lawful artist of the image/work, also known as the design, submitted and I have not violated or infringed the copyright of other persons or entities. The work has not been published before.

2. I further understand the rules and regulations as more fully set forth for this contest outlined in the Guidelines and Criteria (ADD WEBLINK).  I confirm that I have read, understand, and agree to the Guidelines and Criteria and verify that such submission meets all eligibility criteria listed therein.  I authorize my Submission and to be bound to the rules and confirm the images contain no offensive material such as nudity (of any kind), depictions of violence, derogatory signs, illegal activity, language or epitaphs that would encourage discrimination against any religion, race, nationality, disability, or sexual orientation; or any drug, gang, or sexually related material, or any political images or themes.

3.  I understand and agree that my submission will become a public record and agree to the collection and potential public use of my personal information.

4.  I understand, affirm, and irrevocably transfer and convey any and all rights to the designs I have submitted to the contest and acknowledge and affirm that upon submission, the designs, and any derivative work therefrom, becomes the property of Howard County, Maryland, and may be used, in whole or in part, changed or reproduced at Howard County, Maryland’s discretion.

5 . I understand and irrevocably grant and convey to Howard County, Maryland the absolute rights and permission to the copyrights to use or reuse, in whole or in part, to publish or republish and to produce the design submitted, without any prior notification or payment made to Participant. I irrevocably transfer and assign Howard County, Maryland a royalty-free perpetual exclusive license to use, reproduce, post, display, create derivative works, sell, license, or sub-license the design in any media now known or later invented without limitation, for commercial or non-commercial purposes. The transfer and assignment includes, but is not limited to, printed materials, web sites and social media.

6. By completing a submission, I agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Howard County, Maryland, the Howard County Flag Commission, their elected and/or appointed officials, officers, employees, agents and authorized volunteers (collectively the “Released Parties”), from any and all third party liability for any injuries, loss, claim, action, demand or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with the competition (collectively, “Losses”), including without limitation any third party claim for negligence and damages of any kind to persons and property, as well as invasion of privacy (under public disclosure of private facts, false light in the public eye or other legal theory), defamation, slander, libel, violation of right of publicity, infringement of trademark, copyright or other intellectual property rights, property damage, statutory rights, or personal injury arising out of or relating to a the submission.  I further agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless the Released Parties from and against any and all claims, expenses, and liabilities (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) arising out of or relating to my participation in the Howard County Maryland Flag Design Process and my submission.

7.  I warrant that the work submitted is my own, that no other individual or parties owns the work I submitted, that the submission was not created or enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI), no one has obtained a copyright of the submitted work, and that the permission being granted does not violate any prior agreements.

By selecting the “I agree” button, I am signing this document electronically. I agree that my electronic signature is the legal equivalent of my manual/handwritten signature on this document. By selecting “I agree” using any device, means, or action, I agree to the legally binding terms and conditions of this and the related Flag Design Process documents, including all rules, criteria and regulations. I further agree that my signature on this document is as valid as if I signed the document in writing. I am also warranting that I am authorized to enter into this Agreement.

I understand that I may decline to electronically sign this document and withdraw my consent to sign this document electronically by contacting the signature requestor directly, which may delay transactions. I may contact the signature requestor separately to request to sign this document on paper or to receive a paper copy of the signed document. Any fees for such paper copy will be charged then by the signature requestor. When I sign the document, I will receive a copy of this document via email.


Reference Material



The Commission references the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) and a publication entitled "Good" Flag, "Bad" Flag by Ted Kaye.

This guide offers the following five principles for flag design. 

  1. Keep It Simple
  2. Use Meaningful Symbolism
  3. Use 2 or 3 Basic Colors
  4. No Lettering or Seals
  5. Be Distinctive or Be Related

"Good" Flag, "Bad" Flag is available in multiple languages via this page.

Examples of Recent Flag Design Competitions

Frederick County, Maryland 

State of Minnesota

City of Duluth, Minnesota

State of Utah


Promotional Material

Flag Commission Information




The Commission encourages members of the public to participate in this important process. Public meetings will be posted periodically.  

