A simple smile among passing strangers can do wonders. It can brighten a dim day and make the weight someone's carrying feel just a little lighter. A smile can make hope visible for someone who's looking for a bit of optimism when they've hit a low – like unspoken encouragement reminding them it isn't all bad. A smile invites conversations with new friends, opens the door to exciting opportunities, and even changes the perception of an entire neighborhood.
It's a powerfully good thing, a smile. And, in a way, that's what inspired this idea.
After living in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area for three years, and the H Street Corridor neighborhood of Northeast Washington, DC for one year, it's become painfully apparent that people here don't smile. At least not while we pass one another on the street. Sometimes, we even look like we're making a conscious effort to hold back a smile. But why?
Maybe it's for fear of the conversation a smile might invite with a stranger – eating up valuable time in our busy schedules. Maybe we think our smile won't be returned, leading to a bit of embarrassment. Or maybe we don't smile because we think it just isn't the DC thing to do.
But with so many great benefits to smiling – including stress relief – I wondered how I could inspire people in DC to pull the corners of their mouths back just a bit and smile.
What if I took a treasured symbol of the city and gave it a smile?
Designed in 1924 by Charles A. R. Dunn and officially adopted in 1938, the flag of Washington, DC is found just about everywhere in the nation's capital. Seeing one of these instances in my neighborhood one day it hit me – there's a face there! And with so subtle an adjustment, I realized it could smile.
I usually spend days and weeks tweaking a concept to render on paper and on screen what's in my heart. Not this time. I captured the simple idea with a single pen sketch in a favorite Moleskine and moved on.
Studying the variations of Charles's flag found throughout DC, I worked to get the proportions and spacing just right for the smile. I excitedly submitted the finished design to Cotton Bureau, an online marketplace for community-submitted design apparel. Cotton Bureau is very selective only accepting high quality design concepts for their store. I was thrilled when I got the news that they were going to make my Smile, DC! t-shirt available to buy on CottonBureau.com. 😃
A Purposeful Repurposing
The flag of Washington, DC is often revised and repurposed. Usually to promote something like a product or service. What makes this repurposing in Smile, DC! unique is that it promotes DC itself back to its people. It leverages the pride of the city to propose a simple idea, that its OK to give one another a smile.
Inspire a Smile
I’d like to see us smile at one another more in DC, so I designed this symbol and put it on a t-shirt. Simple, but I’m hoping it’ll inspire people to smile when they see it, maybe even spark a bit of a movement.
Wanna help? Buy a Smile, DC! t-shirt on Cotton Bureau here: cottonbureau.com/products/smile-dc
Then put it on to hangout with your friends at &Pizza, or to enjoy casual Friday at the office, or to get some work done at Ebenezers Coffeehouse. And to make sure you look stunningly fashionable, make sure you wear it with your favorite smile.