The "great" seal of St. Francois County, Missouri (screenshot via the St. Francois County website)

As the old saying goes, if you can’t do something right, do it anyway! St. Francois County, Missouri, population 65,359 (as of the 2010 census), has made national news as they debuted a fresh new iteration of their county seal. The design appears to have been put together in a 1995 version of Microsoft Paint, and is the handiwork of St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher.

“I understand that it’s a fever pitch on social media about the county seal,” said Gallaher at a January commission meeting, quoted in the Daily Journal online. “It was a rush deal way back when, I had two days for the public to come up with a seal and my design is proof positive that I am not artistically inclined.”

But I ask you, could a non-artist have so deftly juggled the existing symbols of the seal: an American flag, bald eagle in flight, pick and axe, the likely gerrymandered shape of the county, and a book with a giant cross popping out of it? It requires a special kind of vision to take an already bad thing and make it definitely worse. So much worse, that if one were to put this exact seal into a parody television show like, Saturday Night Live or Parks and Rec, it would be lambasted as excessively ridiculous.

The badness of the design lies mostly in the poorly resolved, clip-art style photo-realistic elements, which Gallaher enlarged from the 1982 version of the seal, creating an array of compositional gaffes — but the seal on the seal is the bright red font encircling this hodgepodge of imagery. As one Reddit commenter observed, it’s a missed opportunity for Comic Sans. Apparently, the county seal redesign has been Gallaher’s pet project for years, where he was photographed next to two earlier iterations of the seal during “State of the County” address on February 19, 2018. I think we’ve found the one catastrophe that cannot be attributed to the impact of COVID-19, but just to the reluctance of everyday people to actually hire artists to do things that artists are good at doing.

A redesign of the redesign by Reddit user wtf703.

Still resistant to the idea of using taxpayer money to make a bad thing less-bad, Gallaher and the commission are deciding the parameters for an open competition to redesign the seal. And don’t worry, despite a self-acknowledged lack of artistic skill, Gallaher still has plenty of ideas for the redesign of the redesign.

“I would like to add an element to the seal,” he said at the meeting. “We are the Parkland and I would like for the seal to include some symbol about parks.” This is a great idea, because definitely what this seal needs is more going on. “I would like it to be better than the seal we have now, which would be a slam dunk,” he said. It is difficult to imagine a result that could actually be worse, but if it’s possible, we expect proud St. Francois County of the Show Me State to be the one to show us the way.

The author’s proposed redesign of the county seal. As requested, it involves Parks.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....