Here are all the Australian flag designs I made over the years. Like my New Zealand flag proposals, I put in a lot of effort researching and designing these proposals. This time, James Fitzmaurice was only indirectly involved. Australia has not had an official flag competition or referendum yet but I’ll be ready once it happens!
I aimed for maximum feasibility (i.e. appealing to as much of the public as possible with their various preferences, based on evidence of what people want and don’t want in a new flag) rather than just making something that looked nice and symbolic to me personally. The concepts are roughly in order from most to least feasible, starting with the most conventional and balanced designs and ending with the most radical and peculiar designs.
Interestingly, the reception on Facebook and Reddit was different from what I predicted – by far the most popular designs are Reconciliate & Advance (top-right) and The Ancient Land (bottom-right).
As with all design, the how and the why is more important than the what. I used the same process as my New Zealand flag designs so I’ll just summarise that here.
After that, the article lists each of my proposals.
The reason why a lot of existing Australian flag proposals suck is because they don’t have a proper methodology. I didn’t want to just sit down and design a good Australian flag. This is short-sighted and only reflects my own preferences. I want to design the Australian flag, not an Australian flag.
Instead, I aimed for maximum feasibility (i.e. appealing to as much of the public as possible with their various preferences, based on evidence of what people want and don’t want in a new flag) rather than just making something that looked nice and symbolic to me personally.
Instead of activating the aesthetic part of my brain and asking what resonates with me, I activated the sympathy part of my brain and asked what resonates with others. To fully ground this, I did a lot of research.
This research included studying every single existing Australian flag proposal, noting the common features, reading all the feedback and analysing why some designs were more popular than others. I also looked at Australian themed insignia, logos and graphics. Finally, I consulted surveys and campaigns.
By collating all the commentary behind existing proposals, I listed all the common mistakes so I could transcend them all. You can read more about these in the main article The Six Little-Known Deal-Breakers of Bad Flag Design which was presented to NAVA.
- Generally bad flag design – Too complicated, too many colours or elements, irrelevant symbolism and so on.
- Looks like a logo, not a flag – By far the most common. A flag should actually look like a flag, not a corporate logo stuck into a rectangle.
- Cheesy souvenir – Flags relying on informal elements can look like souvenirs.
- Mystery symbolism – Roger Ebert once declared, “If you have to ask what it symbolizes, it didn’t.”
- Designing for yourself – A lot of designers only included the themes of national identity that appealed to them, not the general public.
- Too radical – Making a completely revolutionary design is self-sabotage. A lot of people are intimately attached to established symbolism.
- It’s boring, but it works – Trying to satisfy everybody will end up satisfying nobody.
What are the themes of national identity? I identified four of them.
- Established symbolism – Elements from the current flag. The red, white and blue colour scheme, the commonwealth star and the southern cross. To some these are familiar and formal but to others these are too safe and boring.
- Colloquial symbolism – Elements from local, informal culture. The green and gold colour scheme and the kangaroo. To some these are unique and authentic but to others these are too cheesy and offbeat.
- Aboriginal symbolism – Elements from indigenous cultures. The red/ochre, white and black colour scheme, the colour red/ochre by itself, the sun, dotted patterns and the boomerang. To some these are culturally significant but to others these are too sectarian.
- Environmental symbolism – Elements from nature. The colour green, landscapes, the sun and the kangaroo. To some these are positive and fresh but to others these are too trendy and informal.
By clarifying these, I can make designs that harmoniously appeal to multiple themes, which will resonate with more people. The “established symbolism” has the most appeal so an effective design will have to focus on this.
The themes are summarised in the Euler diagram below.
Sometimes, flag proposals compete head-to-head in ranked competitions or discussions. Based on these, I used a statistical technique called a “regression analysis” helped to identify which elements (colours and symbols) are most associated with success (public resonance). These successful elements are the colours red, white, blue and gold, and the southern cross in its current form (i.e. white on blue).
The concepts are roughly in order from most to least feasible, starting with the most conventional and balanced designs and ending with the most radical and peculiar designs. The four “main” designs are the most feasible of my concepts. Interestingly, the reception on Facebook and Reddit is a bit different from what I predicted, so I will leave it up to the reader to decide which designs resonate the best.
The best symbolism is that which does not need to be explained, so I am confident in letting all of our flag designs speak for themselves.
I will still list their advantages:
- Elegant enough to soar alongside other flags of the world. These designs actually look like flags.
- Exceptional enough to be instantly distinguished, even at a distance.
- Balanced enough to resonate with many Australians and their preferences. Reflects what Australians feel about Australia, rather than expressing what I personally feel about Australia.
- Simple enough to be be remembered by a child.
- Anchored on existent symbolism to establish continuity and aid recognition.
- Meaningful enough to tell many stories.
Vector files available on request.
Personally, I think this one is the simplest and most elegant of my proposals. If it seems annoyingly familiar, you are probably thinking of Captain Marvel.
This design was the most popular on Reddit and Facebook. It was actually the precursor to Advance (above). It has more explicit Aboriginal symbolism but has more colours.
As the name suggests, this design is meant to be read as a three-part story from left to right.
It has the most colours of all my designs but that’s deliberate.
This one is also nice and simple. However, for some, it suffers from a lack of a single focus.
These ones are too radical to be accepted by the public at large so they don’t count as my “main” proposals. I still present them for the sake of interest because they stand out to others so much and because I still have an emotional attachment to them as a creator. I suspect that these would surpass other designs in memory testing but I haven’t actually tried this yet. Whatever you think of these radical designs, at least you can say that they are not boring!
This design is the direct counterpart to my New Zealand flag proposal Flourishing Together.
This one was inspired by an Australian Aboriginal art exhibition in Vancouver. It incorporates that cultural influence without using the Aboriginal flag itself like many other concepts try to do. This one was said to be “too Aboriginal” to be accepted by Australia as a whole, which is probably true, but it looks too cool to not show it here.
Here I intended to combine the Commonwealth Star and the Aboriginal sun design in an elegant way. The current Commonwealth Star has seven points which I find to be clunky – currently, six points stand for the six original states and the seventh point stands for all territories and future states. Since this design did not need to appear conventional, I took the opportunity to update it to nine, which I feel is more appropriate and timeless: Eight points for the mainland states and territories and one point for external territories and allies. This makes more sense geographically and is future-proofed against the strong possibility of Northern Territory becoming a state.
Although I predicted that this design would be too radical of a change, it was actually the second most popular on Reddit and Facebook. When designing this flag, I deliberately ignored my analysis and the symbolism on the current flag. Instead, I allowed myself to be more eccentric and boundless.
I aimed for a flag that is intuitive, timeless and naturalistic. It peels back the layers and purely captures the distilled essence of what makes the Australian continent what it is. It represents Australia in an intuitive way that just hits you at first glance even without an explanation. Even if I sent this to the distant past or distant future, it would still be totally understandable at first glance. It emphasises the natural world which is neutral and can connect with all Australians.
Also, I specifically aimed aimed to use the kangaroo in a way that feels justified and not just gratuitously slapping it inside a rectangle out of obligation like some others’ proposals do.
Unfortunately, the result falls into the “cheesy souvenir” trap by virtue of including the kangaroo, but it is unique and has its own charm.
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