Friday, September 17, 2010

Flag Friday XIV

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: He awards it "good colors," but calls it a "bad tricolour," which apparently rounds out to a B+, 75/100.

Michael5000: I hold the opposite opinion. The colors of the Gabonese flag are, to my eye, a bit too pastel and washed out to assert themselves with a properly flaggy boldness. On the other hand, they are complementary enough and make a perfectly serviceable tricolor.

You might well come up something like this if you were designing a flag for any coastal place with forests, be it Gabon or Chile or, say, Oregon. Ocean, beach, woods. Officially, though, the gold stripe here in Gabon indicates the Equator. I can't say I really get that, either as a piece of representation (thick gold line?) or point of national pride ("visit beautiful Burma, home of the Tropic of Cancer!"), but that's nobody's business but the Gabonese.

Grade: B-


Parsons: "Great design and colour choice," says Parsons. "Also represents the geography of the country (without being a map)." Praising "good colours," he assigns an "A+", 90/100.

Michael5000: I like the flag of Gambia. The darker green is a good companion color to the classic red and blue, and the white trim adds a distinctive note to your basic horizontal tricolor.

The common belief that it is a diagrammatic map of the country, however, is badly overstated. It's true that the blue stripe is supposed to represent the Gambia River, along which the country's territory is stretched, but there's no particular concept of a northern red or a green south involved. Also, Gambia is more than ten times as long east-to-west as it is wide north-to-south, whereas its flag is your basic world-standard 3:2.

So the cartographic nature of the Gambian flag would amount only to "we're a country with a river running through it," which I suppose is more than Nauru can say. Fortunately, it doesn't need to be a map to look sharp.

Grade (for the current flag): A-


Here's the flag of Georgia that Parsons reviewed:

Parsons: Complained of "bad colours" and assigned a "C+", 60/100.

Michael5000: I thought of that flag (which flew from 1990 to 2004) as among the world's most distinctive, but not in a good way. I would not have been as kind as Parsons in grading it. Fortunately, a new Georgian flag was adopted by Presidential decree in 2004. Here's a picture of me and some friends celebrating that exciting event:

Sweeping claims are made regarding the historicity of this flag design -- Fifth Century! -- which would put it in use many centuries before the origin of flags per se, at least as I understand the vexillological timeline. But that's OK. The important thing is, Georgia has come up with a design with some sort of national resonance, and it's not butt-ugly to boot.

The specs call for the red to be a perfect 255-0-0 fire-engine candy-apple red, baby, but I think the design works a little better if the red tends towards the maroon of the previous flag. Judging from photo evidence, everybody else does too.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Best things about Germany's flag: it's a very distinctive combination of colors, if you ignore Belgium (which Germany has an unfortunate history of doing). And it certainly stands out against, well, anything, including a blue Central European sky:

The downside is that the colors are, frankly, a little hard on the eyes. They are a little too befitting of crude stereotypes of the German personality: the utilitarian colors of industrial diagrams and signage, or the excessively flamboyant tie of a man who is ho-ho-hoing much too hard at his own joke.

We love you, Germany! Thanks for saving Greece!

Grade: B


Parsons: With an accusation of "plagiarism," he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: OK, Ghana was the first of the "newly independent" countries to escape European rule in the late 1950s. The new flag did indeed deliberately quote the colors of the Ethiopian flag, as I described last time. A lot of other countries in Africa would subsequently join Ethiopia and Ghana in choosing green, yellow, and red for their flags, reflecting an aspiration for a united continent that, however naive it seems in retrospect, was rather noble and idealistic in its time and place. Parsons is only kidding when he reduces this whole process to "plagiarism," but it still makes me kind of sad.

The black star in Ghana's center stripe is thought to be an homage to the Black Star Line, a short-lived maritime company founded in the 1910s by the journalist, African-American community leader, and unintentional Rastafari prophet Marcus Garvey. Which is pretty far out.

Grade (for the current flag): B

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