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. Australia has not had an official flag competition or referendum yet but I’ll be ready once it happens!
Everyone else just makes designs that look nice and symbolic to them personally. This is why they fail. Instead, I consulted real evidence for what people want and don’t want in a flag, and aimed for maximum feasibility, i.e. appealing to as much of the public as possible with their various preferences. The concepts are roughly in order from most to least feasible, based on my evidence and the popularity on Facebook and Reddit.
The Advance design (at the top) was voted the third best out of all Australian flag redesigns in public polling. I will leave it up to the reader to decide which designs are the best.
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 new Australian flag, not a new 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 and won an award.
- 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.
Flag proposals have sometimes competed in head-to-head in ranked competitions or discussions. I used a statistical technique called a “regression analysis” 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).
I will note the caveat that some of these competitions were from years ago, so the conclusions may be a little dated. The preference for red, white and blue is obviously quite conservative. Newer surveys tend to reveal preferences for green and gold instead (see the section below).
A 2016 University of Western Sydney survey asked the Australian public what they wanted in a new flag (Jones, 2016). Results:
- The most common requests were “simplicity”, “Southern Cross”, and “Green and Gold”.
- Respondents were split between those who wanted recognition of indigenous cultures and those who wanted a culturally neutral design.
- When presented with a few examples, respondents preferred designs that were similar to the current flag in layout.
Some have also asked about indigenous viewpoints and consultation. A 1994 survey asked indigenous groups across the country what they wanted in a new flag (Mee, 2018). These were universal responses:
- They though the issue was quite pressing.
- They did not want the Union Jack.
- They wanted it to feature indigenous cultures in some way.
- They did not want the Aboriginal flag included in its entirety.
However, opinions varied on how exactly they wanted their cultures to be represented visually.
A 1998 museum exhibition of national flag proposals included some designs featuring indigenous symbols like the Aboriginal colours (black, gold and red), dot patterns, a golden sun and the stripe layout of the Aboriginal flag. These proposals were specifically praised in a speech by Dr. Lowitja O’Donoghue, who at the time was the Chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the highest national indigenous representative body. She made the following comment (O’Donoghue, 1998):
“[Overseas visitors] appreciate the unique aspects of our country including the contribution that Australia’s indigenous people make to our national identity. I’m pleased to see that many of the designs on display here today include a reference to indigenous culture, or the colours of the indigenous flags. But the most important thing is that our new flag should he acceptable to all of us.”
The concepts are roughly in order from most to least feasible, starting with the most popular and balanced designs and ending with the most radical and peculiar designs. I will leave it up to the reader to decide which designs resonate the best with them personally.
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.
In 2022, this design was voted the third best of all Australian flag designs in public polling conducted by the Facebook group “Change the Aussie flag”.
This design is a simplified version of Advance, using the Southern Cross as the main focus.
I designed this one with Matthew Doddrell. We both independently came up with a similar idea, and then we collaborated to make a compromise design with the best proportions and colours. He came up with the poetic name.
This design is directly based on the 2016 University of Western Sydney survey that asked the Australian public what they wanted in a new flag. The name “Vox Populi” reflects this premise.
Respondents asked for “simplicity”, “Southern Cross” and “Green and Gold”, and preferred designs similar to the current flag in layout. They were split between those who wanted indigenous recognition and those who wanted a culturally neutral flag. I used the sun to satisfy both camps, as the sun is a universal symbol that shines for everyone, but it also has special significance to the indigenous people and it appears on the Australian Aboriginal flag.
These ones are not popular enough 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 some people did like them, as they are radical and memorable. I also still have an emotional attachment to them as a creator.
If this design 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.
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 modestly 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.
- Jones, B. T. (2016, January 27). Alternative Australian Flag Survey Results Announced. University of Western Sydney. Retrieved June 29, 2017, from https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/ics/news_and_media/news/2016/alternative_australian_flag_survey_results_announced
- Mee, T. (2018, January). Australian National Identity: Somewhere Between the Flags? University of Wollongong. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/248
- O’Donoghue, L. (1998, January 25). Speech by Dr Lois O’Donoghue CBE AM at the launch of The Australian Flag ‐ Professional Design Competition and Exhibition. Ausflag: https://www.ausflag.com.au/assets/images/contentpics/Flag-Speech-by-Dr-Lois-(Lowitja)-ODonoghue-980125.pdf
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