Friday, July 9, 2010

Flag Friday X

[This episode of Flag Friday is being posted on the advice of my attorney.]

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 comment, he gives it an "A", 85/100.

Michael5000: One hundred and fifty years old, it seems reasonable to assume that this red, white, and blue star-and-stripes design worked out by anti-colonial Cubans was inspired by a broadly similar flag in a major mainland country to the north. There's some irony in there, since the relationship between those two countries over the last half-century has been antagonistic and ridiculous, sometimes comically so, sometimes tragically.

It is my belief that the country of Cuba leads the planet in cultural influence per capita, and since the flag is (as it is supposed to be!) a potent symbol of all things Cuban, it is a little difficult to separate the design from all that it has been freighted with, from groovy revolutionary idealism to Caribbean cuisine. But I try. At its heart, it is a sturdy, simple, but unremarkable flag. Not too fussy, but neither especially memorable in and of itself.

Grade: B


Parsons: "What can I say?" laments Parsons. "The mother of all flags with maps on them." For this, and "bad colors," he assigns a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: I've got no special beef with maps on flags, which are rare enough in any event. The main problem with the flag of Cyprus, for me, is that it is kind of depressing. There's more than a touch of desperation in its overt symbolization of goals that seem reasonable enough, but have proven gloomily elusive: peace between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, and a politically united island.

There is a new flag, more traditional and less didactic, already designed for whenever Cyprus is able to reemerge as a united, independent country. I'll hold off on discussing it here, though, until we actually see it on the flagpoles.

Grade (for the current flag): C

Czech Republic

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

Michael5000: If the Czech flag seems a bit uninspired, that may be because it is. The traditional flag of Bohemia, back in the day, was a bicolor with white over red. This proved inconveniently identical to the flag of neighboring Poland and irritatingly similar to the red-white-red tricolor of neighboring Austria, so a distinction was made by adding a blue triangle. Voila! The flag of the Czech Republic.

Or rather, the flag of Czechoslovakia. When that awesomely named country went through its amicable divorce, one of the first acts of the new Czech Republic was to ban all symbols of the previous federation. One of the second acts was to adopt the flag of the previous federation as its own. It's a cute little constitutional crisis that nobody really cares too much about.

Grade: B


Parsons: Noting that it is "simple," he gives it a "B", 74/100.

Michael5000: The flag of Denmark fell from heaven onto a battlefield in 1219, and the Danish king caught it before it touched the ground. This obvious gesture of God's favor inspired the Danes to win the day. Or so the story goes.

Now some of your more picky historians dispute the divine origins of the Dannebrog, but the upshot of the story is that, even if some of the specific details are in question, Denmark's flag must be very, very, very old. In fact, as noted earlier in this series, it seems to be in more or less of a tie with Austria for the oldest national flag still flying. Classic in that sense, it also has an elegant simplicity of line, form, and high-contrast colors that makes it a truly archetypical flag. Indeed, the "Scandinavian Cross" has subsequently been adopted by most of the Nordic countries. The short version? the Danish flag is awesome.

Grade: A


KarmaSartre said...

Cuba's is the semi-inverse of Puerto Rico's. So similar. One of them should go their own way.

eric said...

You delivered. Excellent work. Flag Fridays is the elite feature of this blog in my view. It nicely combines your expert knowledge of design and geography, with a touch of history.

mrs.5000 said...

The Cyprus flag reminds me of runny egg yolk on a white napkin--and this is very catty of me, but on a battlefield you might think, hey, those poor slobs are trying to surrender!

Aviatrix said...

As a child I once read a story of a flag that resulted from someone taking off his tunic on a battlefield to raise as a banner. The tunic was white, but everywhere except where it had been covered by the belt, it was stained red with blood (his own or the enemy?) thus it was a red banner with a white stripe.

Anyone else read this story?

DrSchnell said...

Did you happen to see the NYTimes Sunday crossword from a few weeks back where national flags and their color schemes figured very prominently - sort of a conjoined M5K-Rex Parker joint!

Michael5000 said...

Aviatrix: Haven't seen it yet. Maybe it's further back in the alphabet.

Doc: KarmaSartre was kind enough to notify me of that crossword -- not a Sunday, I don't think -- and MyDog was kind enough to send me the file. My verdict: not enough theme clues! And tooooo easy!