The Detroit flag is divided into 4 quadrants with a circle in the middle. The 4 quadrants represent the 3 different powers that have ruled over the city and the circle refers to a large fire that destroyed nearly all of Detroit in 1805.

The French founded Detroit in 1701 and are represented in the lower left corner by the 5 gold fleurs-de-lis on the white. The British took control of the area in 1760 and are represented in the upper right corner by 3 gold lions on a red background. The Americans fought back and forth with the British for the city since 1796 and are represented by the upper left and lower right corners. These quadrants have 13 stars on a blue background and 13 white and red stripes respectively to represent the 13 American colonies.

The center circle shows 2 ladies, 1 weeping in front of ashes and 1 gesturing for a new city to rise. The motto of the City is displayed here “Speramus Meliora” and “Resurget Cineribus”, meaning "We hope for better things" and "It will rise from the ashes” This is in direct reference to a fire that destroyed almost the entire city in 1805. The city was then rebuilt similar to Washington DC in that its main thoroughfares radiate outward from Grand Circus Park like spokes on a wheel.