Top 50 New Zealand flag proposals

Flag proposals

Note: This post features my own judgement on the best flag designs. For the proposals that are most popular with the general public, see this post.

Now that the New Zealand government has closed submissions for a new flag, I decided to go through and pick out the best. That’s right, I looked through all 10,293 of them. Don’t worry, it only took me 48 minutes to evaluate (about 0.28 seconds per flag; thank god for learning scanning techniques).

It probably helped that the whole gallery was a beautiful testament to Sturgeon’s Law (in this case more like 99% though), Poe’s Law and the futility of crowdsourcing design, making it easy to mentally filter out the crud and parodies. You wouldn’t believe the Nazi, apartheid, North Korea, IsraelPRC, Imperial Germany, Quebec (of all places), meme and My Little Pony based parodies that got through their filters. Seriously, the name “Moswald Osley” didn’t ring any alarms? Well done to the Lautaro joke for subtlety and this thing for sheer insanity though. All in all, an experience I would not recommend.

Anyway, here are the best I picked out, emulating the judges’ process of picking an initial list of 50-75 best designs. There were a lot of duplicates and near-duplicates so it’s hard to know exactly how to count and credit them (I’m sure I’ve missed a few credits, sorry!), but it should be around 50 some way or another.

The only restriction was that I didn’t include my own designs. Naturally enough I do like them, but including them would be a little biased! Oh, and I also automatically discarded anything too similar to another national flag, no matter how well designed or New Zealand-y it was. I hope the judging panel can do that, but since it has no vexillologists (flag experts) I don’t have a lot of faith.

This list is in no particular order.

Silver fern and southern cross

Common design theme.

Kyle Lockwood's design.

Kyle Lockwood’s design

^ This design is pretty well known and wins a lot of polls. In the government’s gallery it was suggested and imitated by many.

Out of the four main variants above, I prefer the one in the top-right. That silver fern looks the best (not too blocky or stylised), and when the Southern Cross is only white, it competes less with the gigantic silver fern for focus. I can see why people like the design (it combines the right symbols and traditional red-white-blue) but I think the way the fern is both an emblem and division is a bit too abstract. It looks more like a logo and less like a flag, if you know what I mean.

Silver Fern Flag – Kyle Lockwood’s 'Blue Design'. Designed by: Kyle Lockwood.

Silver Fern Flag – Kyle Lockwood’s ‘Blue Design’. Designed by: Kyle Lockwood.

Preferred Kyle Lockwood Variant. Designed by: Kyle Lockwood.

Preferred Kyle Lockwood Variant. Designed by: Kyle Lockwood.

^^ Hmm… these re-colours aren’t bad, but I still think the red is better. In the first, the blue background makes the elements look like they’re just floating on nothing. In the second, the green is too close to the blue in tone so there’s less contrast in the left panel and it doesn’t stand out.

Serene. Designed by: Andrew Verlaine.

Serene. Designed by: Andrew Verlaine.

^ Okay that shade of green is too close to olive/vomit…

The government gallery includes every possible variation of this basic design with different fern renditions and colour arrangements. I’d rather not keeping commenting individually on them, so I’ll just say that the original one with the red-white-blue and semi-detailed fern is best. There’s a reason Lockwood made a bazillion variants but chose that one as the main one.

Our Flag 1. Designed by: Sarah Palmer.

Our Flag 1. Designed by: Sarah Palmer.

Independently designed by Sarah Palmer, Dave Paul, Andrew Cornish, possibly others too

Independently designed by Sarah Palmer, Dave Paul, Andrew Cornish, possibly others too.

^ I like the one directly above, as the arrangement of green and blue fields now resembles a landscape and sky. No, it’s not just because of the resemblance to one of my designs. I swear.

Our Flag 3. Designed by: Sarah Palmer.

Our Flag 3. Designed by: Sarah Palmer.

^ Here the red stands out more but doesn’t resemble the ground anymore.

The Silver Fern Flag. Designed by: Chris Jackson.

The Silver Fern Flag. Designed by: Chris Jackson.

From Our Past to Our Future - 5. Designed by: Barbara Peddie.

From Our Past to Our Future – 5. Designed by: Barbara Peddie.

Silver Fern on our Green Country. Designed by: Patte Williams.

Silver Fern on our Green Country. Designed by: Patte Williams.

^^^ The counter-changing of the fern looks far too logo-like and “fiddly”, but it’s original. There are quite a few concepts like this which aren’t bad either, but these ones stood out more to me. Unfortunately some of them use the Qualmark fern which is just terrible enough to exclude from my list.

United Tribes flag variants

Based on the 1834 flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand. The retention of the St. George’s Cross makes them unsuitable, but they look nice.

