I think anti-British opinion or a let’s-forget-the-past mindset are more prevalent in Australia than in New Zealand. Therefore, Australian might well change their flag first — and so NZL and Australia’s flag will no longer be similar, as this was one reason people gave for changing the NZL flag.
So voting has begun in the New Zealand flag referendum. I’ve gotta say, I like the alternative flag design by Kyle Lockwood. It really is very good. But to me it lacks the necessary gravitas. Why? Well, it looks a bit more like a logo than a national flag. To my eyes, anyway. I think it’s to do with the way the fern is incorporated into the design. I would like to put forward my own ideas again as first shown online almost two years ago:
Today, the 23rd of April, is St. George’s Day — the patron saint of England. It is also William Shakespeare’s birthday, if you can believe such a co-incidence. And to add incredulity to unbelieveableness*, it is also UN Official English Language Day (chosen because it is the Bard’s birthday).
I’m English, and I’m an English teacher. I’m also a bit of a patriot, so it kind of irks when the US flag is used to represent the English language, such as on Duolingo. Although I do understand and accept the reasoning behind this choice (way more Americans than Britons).
Instead of either national flag, some people and organisations combine the British and American flags and use the resulting crossbreed to stand for the English language. This version’s pretty nifty:
And BioWare, my favourite computer game company, have used the Canadian flag!
All of these options work really well. But I wondered to myself, What if there was a dedicated English language flag? What would it look like?
This is my answer to that age-old and most vexing of all questions:
I think it’s confirmed: I am a recidivistic vexillophile! See my other forays into the points realms of made up flags here and here and here!
What makes a good flag design? It should be well-balanced, distinctive, obey vexilololo flaggy rules, and somehow represent what it is supposed to be the flag of. And it should stand out!
WARNING: Boring, Long-winded Explanation Here Follows; Feel Free to Zone Out
I think mine hits the nails on the heads. But what does my flag design represent?
The central pink stripe and the white stripes directly above and below it copy the horizontal part of St. George’s cross in their proportion. And pink itself was the colour of the British Empire. Whatever you think of the British Empire, it is clear that English would not have its current global reach were it not for the Empire.
The blue section at the top directly echoes the blue background of both the US flag (albeit, only in the top-left) and the British flag. The United States, and its cultural, social, economic, political, and military clout, has continued what the British Empire began — the spread and further global entrenchment of English.
Now the thin lines in the bottom. Their proportion, and the alternation of white and non-white, are deliberately meant to echo the US flag. The colours are meant to stand for the various nations which use English: orange, white and green for India, red for both the US and UK amongst other nations.
I make no apologies for recognising British and then American domination; the history of these two nations is utterly impossible to divorce from the story of the English language itself.
What do you think of my design? Do you think I spend too much time worrying about flags, too little about getting a real job?
*that was supposed to allude obliquely to the expression “to add insult to injury”, but I fear a little too obliquely, dear reader.
Scotland is going to vote on Thursday 18th of September. The outcome will decide if Scotland stays as part of the United Kingdom or becomes an independent nation. If the people in Scotland vote to leave the UK, that means that the left-over part of the United Kingdom might have to change its flag; the Union Jack gets it’s blue, after all, from the Scottish flag.
I came up with some alternative, Scotlandless UK flag designs. I believe this was 2012, but it may have been before. Either way, I posted my ideas up in July 2013, and then again more recently. Check out my posts here and here.
The Metro newspaper had an article (12th Sept. 2014) with what the Flag Institute believes should be the flag of a Scotlandless UK (below). Look familiar? As you can see, I think that qualifies me as a genius: yes, Bryan A. J. Parry invented the British Flag (kind of). I expect the cheques in the post any day now…
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, has said he wants to change the flag of New Zealand. The country needs a new flag to “acknowledge our independence”, and to represent modern New Zealand, rather than the current flag which, he says, “symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has now passed”. He calls for a flag that represents New Zealand as “it is now” rather than as it “once was”. He feels so strongly about it that he’s just announced that he’ll call a referendum on the issue within the next three years.
Of course, unless you’re totally ignorant, you’ll know what he’s talking about; the New Zealand flag, in a potentially twee and amusing manner, still has the British Union Jack stapled in the corner. This was standard across the Empire.
All the Colonies had a similar flag design: in the top left-hand corner (technically, the “canton”), the Union Flag; the rest, a field (usually red or blue) with some kind of coat of arms standing for the colony in question. Here are some examples.
Bermuda, Falklands, the British Indian Ocean Territory, and Canada. Wait, what? Yes, Canada’s flag looks a little different here. It was only in 1965 that the flag was changed to its current maple leaf design. There was an outcry for a new flag to show that Canada is its own country, no longer a colony of the “mother country”.
And similar voices can be heard in Australia and New Zealand, two countries which periodically consider ditching their colonial-style flags. I’m not going to weigh in on whether they should ditch their flags — but to say that a mere 28% of New Zealanders currently want to change the flag — I’m only going to make some suggestions for what they might want to change their flags to if they decide to change their flags at all.
But before I go on, it’s worth noting that out of New Zealand and Australia, NZL might have more cause to change; people often mistake their flag for the Australian one, but nobody ever mistakes the Aussie flag for the kiwi one! Poor New Zealanders. And so this article will only concern itself with the New Zealand flag.
What Makes a Good Flag?
A good flag should be iconic, recognisable, unmistakable, and should resonate with what the nations stands for and its heritage; yet, equally, it should be simple. So, here’s some criteria:
Reflect nation’s culture and/or history in a non-partisan way
Simple, powerful design
Sounds obvious, but: should be well-designed and look like it could actually be a real flag
Canada’s maple leaf flag, as well as the flags of other ex-colonies such as Papua New Guinea, provide good models for what is possible.
