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Three New Uncle Sams

A Studio 360 redesign challenge proposes three new alternatives for a national icon.

Three New Uncle Sams

Like the Redesign Valentine’s Day challenge a few months ago, Studio 360 once again tapped FastCompany.com and a designer to help them reimagine a cultural icon fading into irrelevance: Uncle Sam. Portland-based illustrator and designer Kate Bingaman-Burt turned the assignment over to her Portland State University design students, who documented the process of redefining an American symbol. Over the last few weeks I’ve been highlighting different submissions from the public as well, and last week, Bingaman-Burt and I were tasked with picking winners from both camps. You can listen to the segment here, and view our winners below.

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A deconstructed Uncle Sam hat was the work of Colby Brooks, who wanted to emphasize that as much as he loves America, not everything about it is perfect. “After much dialogue it was apparent that no one longer relates to the angry finger pointing man,” he writes. “I chose to focus my redesign on one symbol. I wanted to display the paradox of the U.S. A land of freedom, a land of opportunity, but a country that also fails to acknowledge much of its problems at home and abroad.”

Bingaman-Burt and I both liked the work of PSU student Nicole Lavelle, who chose a young, thoughtful boy to represent the U.S. “America is a small child, jam-packed with pure potential, a good heart, a curious little mind, naïveté, fearlessness, and an unrelenting eagerness to please,” she writes. “No more Uncle Sam. Meet Kid America.”

But for the winner, I loved Brendan Condit’s smart, timely twist on the original Uncle Sam poster. His series of four illustrated posters shows a diverse range of Americans engaged in many different versions of service. “My proposed ‘What You Can Do’ campaign expands the military recruitment purpose of the original Uncle Sam and asks Americans to take part in other civic responsibilities,” he writes. “Referencing the speech by President John F. Kennedy, I chose these four words as the slogan to challenge and inspire Americans to become active members of our great nation.”

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What do YOU think about these new Uncle Sams? You can see more work by the Portland State University graphic design students , view all the submissions to the Studio 360 Uncle Sam Redesign contest, and listen to the show which also includes a new national anthem by The Apples in stereo.

[Studio 360]

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato.

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