McHenry County Seal Wars – Return Of The Heck Of A Guy

McHenry County, Having Apparently Resolved More Important Issues In Past 9 Months, Now Seeks Public Input On County Seal

From the September 12, 2007 Daily Herald, County Seal In Line For Extreme Makeover:

Hill said her committee considered holding a contest to design a new seal or seeking public input, but the consensus was that may not be the best use of county resources.

“We have so many more important issues,” she said.

From the June 27, 2008 Northwest Herald, County: Help Us Design New Seal:

A McHenry County Board committee is looking to the public to design a new county seal.

The Change In Strategy

As outlined in the July 28, 2008 Heck Of A Guy post, The McHenry County Seal Slaughter, the designing of the new McHenry County Seal has reached a stalemate, the causes of which are summarized by Kevin Craver, writing in the June 27, 2008 Northwest Herald article, County: Help Us Design New Seal:

True to the old saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee, board members had differing opinions as to what should go on it.

“We came up with several options, and we had seven people saying what they liked and what they didn’t like,” said Management Services Committee Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock.

The county presently uses the Illinois state seal and does not have one of its own. And Hill and other board members said the county’s agriculturally themed flag does not reflect the growth and development in recent decades.

The comment on the unsuitability of the McHenry County flag references the original design notion reported in the September 12, 2007 Daily Herald story:

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.

Heck Of A Guy Responds To County Seal Crisis

The Northwest Herald story goes on to discuss the daring design exploits of an unsung local hero:

Local blogger Allan Showalter, who runs the Heck of a Guy blog at, occasionally has followed the county’s efforts to create a new seal. His satiric options have included a seal with space open for local advertising, a human retinal scan, and seals lampooning the County Board’s unsuccessful attempt to ban flash photography on account of fellow blogger Cal Skinner.

Whether he submits some of his old work or comes up with something new, Showalter isn’t counting on winning the contest. Aside from the recognition for creating it, there is no prize.

“If the county had a little more of a sense of humor, it would be a funny thing,” Showalter said.1

As a Photoshop-owning McHenry County citizen, my duty was clear. The contest must be joined.

That contest turns out to be …

The McHenry County Seal Design Contest

From the Northwest Herald article, I discovered that “interested people have until Oct. 8 to mail an electronic copy of their seal and an entry form that can be found on the county’s Web site at The work must be original, and contain no clip art or other copyrighted material. Hill’s committee will pick five finalists from which the County Board will choose.”

In addition, the official entry form declares that “The new McHenry County seal should reflect the rich history and symbolize the character of the County” and requires the entrant’s signature to a paragraph that includes the following:

I agree to donate my work and allow the seal to become the sole property of McHenry County, which will then have the right to modify, promote, and publish the seal in any format without permission, notice or compensation. I understand that two or more entries may be chosen and key elements of each design will be combined. I also understand and agree to make requested design changes if chosen. Should my design be selected, I agree to the release for my name, photo, and posting on McHenry County’s website.2

Let’s recap what we know about the County Seal Design Contest and my immediate response to each:

  • The winning design is donated to McHenry County.
    Well, I suppose that’s implicit in such a contest, although I had hoped to retain movie and foreign distribution rights.
  • There is no prize – no money, no medal, no plaque, no letter of recognition, no parade, no key to the county, no tax rebate, no free parking space, no gold star, no trophy, no 5% off the second meal coupon at Chuck E. Cheese or Hooters (winner’s choice).
    That’s OK, because I’m just in it for the glory.
  • The winning design will be chosen by and may be modified by the County.
    If the design chosen has to be modified, then it’s not really the winning design, is it? And are the County officials, who couldn’t come up with an acceptable design in 9 months, the ideal judges to decide what should be modified? Come to think of it, does it make much sense that the same people who couldn’t figure out what they wanted for the past 9 months be the ones making the final choices for this competition? Just a thought.
  • “The work must be original, and contain no clip art or other copyrighted material.
    OK, the “original” part I get. After all, we don’t want to end up with a recycled seal from Newton County Missouri. I guess it must be the legal issues that are of concern. Otherwise, a ban on clip art seems counterintuitive, given that the much admired County Flag resembles nothing else quite so much as a sheet of miscellaneous clip art.
  • Two or more winning designs may be chosen and combined for the final design.
    So even if I win, I might have to share the lack of a prize with someone else?
  • “I also understand and agree to make requested design changes if chosen.”
    Hmmm. First of all, I don’t understand to what the “understand” in this sentence refers; consequently, I don’t understand what it is I am supposed to understand. But, I do understand that entrants must agree that whoever submits the winning design must make any “requested design changes.” That sounds ominous. I mean, it would be humiliating enough to be forced to besmirch ones artistic vision3 because, say, a Board member has a thing for gladioli and insists that a border composed of these flowers be added to the final design of the seal, but how can one guarantee to be able as well as willing to make indicated changes? Heck, if I were on the Board, I’d first demand that a flaming skull be added to the winning design (unless it already included one – it is surprisingly easy to go overboard with the flaming skulls), then I’d require that the resulting graphic be engraved on a kernel of rice, and finally I’d mandate that the design be rendered in day-glo colors and in such a manner that it is perceived in 3-D without the need for those cheesy glasses. As alternatives, however, I would also accept a design with eyes that seem to be following the viewer or a design that healed leprosy, caused the lame to walk, and resurrected the dead.
  • There seems to be something else, an absent quality, something that is missing, but I can’t quite …
    Oh, I know what it is. There is nothing I can find about the County’s appreciation of, thankfulness for, or gratitude toward anyone who decides to pitch in and help. There is a lot about what the winner doesn’t get and what the winner must do, but nothing along the lines of an even a “Thanks, buddy” for the winner, let alone a high five, chest bump, or fist bump. In fact, this invitation to the citizenry smacks of resignation and seems forced and joyless.4 I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t discourage easily.

