Friday, January 29, 2010

Flag Friday II

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: Without explanation, he gives it “B“, 70/100.

Michael5000: I confess I am not a great fan of the Argentine flag. The baby-blue and white tricolor feels a bit washed out, and the sunshine face -- the "Sun of May," apparently a representation of the Inca sun god Inti -- seems like it would be more at home on an old Jefferson Airplane concert flyer. On the upside, there's no mistaking it for any other flag (Uruguay also uses blue, white, and the Sun of May, but in a totally different configuration). Too, although sunshine face is fussy it is constructed from just two colors, making it replicable from whole cloth by a skillful sewer.

Argentina is what looks to be the exception to the rule: a flag I judge more harshly than Mr. Parsons.

Grade: C


Parsons: Citing "Bad Colours," he gives it “B-“, 65/100.

Michael5000: You can't argue with a tricolor -- it's the very essence of flagginess -- and Armenia's trio of red, blue, and orange are an attractive and upbeat version of the classic design. The red and orange wouldn't be great if they were adjacent, but when separated by a field of blue they are unobjectionable. Furthermore, a 2:1 ratio makes the Armenian flag unusually long and slender, giving it just a hint of distinctiveness. A good flag.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Unhappy with "colonial nonsense" and "too many stars," he gives it “C”, 55/100

Michael5000: By "colonial nonsense," Parsons is refering to the British Union Jack taking up a quarter of the Australian flag's real estate. I see his point, and so do a sizeable minority of Australians.

What bugs me about the Australian flag, though, is that it is mighty difficult to distinguish it from the flag of New Zealand. The whole point of a flag is to create a strong visual distinction between two polities, no? Well, the two major powers of the Southwest Pacific have utterly failed at distinguishing one from the other. This could be seen as a nice, cozy symbolic representation of international friendship, but if I were (like Josh Parsons, incidentally) from one of the countries in question I think I would dislike the implication that they are basically just two peas in the same ANZAC pod.

Too many stars? Arguably. The five on the right form the iconic Southern Cross constellation, and the one on the left is a general symbol of the Australian Federation. They are fussily placed, in three sizes, and have different numbers of points, all of which complicate a flag more than you'd like. I'm throwing in with the Australian minority -- the current flag simply has too much going on.

Grade: C-


Parsons: He calls it "simple," and awards it a “B+”, 75/100

Michael5000: Austria more or less ties with Denmark for the oldest flag still in use, and it's hard not to assign sentimental points just for seniority. And although red and white are far and away the most common flag colors, somehow Austria has managed to keep a monopoly on the horizontal red/white/red tricolor. Easily made, easily distinguished, visible from miles away, and with the most impeccable of pedigrees, Austria's is the ur-flag, a touchstone for all other flags to measure themselves against.

Grade: A


Parsons: Complaining of "bad colours," a "bad shape," and an "eyewatering" quality, he gives it “B-”, 65/100

Michael5000: A strong tricolor with unconventional but handsome colors and two simple white symbols at its center, with a longer-than-usual horizontal access. Armenians and Azerbaijanis can feel good about this, in any event: they both have good flags.

Grade: B+


Parsons: "Yuurgh... awful colours," he writes, "but not quite as bad as Aruba." He assigns a "B-", 65/100

Michael5000: We didn't look at Aruba because, although it's a Caribbean Island, it is a colony -- or shall we say an "autonomous region" -- of the Netherlands. The colors on the Bahamas flag are blue, yellow, and black. It's distinctive and handsome.

Grade: B+


Elaine said...

Personally finding the Bahamas flag too grating, with the ugly black triangle.... I like...none of the above.

Mainly writing to whine that we don't have the quiz answers yet!!! and there is an ice storm going on here; need entertainment!

DrSchnell said...

Google the old King Crimson album "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" for a good parallel for Argentina.

Jenners said...

This was an oddly compelling post. Did I miss an opportunity to critque flags? If more come up, I will join in. And for the record, I like Australia's the best ... followed by Argentina.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

I vote for Bahamas. That shit kicks ass. I give it a solid A. Chicago's flag is an A+.

UnwiseOwl said...

Personally, I've always preferred the Australian red ensign, which is the same as the Blue only Red. It would certainly help with distinctiveness from New Zealand (I guess trying a similar flag was an instance of classic Aussie one-up-manship, nah-nah NZ, we have one more star than you!). Interestingly, up until the 70's the red was more commonly used anyway, as the blue was restricted for government use.