Depicting an Entire Culture in a flag
A New Zealand flag should probably represent both European and Maori heritage. But it shouldn’t imply the two are distinct or cannot co-exist. Indeed, it should show the oneness of the nation without implying homogeneity. Tricky. I think that, instead of European symbols or Maori iconography, a safer model is that followed by Canada and Papua New Guinea: let’s look to nature, something all Kiwis can get behind. It seems to me that New Zealand has three widely recognised emblems, two of which are unmistakably only New Zealand, all three of which are nature motifs. They are:
The Southern Cross (with red stars): a symbol shared with other Pacific nations
The Silver Fern
The Kiwi bird
Note also that the widely-recognised de facto New Zealand colours are black and white.
I suggest that any flag worthy of our four design goals and worthy of the Kiwi people, regardless of their ancestry, would incorporate one or more of these three symbols plus the black-white colour scheme.
Therefore, I humbly make the following suggestions.
Flag Idea 1: “Swiss Style”
I call this the “Swiss Style” Flag. It’s a square, like the Swiss flag, which along with the Vatican flag is one of only two square flags in the world. A square flag: now that’s distinctive. It also features the black and white New Zealand colours. And the current red-starred Southern Cross. The red of the stars also echo British and Maori colours. And I think that the use of arguably the most powerful colour combination ever — red, white, black — is another plus.
It ticks all four of our criteria. A great flag if I do say so myself.
Flag Idea 2
This flag is most obviously inspired by the Papua New Guinea example due to its bird motif: a Kiwi-style Southern Cross in the Kiwi colour scheme with the most Kiwi of all Kiwi things: a Kiwi. The PNG flag of course features the national bird of PNG. Exactly the same as the Flag Idea 1 above but expanded to include the bird.
Two variants: one all black, one with a black kiwi on a white field. Proportion is 1:2, the same as the present New Zealand flag. But we might decide to opt for, say, 3:5; certainly the all black version looks better to me as 3:5. Why? Because there is a more aesthetically pleasing gap between the kiwi and the Southern Cross (the split white/black version does not seem to have as large a gap due to the wonders of optical illusion).
Again, ticks all four criteria.
Flag Idea 3
This flag is the same as Flag 2 but goes in the Canadian direction of opting for plant life. Yes, that other NZL symbol: the silver fern. Again, two variants: one all black, and one with a white half.
Another design which fits our four criteria.
Flag 2 + 3
Basically a combination of Flag Ideas 2 & 3. I like that this one incorporates all three of the Kiwi symbols in one flag. It’s somewhat busier, of course, but I think it works very nicely. This could also work with a white kiwi and fern.
This tries to be more conservative by essentially leaving the flag as it is but for the removal of the Union Jack on the left-hand side and its replacement by the fern. It also happens to be my least favourite one — mainly because of the colour scheme, but also because I feel putting the cross to the right of the fern looks a bit clumsy (to me). I think both that the Southern Cross is a must, and that it must replace the Union Flag on the left-hand side (the “hoist”) of the flag.
Flags 5 & 6
Couple more variations on the above.
So there we are. Whether New Zealand ever changes its flag or not, and I express no opinion either way, I believe my designs are pretty fricking awesome. What do you think? (if you disagree, you’re wrong)
*I came up with all flag designs on this page. However, whilst that therefore includes Flag Design 4, I genuinely don’t remember if the flag 4 herein used was physically designed by me, or whether I saw that someone else had come up with the same design and so decided to borrow their construction.
“New Zealand to hold referendum on new, ‘post-colonial’ flag” by Toby Manhire (11th March 2014)
As you no doubt know, Scotland has an independence referendum in September 2014. If the vote backs independence, the UK will go on without Scotland, of course (the United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, that would be). But if Scotland does go, what’ll happen to the treasured Union Jack? Surely it will have to lose its blue background which represents the Scottish patron saint, Andrew. Not the most serious implication of Scottish independence, you may say, but it’s not totally insignificant either: after all, the Union Jack isthe main branding of UK plc. Furthermore, the psychological blow of having our flag bleached will surely be great.
But there’s no need for us to have an anaemic flag.
The current Union Jack, of course, is a blend of the flags of the Patron Saints of England, Scotland, and Ireland: that is, the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick. Many have proposed properly representing Wales, especially if Scotland leaves the union, by defacing the Union Flag with a welsh dragon (“defacing” is the technical heraldic term, by the way). However, the superimposition of the Welsh Dragon on the remains of the Union Jack doesn’t quite hit the spot from an aesthetic point of view. It also runs against analogy: the Union Jack is made up of the flags of the patron saints of the home nations. So why not incorporate the flag of the patron saint of Wales, St. David, into the Union Jack?
So without further ado, I submit the following as what I think the Union Jack should look like in a Scotland-less UK.
I personally think Scotland and England are both stronger together (surely recent sporting successes highlight this). So I hope Scotland and England remained wedded, in sickness and health, rich and poor, and so on. But if Scotland does become a sovereign natoion, there’s no need for the remainder of the UK to have a radically altered or feeble-looking flag.
We might wish to incorporate St. David’s flag, but leave the yellow out. This would give us a powerful red-black-white colour scheme.
And what if Scotland stays in the UK? We still might want to properly recognise Wales’ contribution to the union by giving us a new flag. In which case, add the yellow cross of St. David’s flag alongside the blue of St. Andrew’s.