Is Design Flagging?

New Zealand Flag

Just recently the announcement has been made for the final four contenders in the vote for the new New Zealand flag. After narrowing it down from over 10,000 entries from members of the general public the committe have drawn up the final short list of four designs, or have they?

The short list is made up of designs from flight attendant

Alofi Kanter, designer Andrew Fyfe and architect Kyle Lockwood. Yes that’s right, three people, four designs. That’s because Kyle has two entries, the same design twice, each with a different colour scheme. He design, no matter the palette, has the southern cross plus the New Zealand fern angled up diagonally from the bottom left corner.

New Zealand Flag

Alofi’s design has a version of the New Zealand fern, in black and white angled up from the bottom left corner, while Andrew’s is the only fern free design. He makes use of a curved shape, known as a koru, curling up from the bottom left. This design can reflect the frond of a fern, or a wave, or the horns on a ram. All of this is in keeping with the idea of New Zealand and works nicely as a flag. It is my favourite and looks great. Not that I have anything against the ferns per se, they just don’t look as good.

The worrying thing about the short list is two fold. One, the sheer lack of variety (three very similar ferns plus one other), and two the lack of design knowledge in the selection process.

New Zealand Flag

There were, of course, poor designs, foolish designs, satirical designs and worse among the ten and a quarter thousand entries in to the competition. There were, however, also a wide range of interesting, well thought out, alternative designs. Some of these I don’t believe would work as a flag, others just don’t seem to suit the brief. That said some of these designs which didn’t make the shortlist, whether I like them or not, offered a greater alternative to those on the final list. Some of the designs I really like and it is a shame they didn’t make it through especially when the final list has one design twice.

I like the idea of a modern southern cross, I like the idea of an abstract pattern which reflects Maori heritage, I like the idea of options. This is an opportunity missed.

New Zealand Flag

If I had my snarky head on I would say that I’m not surprised. Now I love rugby, but a former All Black’s captain does not a design expert make. Neither does a soldier either, and while a flag historian may have knowledge of flags gone by the brief was to look to the future as well as the past. Now it could be said an advertising executive has design knowledge, and this is true, but this is the only experience in the four person committee. Apparently they has access to, and liased with a design group, although this appears to be low key.

There is, as far as I’m aware no prize for this design, whichever one is chosen, the public will be voting for it (against the current flag in the final round), and no one with specific design experience was involved in the deliberations. Design, both graphic and industrial, plays a vital part in the world around us and situations like this undermine the industry and devalue the work and experience of thousands of talented individuals. This is an important issue, and one I will be addressing soon in a follow up article on this blog.

New Zealand Flag

Information for this article came from the Creative Review.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *