New Zealand flag design needs to endure
Which is your favourite flag?
Designers from around the world have been underwhelmed by the four New Zealand flag contenders. The problem isn't the presence of ferns or korus, it is simply that none of the designs are a match for the best flags from around the world.
Take the current flag of Jamaica, which replaced their British Ensign flag in 1962: a simple gold saltire, dividing the flag into four triangles, two green and two black.
The saltire hints at the Christian background of many of its inhabitants, and it serves as a visual device for the arrangement of the colours: green represents the land and agriculture, black the strength and endurance of the people, and gold the sun and prosperity.
The design is extremely simple, yet each element means something. A similar exercise could be done for most great flags from around the world - they are so simple a child could draw them from memory, yet they are visually compelling and rich with meaning.
The most popular contender, by Kyle Lockwood, aims to maintain continuity with the existing flag. It is popular because of this, and it looks like a safe option when placed next to the existing flag.
When separated from this context however (as it eventually will be if selected), it starts to make less sense. The biggest error is having two different motifs: the fern and the Southern Cross. As a result it is too visually confusing to become an iconic flag. Motifs on flags also traditionally do not touch the edges, and they should be on a single colour background. The fern breaks these conventions, and as a result I suspect it will quickly become dated.
The colours of a flag should also be meaningful, yet the Lockwood design has a number of colour variants, indicating that the colours are not very important at all.
One of the main reasons for following the principles of flag design is that it ensures the design will endure, and not become dated as branding usually does. Branding tends to follow the design ideas of the time, and is replaced when it becomes dated. Flags however need to endure.
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