Friday, March 26, 2010

Flag Friday V

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.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Parsons: He dislikes its "corporate logo" look and its "too many stars," and calls it "too busy." He gives it a “C+”, 64/100.

Michael5000: Yeah, I'm kind of with Dr. Parsons on this one. What I don't think he realizes -- although he probably wouldn't like it if he did -- is that, if I'm not mistaken, there is a map element to the still relatively new B&H banner. The yellow shape is Bosnia. Do you see it? With the stars kind of where the Dalmation coast of Croatia would be? No? Well, maybe it's just me.

Well, anyway. It is indeed very corporate-looking, kind of what I might expect from the flag of Lufthansa or something. Also, I find the 2:1 proportions disconcerting. Tooooo loooooong!

Grade: C


Parsons: Praising "good colours" and its "simple" quality, he gives it “B+”, 79/100.

Michael5000: I'm partial to the flag of Botswana. I like the way it takes the tricolor -- the rock-solid standard of flag design -- and very subtly changes it up with those thin white stripes. Nice. I find the colors pleasing and distinctive, as well, at least in isolation -- Botswana's flag certainly won't be confused with its neighbors. It strikes me, though, that in actual use the Botswanan flag might not cut an especially spectacular figure against the perennially sunny southern African skies. Here, I found a photo:

See my point?

Grade: B+


Parsons: "Starmap original but atrocious. Worst flag of any independent nation state." Disliking the writing and calling the whole flag "too busy," he assigns a "D-", 35/100.

Michael5000: In general, Parsons and I share a distaste of fussy detail and of writing on flags, so I can kind of see where he is coming from. At the same time, his dismissal of Brazil's flag is a bit over the top. The starmap here is no more "atrocious" than the starmap on the flag of Parsons' native New Zealand -- it's merely a light blue circle with an asymmetrical pattern of that most common of flag elements, the star. The country's motto, a rather hopeful one at that, is spelled out in a block, san-serif font, making the whole flag within the reach of a Betsy Ross used to working in small-scale applique. Too, she or he would only need four colors of fabric -- this simply isn't as busy a flag as Parsons makes it out to be. It passes the kid-with-crayons test without any trouble at all; it would be fun to draw, and no one's going to sweat the details of star location.

Dr. Parsons, writing from the Eastern Hemisphere, may also be unaware of how popular the Brazilian banner is here in the Americas. Like another people from a large American country, the Canadians, Brazilians love them their flag and tend to display it proudly. From my own American city, perhaps 4000 miles from the nearest Brazilian border, I bet I see at least one Brazilian flag every day, if I were paying attention, slapped on bumper stickers or signs or t-shirts by people who miss, love, or just idealize the South American superpower. The light blue circle within a yellow diamond within a green field is attractive, terrifically distinctive, and immediately recognizable. It is, whatever the details within that blue circle, inarguably among the most successful flags of any independent nation state.

Grade: A


mrs.5000 said...

I also like the way the curve of the Brazilian motto transforms the circle into a celestial sphere. How many flags pull off a 3D move like that, without sacrificing graphic simplicity? Huh, Dr. Parsons?

Morgan said...

At the end of all this, are you going to post the best of all of the flags (top ten or something)? That would be cool.

DrSchnell said...

I also like how their motto is "Order and Soup." The color scheme even kinda matches the Progresso Soup cans - talk about product placement!

UnwiseOwl said...

I'm not sure that the NZ flag's 'star-map' of a whole five stars in an easily recognisable constellation can really be compared to the Brazillian flag's 25+ stars. People often complain of the difficulty of accurately portraying an NZ or Australian flag due to the star placement, how much harder would an accurate Brazillian flag be to replicate?
Furthermore, the popularity of a flag in it's own region of the world doesn't make it a better flag, and the reason the Brazilian flag is so popular in the US is not the quality of the flag, but the high levels of Brazilian population and the extreme levels of nationalism of Brazilian citizens and ex-pats, comparable to that of the US itself and to my own home country of Australia.
The Brazillian flag is distinctive, it definitely has that going for it, but it's also fiddly, non-reversible and definitely fails the crayon test, things your own criteria would acknowledge as making this a less powerful flag. I don't contend that this isn't one of the most instantly recognisable and well known flags internationally, but it's not a great example of flag design.

UnwiseOwl said...

On reveiwing your post, we seem to disagree on the function of the crayon test...True, the average school child could produce a flag that is recognisable as the flag of Brazil quite easily, but the same is true of almost any country...but they couldn't get all the stars on there, and they couldn't do the writing unless they were using a mighty large peice of paper.

Michael5000 said...

Mr. Owl: Hmm, excellent points all. The non-reversibility point, I have to admit, tempers my crush on the Brazilian flag.

I agree that a popular flag need not be an especially high-quality flag -- hey, look at MY country's -- but for a flag to be a popular symbol, especially a long ways from its home base, might be a symptom of its quality. (Do I want to have my cake and eat it too on this point? Perhaps.)

Since Aviatrix proposed the kid-with-the-crayon test, I've let it drift into two seperate concepts:

1) Simplicity: how EASY is the flag to draw. An important concept that we don't want to lose.

2) Compellingness: how much FUN would it be to draw the flag? I snuck this one under the conceptual wire with Bhutan's dragon, as well as here with Brazil. (Brazil is the first flag in this series, mind you, that I've felt compelled to actually get out my colored pencils and have a go at myself. It was fun!)

Thanks for your comments. Rigorous peer review will only make vexilogical criticism stronger!

Michael5000 said...

@Morgan: I've been thinking about this, and I think we should eventually culminate it in a "March Madness" style flag tournament. Next March, perhaps.