Designed independently by: Lars Hallstrom, Jordan Morris, Barbara Peddie, maybe others.

Designed independently by: Lars Hallstrom, Jordan Morris, Barbara Peddie, maybe others.

United New Zealandish flag. Designed by: Mohamed-Anouar Brahim

United New Zealandish flag. Designed by: Mohamed-Anouar Brahim

1902, United Tribes Canton, White Stars. Designed by: Neil Wolfson

1902, United Tribes Canton, White Stars. Designed by: Neil Wolfson

United Tribes flag synthesis. Designed by: Alasdair Chi

United Tribes flag synthesis. Designed by: Alasdair Chi

Flags based on Tino Rangatiratanga flag

If anything that includes the Tino Rangatiratanga flag this directly gets on the actual shortlist, there will be riots on the street, but hey at least it looks nice.

Designed independently by Helen Field, Sven Baker, maybe others.

Designed independently by Helen Field, Sven Baker, maybe others.

The United Flag of Aotearoa. Designed by: Tim K Barry.

The United Flag of Aotearoa. Designed by: Tim K Barry.

Southern cross and stripes

Boring, but it works.

Not even in the sense that it has elegant simplicity, or is a neutral compromise that satisfies all groups. This style is like a bland vanilla design that just appeals weakly to everybody without really rousing anyone. The southern cross looks too “empty” to be bold and iconic like the Maple Leaf or Rising Sun. It’s functional, just nothing more.

Southern cross with a hint of union. Designed by: Mark Naude.

Southern cross with a hint of union. Designed by: Mark Naude.

Southern Reflection. Designed by: Ethelda (probably others too)

Southern Reflection. Designed by: Ethelda (probably others too)

plain ensign. Designed by: James Carr.

plain ensign. Designed by: James Carr.

New Zealand Triad. Designed by: Fabian Ring, Nick Fargher and probably others.

New Zealand Triad. Designed by: Fabian Ring, Nick Fargher and probably others.

Southern Cross + Land of the Long White Cloud. Designed by: Nick Fargher (and probably others).

Southern Cross + Land of the Long White Cloud. Designed by: Nick Fargher (and probably others).

SOUTHERN CROSS AND THE LONG WHITE CLOUD. Designed by: MONICO B. FALLER, JR. (and probably others).

SOUTHERN CROSS AND THE LONG WHITE CLOUD. Designed by: MONICO B. FALLER, JR. (and probably others).

Hartigan Antipodean Enhanced. Designed by: Paul Hartigan & Christopher Johnstone.

Hartigan Antipodean Enhanced. Designed by: Paul Hartigan & Christopher Johnstone.

A Plus B (concept A shown). Designed by: Mark Cleverley.

A Plus B (concept A shown). Designed by: Mark Cleverley.

^ This at least tries to shake things up! Looks more dynamic.

Flags based on Canadian Pale

Boring, but it works…

Designed independently by Clark/George Titman, Dick Frizzell, Matt Risser, Ralph Fierz, Michael Christopher Smith, John Sutherland, probably others too.

Designed independently by Clark/George Titman, Dick Frizzell, Matt Risser, Ralph Fierz, Michael Christopher Smith, John Sutherland, probably others too.

1. Designed by: Toby West McWilliams

1. Designed by: Toby West McWilliams.

^^ … as long as the colours aren’t so bright!

Fern Leaf. Designed by: Mike Toews.

Fern Leaf. Designed by: Mike Toews.

The one leaf. Designed by: Cameron Sanders / Dick Frizzel.

The one leaf. Designed by: Cameron Sanders / Dick Frizzel.

^^ The ones with the fern leaf in the centre have a more bold central focus (the Southern Cross looks too “empty” for that purpose) but when green is also included, it becomes too hippie.

New Zealand's fern. Designed by: Chisholm Boielle

New Zealand’s fern. Designed by: Chisholm Boielle.

^ This one’s alright but the blue area is too wide and I hate this fern rendition. It’s so basic it’s almost cartoonish.

Flags based on koru layout

If you’re not careful, the koru can look like a fruit roll-up or candy-cane.

long white cloud with green and black. Designed by: William Smith

long white cloud with green and black. Designed by: William Smith

Flag of Aotearoa New Zealand. Designed by: Daniel Neely

Flag of Aotearoa New Zealand. Designed by: Daniel Neely

^^ I don’t like the excessive stylisation of the korus in the ones above. It’s just a stick-and-ball now! My friend from the USA says the first impression of this rendition is “oddly phallic”, which could be a problem. They also border very closely on “boring but it works”.

Modern Hundertwasser. Designed by: Tomas Cottle.

