Friday, August 6, 2010

Flag Friday XII

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: Approving of "good colors" but disliking "graven images," he gives it a "C+", 60/100.

Michael5000: Egypt's color scheme is not entirely to my personal liking, but it is certainly a dignified and regionally distinctive palette, so I can get behind Parsons there. As for the "graven image, let's take a closer look:

There is some fussiness here, but it is redeemed in my book by strong geometries and, especially, that the insignia is rendered in a single color. The local Betsy Ross, if she or he has sufficient appliqué skills, should be able to render it out of whole cloth. There is writing on this flag -- I am surprised that Parsons, who is a real writing hawk, did not beat me to this observation -- but it is subtle. I suppose that if I could read Arabic, the presence of words might bother me more, but there you go.

Grade: B

El Salvador

Parsons: Complaining of bad colors, writing, and a design that is "too busy," Parson adds that "not only did they write the name of country on the flag, but its full mailing address, in a living language." He gives it a D-, 36/100.

Michael5000: This is another case, as with Ecuador last time around, where at first you might at first wonder if Parsons is actually seeing the flag in question, or is merely hallucinating. But he's not. The civil flag, shown above, is as innocuous a tricolor as one could imagine, but El Salvador is another of many Latin American countries where the formal state flag gets a lot of popular use. So, here's the flag that Parsons was commenting on:

The seal, with its text -- Republica de El Salvador en la America Central -- is indeed rather busy. Here it is in schematic:

Mrs.5000 noted last week that the Haitian flag contains an image of itself, and found this -- if I do not put words in her mouth -- totally trippy. Well, the state flag of El Salvador ups the ante, with a whopping five images of itself in its central seal. The central triangle discretely spares us the knowledge of whether those five flags have five flags of their own, and so on, and so on, and so on. In any event, this seal is exactly the sort of thing I don't like to see on a flag, but even so you really have to look pretty closely to find "bad colors" here.

But in any event, Flag Friday's policy is to critique the civil flags of the world, and the civil flag is a simple white-on-blue sandwich. It is nothing remarkable, but would certainly seem restful on the eyes if you'd been staring at the flag of Austria for a while.

Grade (for the civil flag): B

Equatorial Guinea

Parsons: Complains of "writing" and "graven images," assigning a "D+", 45/100.

Michael5000: Small, culturally isolated, and with worse-than-usual quality-of-life problems across the board, Equatorial Guinea hardly needs grief about its flag. Yet I confess that I feel that Dr Parsons is essentially correct in his complaints, if a bit harsh in his grading.

It's fussy. The central elements are all simple: a shield, a tree, words on a banner, six stars. But four elements (or five, or ten, depending on how you count them) add up quickly, and soon start to look just a bit like a yard sale happening on the central stripe. I like the blue chevron, but it seems a bit thin, a bit... timid. Equatorial Guinea doesn't need a new flag or anything; it's just that its existing flag could stand for a bit of a makeover.

Grade: C+


Parsons: Condemning "bad colors," he gives it a "C+", 60/100.

Michael5000: In reference to the flag of East Timor, frequent L&TM5K commenter Jennifer noted that "there's an optical illusion for me caused by the two triangles that makes the right side of the flag look wider than the left side." Well, Jennifer, welcome to Eritrea.

I rather like the colors of the Eritrean flag, and I like the emblem -- and in answer to your question, that would be an upright olive branch within a wreath. Yet the optical effect that Jennifer noticed in East Timor is very pronounced here, creating the illusion that the rectangle is way out of true on the right-hand side. This uncomfortable effect is, in fact, the dominant feature of the flag for me, and it makes it really hard to enjoy the other elements.

Incidentally, the Eritreans went with a 5:3 ratio for a few years before switching to 2:1. Camp followers will know that I am no friend to the 2:1 ratio, but there's two sides to that story and there were some great comments on that point made after Flag Friday XI. In this case, anyway, the point is moot: the flag seems to be swelling out of its seams on the right-hand side in either ratio.

Grade: C


Parsons: Without comment, he assigns a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: You may already know of my enthusiasm for this unorthodox but mature tricolor, a striking and lovely banner which I awarded "Best Flag (Tricolor)" all the way back in 2008. (It was, in fact, the Estonian consulate's gracious response to this accolade which led to that Baltic country's Most Favored Nation status for this blog). Indeed, I am the kind of guy who, without a known drop of Estonian blood in his ancestry, might make a point of dressing up for Estonian Flag Day:

So you KNOW I'm not going to give it a measly B-. I am in fact going to give it an:

Grade: A


Aviatrix said...

If someone would publish an iPhone app that told us the flag days of all the nations of the world a few days in advance (allowing for ensure the appropriate items were clean and pressed) and then the morning of, I would probably celebrate most of them that way.

mrs.5000 said...

You know, I like that the flag of Equatorial Guinea, despite its alleged "fussiness," would pass the crayon test--challenging but hardly demoralizing to a 9-year-old with good fine motor skills. And what's not to like about UNIDAD, PAZ and JUSTICIA?

I was so disturbed by the flaming red New Jersey-on-a-stick at the center of the seal of El Salvador that I looked it up on Wiki--it's a Phrygian cap, for godsake! Denoting liberty! Give me a tree to color in any day.

Eavan said...

I love the Estonian flag and am delighted to see that you like it, too.

Michael5000 said...

Eavan: HIGH FIVE!!!

UnwiseOwl said...

Whoop. I better go back and read them comments from last time first, eh?.. raise a valid point about the dilution of the 2:1 banner with its 5:3 cousin, M5000. I don't really know what to make about that except to suggest that (with tongue firmly in cheek) this is yet another example of the US forcing its idea of the "proper" dimensions of flags, and allege that all "inferior" 5:3 flags are the product of either US factories subverting domestic flag production or of the ever-increasing invasion of US culture on any nation with TVs or the internet.

Oh, and Eritrea is definitely more attractive in 5:3.

UnwiseOwl said...

Aviatrix, you're in luck.
A quick google informs me that it's Pakistan's flag day this Wednesday. What with everything going on there they might well forget to celebrate it, so we should probably help out...
Best of all is Macedonia, which celebrates its flag day on the 1st and 15th of every single month. Those guys must really love their flag.

Michael5000 said...

Owl: I'm afraid we suffer under a might-as-well-be-2:1 19:10 ratio here in the United States of America. It must be that pernicious British influence you hear about.

UnwiseOwl said...

Wow...that really stuffs that conspiracy theory. How about Zionists?

Man, I can't believe I missed that.