Friday, June 3, 2011

Flag Friday XXIX

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.


Front Side

Back Side

Parsons: "Name of country written on the flag," writes Parsons. "Perhaps they have the excuse that their citizens can't remember the difference between Paraguay and Uruguay either." Disliking "Writing," a "Bad Shape," and that it is "Too busy," he pounds it with a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: It's got a concentrated burst of too-busyness, all right, and the writing is part of that.  I'm a little mystified by the "bad shape," since we've basically got a flag-shaped flag here, but whatevs. Parsons overlooks the real problem, anyway, which is that Paraguay has a two-sided flag, which to my way of thinking is barely a flag at all.  The whole point of a flag, after all, is to represent your political entity with a simple, recognizable graphic devise.  Trying to sneak a second graphic device in through the back door is either a confession that you didn't get it right the first time or that you developed your design through the committee process.

And also, as we in the Beaver State know from long, painful experience, a flag with two different central devices, when flown in sunlight, is just a flag with a big smudge in the center.

See what I'm sayin'?

Grade: D+


Parsons: It's a "Bad Tricolour," which Parsons clearly doesn't like.  Also, it's "Simple," which I've never figured out whether it's supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing.  He gives it a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: I've been taken to task for calling two-color, um, tricolors "tricolors."  I can see the logic of that, and so apparently can the people of Peru, who call their civil flag El Pendón Bicolor.  It's simple, yet distinctive, and in the flag business "simple" + "distinctive" pretty much = "good."  Would a child want to draw it?  Hell, a child could go ahead and sew it, and leave the local Betsy Ross to make her way in the lucrative hand-sewn cummerbund trade, or whatever.

As we have often seen in Latin America, there is a gussied-up state flag of Peru as well.  It has the usual unfortunately fussy crest-and-shield business, but it must be said that the broad white center stripe is at least a nice setting for the frimframmery.

You know what would be confusing?  Being a colorblind fan at a Nigeria-Peru soccer match, that's what.

Grade (for the civil flag): A-


Parsons: It has "Too Many Stars," which lands it with a "C," 55/100.

Michael5000: The flag of the Phillipines has gone through a number of alterations over the decades, but never very extreme alterations.  Generally, it's been just a matter of tinkering with the shades, which means that the current flag traces its lineage directly back to the first of its type, sewn by one Marcela Marino de Agoncillo and her daughter.  That's right -- I've made many references in this series to "the local Betsy Ross," but this is the first time I've managed to bump into her name.

Too many stars?  Four?  Well, it's certainly not too few stars, I suppose.  And the old-gold on white contrast lacks a certain visual something.  I dunno.  I'm ambivalent about almost every aspect of the Phillipine flag, including that you're supposed to fly it upside down during times of war.  That seems like a clever design feature, but I kind of hate to think that times of war are such an expected thing that you plan ahead for them, like a picnic or something.  

Grade: B


Parsons: It's "Simple," again, and it gets a "B", 70/100.  Maybe "simple" is neutral.

Michael5000:   So Poland's flag is pretty much the same as Indonesia's/Monaco's, except upside-down and with a 5:8 ratio.  Unless you are representing Poland abroad, in which case you get to add the crest, which is fussy but with a bit of bad-ass Eastern European flair:

But that's a very specific variant, and the simpler version is the accepted flag.  I better make sure I give it the same grade that Indonesia and Monaco got.

Grade: B-


Parsons: Dr. Parsons is not a fan.  "Portugal forced this uninspired effort on their territories, too," he says, calling it too busy and slapping it with a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: Winner of the 2008 L&TM5K award for Best Flag (Classic).

At the time, I wrote:
This is a limited-entry category, as it requires the nation in question to have a centuries-long relationship with the practice of heraldry. Here, the issue is not so much design sense as projecting a vision of your country's sheer accumulated authority, the cred that comes with merely having been around the block several hundred times. Portugal's shield figure is dismissed by some as fussy, but it is set off magnificently by generous rectangles of rich green and red. The most identifying feature of the flag, that shield is the central focus. It's right there in your face, all but daring you to call it old-fashioned. That ain't old-fashioned. That's classic.
Unfortunately, the Portuguese state has never officially accepted the honor thus conferred upon its flag.  I am however an honest blogger, and do not let a snub interfere with the honest reporting of my aesthetic judgement.

