Friday, March 12, 2010

Flag Friday IV

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: Characterizing it as "simple," he gives it “B-“, 65/100.

Michael5000: It's true, Benin's flag is simple. It also retains the advantages of the tricolor -- three solid, contrasting fields that are recognizable from a great distance -- while configuring them in a straightforward but unconventional manner. It passes the Betsy Ross Test with -- heh, heh -- flying colors, and poses no challenge to the child with crayons. And yet, there is something just slightly uninspiring about it that I can't quite put my finger on. I think if the dominent red were above the field of yellow, the overall effect would have been marginally more powerful. Yet, it is not so.

Grade: B-


Parsons: Citing "graven images," he gives it “D+“, 45/100.

Michael5000: Bhutan, unlike Benin, has a flag that offers a substantial challenge to any but the most talented sewer. It's not an impossible job, though -- the central dragon can be rendered as a black-on-white applique over the diagonally-separated red and orange fields. And although the dragon is likely to defy the ability of most children to render it accurately, it is also more likely than most flag elements to excite a child into giving it a go. Unique and immediately recognizable among the world's flags, Bhutan's is one that gets away with breaking the rules because its overall effect is so distinctive and striking. And, let's face it -- the dragon, clutching its four orbs, is nothing but pure awesomeness.

Grade: A


Parsons: Citing "plagiarism" and calling it a "bad tricolor," he gives it “B-”, 65/100.

Michael5000: "Plagiarism"? Nonsense. This accusation is likely just a manifestation of Parsons' dislike of the red/yellow/green color combination. Certainly, Bolivia's tricolor looks nothing like any other South American flag, and, out of the world's flags, could only really be confused with Lithuania's -- not likely to be a major source of mistaken identity.

Moreso than in most countries, Bolivians seem to favor the "state flag" to the "civil flag." A lot of countries have this distinction, the state flag being a kind of "Sunday best" version used at places or occasions of particular national pomp or ceremony. In this series, we are generally looking at the everyday civil flags. But again, Bolivia seems to rock the state flag quite a bit -- one more reason that, should you wake up in a strange place with no memory of how you got there, you are unlikely to be perplexed as to whether you are in La Paz (red/yellow/green) or Vilnius (yellow/green/red).

Now then, there is talk about the existing Bolivian flag being combined or replaced with a rainbow-checkered symbol called the "Whipala." This proposal is associated with recently re-elected President Evo Morales, who enjoys the support of Bolivia's large indiginous population; the Whipala itself is a symbol of Incan heritage and pan-Andean indiginous identity.

Now, I don't pretend to know anything about the internal politics of Bolivia. And I can certainly see that the Whipala flag could be welcomed as a distinctive alternative to the European model of national flags. Yet at the same time, I have to confess that my reaction to the varient proposed here:

is, man, that is one ugly flag.

Grade (for the existing civil flag): B


Rebel said...

I concur. Bhutan's flag is made of pure awesomeness. I'm still not fond of the traditional tri-color, but I at least respect Benin's moving beyond just three stripes. Still hate the color combo though.

Rebel said...

PS - if you want to learn how to draw a dragon, just follow these easy steps:

Dug said...

That Benin flag hurts my eyes! I need my sunglasses. I like the Whipala - it is a tad busy though.

Jenners said...

I'm with you .. I think Bhutan's flag rocks!

Aviatrix said...

Benin & Bolivia: When their television stations play the national anthems and go off the air, they can just leave the image of the flag up all night. And Whipala? That's actually the special version of their flag used for gay pride day.

Bhutan: Re crayons - exactly! It wouldn't be the same dragon, but who wouldn't want to take up crayons in pursuit of its likeness. Is this the dragon that started the so-called "fire"? I'm with Unwise Owl: the "fire" story is just a front.