The Penultimate Heck Of A Guy McHenry County Seal Offering

Just to make it official, I remain convinced that my original official Heck Of A Guy County Seal design recommendation, set forth in Another Great McHenry County Seal, is a quantum leap beyond emblem McHenry County or any other county has implemented. Excerpts from the original post follow:

Personalized license tags have been popular for years5 and personalized postage stamps are now routinely available. Now, it’s time for the personalized county seal.

The logistics would be simple enough. McHenry County would keep its current seal as the default. Anyone who needs a county seal applied to a document, however, could, for a fee, select a design from a database or customize his or her own image (much as one chooses an image for a tattoo) that would be placed within a standardized border that would be common to all McHenry Seals. The techniques and tools for seal design, described in How To Create An Official Seal – Part 1: The Mechanics, are already available online . Seals could be completed on the fly in a few minutes or prepared in advance.

… Customers could also purchase the right to customize seals for documents other than their own. For example, a seeker of immortality who couldn’t scrape up a few million to have a library named after him, could afford a different kind of memorial. McHenry could sell seals in blocks of 100, e.g., for a fee, County Seal applications #300-399 would feature the buyer’s preferred design. Or imagine, for example, the bidding for design rights to a seal 20 yard high and 20 yards wide painted on a water tower…

Birthday wishes, marriage proposals, professions of eternal love, knock-knock jokes, …. , all become more impressive with the imprimatur implicit in the McHenry County Seal. And for those with deeper pocketbooks, larger, more openly prestigious seals would be available. If United was willing to pay millions for naming rights to the United Center, there must be a lawyer or bail bondsman willing to fork over a few thousand for the rights to the design of the seals on the courtroom walls for the next two years.

And we would have none of this wimpy “no commercial use” or anti-obscenity restrictions. Let the market deal with it. The county would, of course, tack on a surcharge for advertisements, porn, political statements, and personal attacks.

That’s it – a County Seal that is unique, reflects the character of the citizens of the County, invites participation in governmental affairs, and even brings in revenue. Not bad, eh?

Yet, I suspect that the prospects of the “Your Design Here” County Seal are foredoomed. Unless my spam filter devoured the County’s emailed request to use this scheme, my offer has been unrequited since published here in November 2007.

But despair not, during the interview with the Northwest Herald, I had the vision of the perfect McHenry County Seal design. Not only is the design itself precisely on the mark, but it also clashes with the requirements set forth in the contest regulations.

I have a good feeling about this.

Next: The Final McHenry Seal Design Solution

Previous McHenry County Seal Posts

  1. Sealed With A Dis
  2. The Great Seal Of McHenry County Not Great Enough
  3. McHenry County Eye Candy
  4. McHenry County Seal Makeover Makes The News
  5. Baseball, Hot Dogs, Community College, and County Seals
  6. The Passive-Aggressive State of Illinois Seal
  7. How To Create An Official Seal – Part 1: The Mechanics
  8. How To Create An Official Seal – Part 2: Credentials
  9. Another Great McHenry County Seal
  10. Best Option Re Final Candidates For New McHenry County Seal
  11. The McHenry County Seal Slaughter


  1. While I’m unsure why Mr. Craver (the Northwest Herald reporter) seems to think my seal designs were “satiric,” given their rather obvious superiority in quality and in correcting the chief complaint leveled against the current seal, i.e., “it’s boring,” to those created under the County Board’s sponsorship, I do want to publicly clear him of any responsibility for my especially inane quote. On the contrary, Mr. Craver gave me multiple opportunities and even proffered a leading question or two to elicit an intelligible if not interesting response.The lack of wit – and the transient loss of the capacity for spoken language – lie with me alone. It was not a good day. []
  2. It’s difficult to decide if this chunk of legalese owes more to the treaties between the United States and those Indian tribes who were inconveniently ensconced in oil-bearing areas of Oklahoma, the standard rental contracts used by slumlords, the rules and regulations of the Alabama penal system, or those impossible to decipher contracts to which one must agree before using a Microsoft product. []
  3. Having never sullied my mind with an artistic vision, this part is not a big deal to me. []
  4. The cheeriest line I can find is “Prospectus: The McHenry County Government Center announces a design contest for a new County seal that will be used for all County business including signage and correspondence.” And I’m not certain that the appeal of the words, “signage and correspondence” holds for me is universal. []
  5. According to License plate survey: Illinois about as vain as Virginia, 13.4 percent of the plates issued by Illinois are personalized tags. Virginia and New Hampshire have higher percentages of vanity tags, 16% and 14%, respectively, but Illinois has more of these customized tags, nearly 1.3 million plates, than any other state, despite the fact that Illinois charges $78 a year for the specialty items. Virginia, on the other hand, charges only $10. []

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