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!
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. a flag with the highest public resonance and therefore the highest probability of winning a vote against the current flag. 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.
- 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 proposals are below, roughly in order from most to least feasibility (i.e. probability of winning against the current flag in a national vote). The “main” proposals are the four most feasible ones.
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.
This one is the simplest and most elegant of my proposals. If it seems annoyingly familiar, you are probably thinking of Captain Marvel.
This one was actually the precursor to Advance. 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 didn’t make the cut for various reasons but I still present them for the sake of interest.
This design is the direct counterpart to my New Zealand flag proposal Flourishing Together.
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 – 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.
For this design, I deliberately ignored my analysis and the symbolism on the current flag. Instead, I aimed for something more eccentric. The result definitely falls into the “cheesy souvenir” trap but it is unique and has its own charm. Designs including the kangaroo always turn out like that.