Grade: A


dhkendall said...

I've never been much of a fan of Portugal's flag either (though I don't has as much of a hate-on as Parsons does) mainly because it fails the "child can draw" test spectacularly. I remember when I was a kid drawing all the flags of the world and I'd hate drawing Portugal's flag as I'd never get the armillary sphere right (the central COA is a bit better, but still intecrite (at least I didn't say "fussy"). The green and red are great, but I defy anyone to draw the armillary sphere correctly.

Voron X said...

I suppose now is as good a time as any to share my opinion about complex seals, crests, shields and other complex devices on flags. In general, I think they're bad practice, as they're usually pretty unrecognizable when seen flying, and better suited to a piece of stationery, or put on something else that is stationary.

But there is one instance where I let that slide, and that is when removing the device would have no or minimal affect on the reading of the flag. I actually like way the seal is added to a regular, stand-on-its own distinguishable flag to designate official "State" functions, like with Germany or Poland. Or how Spain has two flags, though the crested one in that case seems more pre-eminent. But its still Spain if you remove the Crest. Now, I've never seen an "un-deviced" Portugul flag, (and as devices go, their armillory sphere is cool, {though shield within a shield within a}) but if you remove the complex device, you would still know it's Portugul. However, with Andorra you get Romania. With Moldova, you get Chad (haha). With Paraguay (or Missouri) you get Netherlands (or is it Luxembourg?) With Missouri...Netherlands again. And while Slovenia's shield is as acceptable as shields can get, it still looks like Russia-with-a-seal. Which is why there's actually a desire in some Slovenians to turn the stripes vertically.

1. Paraguay - discussed above. Rip-off with a microscopic two-sided seal. Solid D

2. Peru - it's too bad Austrians didn't settle here. I used to always get those confused. At least it's not Blue-white-Blue. But pretty good flag. B+

3. Phillipines - this shows why the heraldic rules of tinctures and metals were put in place. Except when used only as a background, color should not be on color (ahem Morocco) and Metal should not be on metal - i.e. white on yellow/gold or vice versa. Like Egypt, that gold-on-white might as well not be there when seen from afar. Colors blend when seen from a distance as well, which is why fimbriation (or stripelets) are soo cool and make things pop. The phillipines could have switched the red and white and done much better. B-

4. Poland. Too close to Monaco, which is older. They should have mixed up the proportions - maybe lowered the central line a touch or put a counterchanges triangle in the hoist. Or a thin red stripe at the top and a thin white stripe at the bottom. C/C+.

5. Portugul. Discussed above. Finally, Red and green together that don't clash. I'd like to see a version with just the armillary sphere on the green-red. Still feel like it should loses points for complexity and having 5 colors. B+/A-

Aviatrix said...

Shame in Portugal. I already liked Estonia better, but now Portugal is ranked just that much lower.

Michael5000 said...

dhk: Yeah, what can I say about Portugal? It violates my principles, but I dig it just the same.

Voron X: Sir, you are BRINGING the flag criticism. It's fun to have a counterpoint. Welcome to the show.

Aviatrix: I guess if every country had L&TM5K Most Favored Nation status, the distinction would be meaningless. Speaking of which, are y'all going to relinquish your claim on my freeway, or what?

Eric said...

Wow, Voron X, very impressive comments. Where have you been all our lives?

Voron X said...

@M5K- Thank You so much! I finally have an audience (who isn't bored to tears)!

@Eric- Thank You! I really got back into flags for the first time since my childhood because of the World Cup combined with an even I go to (Pennsic War) with lots of Heraldry.

Heretofore I have been hanging out at Where I'm trying to collect/design alternatives/improvements to all the bad US State Flags, and recently put up my newly designed Personal Flag Design, among other things. You all should check it out! It's a little lacking in traffic lately, but there's quite a bit of content, and it's very international.

Regarding Flag Friday, I hope to grab the time to go back and post my reviews of past flags as well. I was dissappointed as well to find that Parson's was previously the last voice in Flag ratings. So, Major Kudos M5K, and sorry the Vexillophilia blog didn't work out for you.

Fun fact: My initials are actually VEX