Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flag Friday VII

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Parsons: Complaining of "graven images," he gives it “C”, 55/100.

Michael5000: Technically, this is a simple three-color flag, with the depiction of Angkor Wat in the center traced out in red. I am of two minds about the Angkor Wat business. On one hand, it's a highly recognizable national symbol rendered fairly simply, and it does make the Cambodian flag easy to identify at a glance. On the other hand, it remains a little more graphically detailed than I like to see in a flag.

Grade: B


Parsons: Calling it a "bad tricolor," he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: The country of Cameroon has had an even more arbitrary political history than the other former European colonies in Africa. During the original carving-up, it was awarded to Germany, who apparently ran the colony of German Cameroon under this loveable but absurd flag:

...although in practice the elephant business might have been left out of the tricolor. After WWI, the German colony was split between France and the U.K., meaning that since independence Cameroon has had to work especially hard at establishing national unity. Think about it -- all local traditions of organization swept away, German law and administration imposed, then French and British law and administration imposed in different areas, and then you have to somehow pick up the pieces.

My point in all of this is that the central star in what is otherwise a fairly conventional African tricolor is symbolic of national unity -- an earlier version of the flag had two stars representing the post-French and post-British areas -- and is therefore perhaps more meaningful than your average flag star.

Grade: B+


Parsons: "Hmm... that maple leaf? A difficult question, but I think not quite stylised enough." He calls the leaf another "graven image." Nevertheless, he assigns an "A-", 70/100.

Michael5000: I live a mere five hours from Canada, a vast nation that has menacingly massed 90% of its population within a few dozen kilometers of my own land. If I disliked the Canadian flag, would I be fool enough to say so?

Fortunately, it's a moot point. I love the Canadian flag. There is nothing busy about the Maple Leaf -- it is stylized just right in my own opinion, and it makes a strong and instantly recognizable national symbol. Further, it creates visual interest within a simple, high-contrast two-color scheme; this is a flag you can find on the darkest night, yet it manages to be almost elegant.

Two more notes: 1) the Canadian flag specs call for a 2:1 ratio. I think many of the actual flags are in a more conventional 5:3ish shape, but Canada's is one of the few flags that still looks attractive when it is twice as long as it is tall. 2) Canada, like Brazil, has a very successful flag. Blessed with a terrific national symbol and -- dare I say it in print? -- possessing of a potent nationalism driven by the presence of a very populous, powerful, and culturally similar neighbor, Canadians display their flag and its central motif seemingly everyplace and at every possible opportunity.

Grade: A+. I consider this to be one of the world's finest flags.

Cape Verde

Parsons: Disliking a "corporate logo" look and calling it "eyewatering," he gives it a "C", 55/100.

Michael5000: I can see what Parsons means by the "corporate logo" factor here, but I'm a little baffled as to why it would be "eyewatering." I like the simple but off-centered elements here -- the horizontal strips and the circle of small stars. A relatively new flag, I personally think it is a big improvement on the 1975-2002 banner, and I bet you are about to agree with me:

Grade (for the current flag): A-

Central African Republic

Parsons: Liking that it's "original" but calling it "too busy," he assigns a "C-", 50/100. "Do not," he adds, "attempt to disprove the four-colour theorem on your flag!"

Michael5000: The poor C.A.R. As if the legacy of Jean-B├ędel Bokassa weren't enough for one country, not only does it have the lamest of all country names -- virtually an advertisement of its arbitrary colonial origins -- but it is stuck with one of the worst flags, too. No doubt there is some cultural blinding going on here, but whereas tricolors look great and almost inevitably make a handsome national flag, quadrocolors (a word I am just now making up) look like crap. Adding other design elements just compound the problem. Do not attempt to disprove the four-color theorem on your flag!

Grade: D-

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