McHenry County Seal Makeover Makes The News

Apparently Nobody Bit A Dog Today

This morning, just before I left home, I heard the anchor on a local news program, broadcast by what used to be called a “major network,”1 comment on McHenry County’s search for a new seal.2 I don’t recall the words verbatim, but that story was similar to the one I found later on the Chicago Tribune site,

McHenry County’s government seal, with its ubiquitous bald eagle carrying a banner, is in need of a makeover to reflect the county’s rapid growth, one official says. “It’s not unique,” said County Board member Tina Hill. “It’s boring.” County Board members recently approved a recommendation to have one of their computer specialists design a new seal that would capture the county’s personality—a little bit country, a little bit suburbia. “I’m not saying we’re going to have rooftops or ‘big-box’ stores on it,” Hill said. “Let’s just say we’ll leave it up to the graphic artists.” The seal is almost unrecognizable because it’s practically identical to the State of Illinois seal,3 said County Administrator Peter Austin.

Thus prompted, I ran a search which found this modestly different AP story carried on the WLS and WAND-TV web sites:

Woodstock, Ill. – McHenry County’s government seal is getting a makeover. Officials in the county northwest of Chicago say their current seal with a bald eagle carrying a thin banner is too boring and too similar to the Illinois state seal. They also complain it doesn’t reflect the character of the rapidly growing county where farms and new housing developments coexist. County Board members recently authorized a computer specialist to design a new seal. Board member Tina Hill says the design should incorporate features of the county’s flag. That flag includes drawings of a cow, an ear of corn and a sun setting. A new design could be ready for the county board to look at within several weeks.

Well, we know what this rash of stories about the new McHenry County seal appearing on the sites, pages, and broadcasts of national media means, don’t we?

That’s right. It means that

Today is such an incredibly slow news day that the Trib, the AP, and two major market TV stations are running a story that opens with the breakthrough discovery by the McHenry County Board that the current County Seal is boring.4

Today’s stories do, however, provide previously unpublicized information about …

Criteria For The New Seal

Going into depth, the AP article notes a Board concern of which I was unaware:

They [County Officials] also complain it [the current County Seal] doesn’t reflect the character of the rapidly growing county where farms and new housing developments coexist.

The AP article goes on report,

Board member Tina Hill says the design should incorporate features of the county’s flag. That flag includes drawings of a cow, an ear of corn and a sun setting.5

The view that the seal might emulate the County Flag was also carried in the first newspaper story about the seal redesign, the 9/12/2007 Daily Herald article:

For now, the most likely option is to remake the seal to look like the county flag, with a few modernizing tweaks. The flag features the county name and its year of incorporation along with images of a cow, an ear of corn and a fish jumping above a waterway as the sun sets behind it.

I had previously read the Daily Herald version as that paper’s speculation rather than an expectation of Ms Hill’s.

Finally, a close re-reading of the Daily Herald article, occasioned by these newly revealed expectations, turned up this helpful but previously overlooked critique of the seal now in use,

Worse yet, officials say, it’s [the current seal is] uninspiring and unimaginative.

To recap the requirements and recommendations pertinent to the next Seal Of McHenry County that have been made public, the seal

  1. must be “unique to McHenry County”
  2. must be “readily identifiable”6
  3. should be inspiring and imaginative but certainly must not be “boring”
  4. should “reflect the character of the rapidly growing county where farms and new housing developments coexist”7
  5. should incorporate the elements of the McHenry County Flag, which apparently include “the county name and its year of incorporation along with images of a cow, an ear of corn and a fish jumping above a waterway as the sun sets behind it.”8

That’s a big order for a little seal. Thank goodness, the Board had the wisdom and foresight to turn the design job over to …

A Computer Specialist

The newly published AP and Tribune stories agree that the County Board has authorized a “computer specialist,”9 who is apparently already a county employee (based on the Trib’s use of the phrase “one of their [the County Board’s] computer specialists”), to design the new seal.

I, for one, am certainly relieved that a computer specialist is on the job. Of course, that succor is somewhat attenuated since our computer specialist -seal designer could fit into any of the 924,722 categories of computer specialists. To illustrate the potential problem, I randomly chose one listing from the “computer specialist” section of a job search site:

Computer Specialist
Company: St. Aloysius Orphanage
Description: Computer Specialist
St. Aloysius Orphange is seeking a Full Time Computer Specialist to join our team.

Qualifications: Must be 21 years of age and have a high school diploma with computer experience. Associates or bachelors degree in computer science, mathematics, or related field preferred. Must be experienced with MS Server 2003, MS Exchange 2003, and SQL. Must be experienced with web administration, including HTML programming, IIS server, and various scripting languages. Must have experience configuring network appliances, including switches, access points, and security devices. Be able move and/or lift computer equipment and peripherals at least 5 feet. Be able to travel locally. Must have a valid driver license with a good driving record and proof of auto insurance.

Position Description: Troubleshooting (identifies and corrects) problems with hardware and software as they develop. Will assist agency staff with questions regarding use of hardware and software. Install (configure, setup, and place) new hardware and software. Perform routine maintenance (upgrades, patches, surveys, etc.) on all agency systems on regular basis. Maintain computer safety at all times. Assist with training of staff on various software systems.

Yep, I can’t think of a reason this or any ol’ “computer specialist” couldn’t design a nifty new county seal – as long as they have a valid driver license with a good driving record and proof of auto insurance.

Personally, my own, deeply held hope is that the particular computer specialist creating the McHenry County Seal is one of those old school, machine code writing, pocket protector wearing geeks who wonders aloud why folks waste money on a computer with a graphical interface or a mouse when a keyboard, text editor, and the 5X5 green on black screen on his Kaypro II is sufficient for every imaginable task – because I’d be proud to be a citizen of the only county sporting a seal featuring images rendered exclusively in ASCII art.10

 

The image is constructed exclusively from ASCII characters in Courier typeface. To see the individual characters, click on graphic to view larger image.

 

Credit Due Department: The ASCII art graphic was constructed with the use of GlassGiant.com ASCII Art


Board member Tina Hill says the design should incorporate features of the county’s flag. That flag includes drawings of a cow, an ear of corn and a sun setting.11
  1. I believe the TV station was WBBM, although I recall for certain only that it was either the ABC station (WLS) or the CBS affiliate (WBBM) I heard running on a TV in another room []
  2. OK, what if we made this project into a reality show, McHenry County Seal Search? We audition talented young designers of county seals, humiliate a whimsically selected predetermined number of candidates, generate a load of publicity, sell some commercials, and come out of it with a dandy new seal and a bag of money. … Just a thought. []
  3. By the way, if the problem is that the McHenry County Seal too closely resembles the Great Seal of Illinois, has anyone checked with the Illinois legislature to see if they would be willing to change the state seal and save us the hassle? []
  4. Just to keep things in context, when was the last time you saw a county seal that provoked the thought, “Damn, that is one exciting seal?” Most of these news stories, for example, were carried by media outlets headquartered in Cook County, the County Seal of which (see graphic on right) is perfectly decent and even pleasant but some of its text should be devoted to a warning about sedating side-effects. []
  5. The impact of the McHenry County Flag, the graphic of which I’ve been unable to locate, on my thinking may best be characterized by my initial reaction to the notion of mirroring the flag’s emblems on the new seal: McHenry County has a flag? []
  6. Specifically, it should be different from the Great Seal of Illinois because the similarity between the two renders the McHenry seal unrecognizable []
  7. My working hypothesis is that the notion that the seal should “reflect the character of the rapidly growing county where farms and new housing developments coexist” and the idea that the seal should “capture the county’s personality—a little bit country, a little bit suburbia” are equivalents rather than different criteria. []
  8. I wish to note for the record that, while I’m willing to do my best to follow these recommendations, I am finding it difficult to imagine any scene featuring a fish, an ear of corn, a cow, all jumping above a waterway, that doesn’t look silly, regardless of what kind of sunset is in the background. []
  9. The TV news story I overheard this morning used the nearly synonymous term, “computer expert” instead of “computer specialist.” I recall this because “computer expert” led one of the talking heads to wittily speculate that the new seal would probably feature a computer component; I believe one of his specific suggestions was “a hard drive.” This drew appreciative chuckles from his news team colleagues although I have no idea why. []
  10. Perhaps the only artistic mode clearly associated, at least in the old days, with the position of computer specialist. “ASCII art is an artistic medium that relies primarily on computers for presentation and consists of pictures pieced together from the 95 printable (from a total of 128) characters defined by the ASCII Standard from 1967 and ASCII compliant character sets with proprietary extended characters (beyond the 128 characters of the 7-bit standard ASCII). The term is also loosely used to refer to text based art in general. ASCII art can be created with any text editor, and is often used with free-form languages. Most examples of ASCII art require a fixed-width font (non-proportional fonts, like on a traditional typewriter) such as Courier for presentation. … One of the main reasons ASCII art was born was because early printers often lacked graphics ability and thus characters were used in place of graphic marks. Also, to mark divisions between different print jobs from different users, bulk printers often used ASCII art to print large banners, making the division easier to spot so that the results could be more easily separated by a computer operator or clerk.” Excerpted from Wikipedia []
  11. The impact of the McHenry County Flag, the graphic of which I’ve been unable to locate, on my thinking may best be characterized by my initial reaction to the notion of mirroring the flag’s emblems on the new seal: McHenry County has a flag? []

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