Modern Hundertwasser. Designed by: Tomas Cottle.

^ The well-known Hundertwasser design indeed looks better without the black bar and using more geometric curves. But it’s still too hippie, sorry.

The Curly Koru. Designed by: Daniel Crayford and Leon Cayford.

The Curly Koru. Designed by: Daniel Crayford and Leon Cayford.

The Curly Koru. Designed by: Daniel Crayford and Leon Cayford.

The Curly Koru. Designed by: Daniel Crayford and Leon Cayford.

New Life and Harmony (flat colour). Designed by: Dave Sauvage.

New Life and Harmony (flat colour). Designed by: Dave Sauvage.

^^^ It’s the Spiral Hill from The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Spiral Hill

(dammit, if I had seen these earlier, I would have entered a black and white version under the name Jack Skellington!)

Seriously speaking, I prefer the last one with the Southern Cross. The red, blue and white koru by itself is a good concept but it feels incomplete, like it’s just a background layout that needs something else added.

Pikopiko. Designed by: Grant Pascoe.

Pikopiko. Designed by: Grant Pascoe.

^ Now this koru is chunky enough to fill up the whole flag and not look “incomplete”. But while black-white-green may be bold, fresh, environmental and unique, it looks too African. I think that feeling only goes away if they’re used naturalistically (i.e. black for night sky and green for ground/plants).

The Long White Cloud. Designed by: Daniel Crayford and Leon Cayford.

The Long White Cloud. Designed by: Daniel Crayford and Leon Cayford.

^ Looks way too much like a graphic design or logo in the way the double-koru is cut off.

Others

Southern Cross. Designed by: Jon + Gemma Bridges, Yafei Zhao, Freddie Coltart, David Moodie and probably others too.

Southern Cross. Designed by: Jon + Gemma Bridges, Yafei Zhao, Freddie Coltart, David Moodie and probably others too.

^ Another “it’s boring but it works” concept. Especially this one. And the similar variants with the southern cross at the fly, at the hoist, rotated a bit, a little bigger, etc.

Red Southern Cross Over the Pacific. Designed by: Christopher Heath.

Red Southern Cross Over the Pacific. Designed by: Christopher Heath.

^ Barely made it onto the list. If the dark blue was black and the Southern Cross was in the form of the current flag, I’d like it better. I’m a bit torn on the waves though. It gives it an “obscure Pacific Island” feel.

Heritage. Designed by: Larsson, Nordbeck, Hoxha, Wesslau.

Heritage. Designed by: Larsson, Nordbeck, Hoxha, Wesslau.

^ Simple and bold. And not just because it resembles a popular design I tried to enter but got rejected. I swear.

(but why is the diagonal bar so misaligned?)

The Fern and Cross. Designed by: James Dignan.

The Fern and Cross. Designed by: James Dignan.

^ Okay forget what I said before about bright colours before, this is the true offender. Appears to have been rendered with a restricted .GIF colour palette from 1995, but an alright underlying concept. I think it’s trying to cram too many things into one design though.

Wadie Laarissi's flag. Designed by: Wadie Laarissi

Wadie Laarissi’s flag. Designed by: Wadie Laarissi

^ Slightly different colours and proportions go a long way! Even though it doesn’t combine as much symbolism as the Dignan design above, it looks simpler and nicer.

Evolution. Designed by: Sven Baker.

Evolution. Designed by: Sven Baker.

^ Interesting. Unconventional but simple. I didn’t like it at first but it stuck in my memory (and not the same way as the Microsoft Paint farting kiwi designs). I still don’t know what I think of it, but the memorability compelled me to include it.

Past to Future (with Southern Cross) (3). Designed by: Chris Wadsworth.

Past to Future (with Southern Cross) (3). Designed by: Chris Wadsworth.

^ One of the better mergers of Māori and British colours I’ve seen. More seamless and united, and less divided and shoehorned. This design also has many colour variations but this looks best and has the most meaning. However, the equal-sized stripes make it close to a boring tricolour and the compressed southern cross look a bit odd, though these are minor complaints.

Conclusions

Out of the flags I winnowed for the list, most fall into the pitfalls of “functional but boring” or “interesting but looks like a logo, not a flag”. They’re not bad, but disappointingly few have the best-of-the-best “wow!” quality. I’m interested to see which ~50 designs the real judging panel will pick out. Will they think alike with my assessments? We’ll see in August.

Update: There are only four designs in common between the official long-list and mine – the main Lockwood design, Pikopiko, Modern Hundertwasser and Curly Koru. The judges seemed to prefer green, koru, logo-like designs and the Qualmark fern more than me.

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4 thoughts on “Top 50 New Zealand flag proposals

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