Commission Meeting #5

  • Date: April 30th, 2024
  • Time: 6:00-8:00pm
  • Agenda 
  • Location:
    • George Howard Building, Columbia Ellicott Room-3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043
    • To Participate virtually, click here; Webinar password: snowman

Commission Meeting #4  

  • Date: April 16, 2024 

  • Time: 6:00 - 8:00PM

  • Agenda

  • Location: 

    • George Howard Building, Columbia Ellicott Room – 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043

    • To Participate Virtually, click here; Webinar password: snowman.

Commission Meeting #3  

Commission Meeting #2  

Commission Meeting #1  

  • Date: February 6, 2024 

  • Time: 6:00 - 8:00PM

  • Agenda

  • Location:

    • George Howard Building, Columbia Ellicott Room – 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043

    • To Participate Virtually, click here; Webinar password: snowman


Flag Commission Representatives


Members of the Howard County Flag Commission were appointed by County Executive Ball on January 22, 2024 pursuant to Executive Order 24-01. 

  • Chair: Executive Director of the Howard County Arts Council, or their designee 

  • Four Howard County residents, as recommended by members of the County Council 

  • Executive Director of Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation, Inc., or their designee 

  • Archivist of the Columbia Association, or their designee 

  • Two representatives of the Howard County Historical Society, including the Executive Director, or their designee  

  • Representative of the African American Community Roundtable of Howard County 

  • Representative of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) commission 

  • Representative of the LGBTQIA+ commission 

  • Representative of La Alianza Latina commission 

  • President & CEO of the Howard County Library System, or their designee  

  • President & CEO of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, or their designee 

  • Executive Director of Howard County Tourism Council, Inc., or their designee  

  • President of the Howard County Farm Bureau, or their designee  

  • President of Howard Community College, or their designee 

  • Representative of the faith community, as selected by the County Executive 


Responsibilities of the Commission


The Commission will: 

  • Solicit designs from the public through a website portal 

  • Conduct one or more public hearings on the design of a new Howard County Flag 

  • Recommend criteria to be used to evaluate submissions 

  • Based on the recommended criteria, select up to 10 submissions for additional public review 

  • Establish a process by which the public may vote on the submissions selected by the Commission for additional public review in order to narrow the number of submissions to the top five  

  • Select three of the five publicly-voted submissions to present to the County Executive 


Commission Schedule

  • Winter 2024 – Commission launch 
  • Spring 2024 – Solicit public design submissions  

  • Fall 2024 – Preliminary selection of designs for public feedback 

  • Winter 2025 – Select finalists and publish design recommendations 


Agendas and Minutes


Commission Meeting #1 - February 6, 2024

Commission Meeting #2 - March 5, 2024

Commission Meeting #3 - March 19, 2024

Commission Meeting #4 - April 16, 2024

Commission Meeting #5 - April 30, 2024


Current Flag Design

In 1968, Howard County's official flag was chosen from among forty entries in a contest sponsored by The Central Maryland News. This winning entry was submitted by Jean O. Hannon (Mrs. Phillip A.) of Howard County and described as "a red and white design which incorporates part of the Maryland flag." Added to this, on the first quarterly, a sheaf of wheat in gold symbolizes the agricultural heritage of the County (the Ellicott and Carroll families were responsible for the agricultural change from tobacco to wheat which affected the entire county). In the fourth quarterly a green outline of the county is set in a triangle of gold symbolizing the unique position of Howard in the future development of the eastern seaboard.

Judges for the contest included the three County Commissioners, Harry T. Murphy, Alva S. Baker and Charles E. Miller; the two Circuit Court judges, James Macgill and T. Hunt Mayfield; the Superintendent of Schools, John E. Yingling; and the three legislators, Senator James Clark, Del. Hugh Burgess and Del. Edwin Warfield. The flag was presented to the Howard County Commissioners on September 19, 1968 and was raised on the flagpole in front of the Court House by Commissioner Murphy.


Howard County Flag


Questions and Comments

If you have any questions or would like to comment on the Flag Commission, please email us at flag@howardcountymd.gov.

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