Proposed flags of Australia

Flags

SUMMARY

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!

Proposed flags of Australia by Brian Cham.

Proposed flags of Australia by Brian Cham.

INTRODUCTION

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.

CONTENTS

1. Design Process

1.1 Overall Methodology

1.2 Common Traps

1.3 The Four Symbolic Themes

1.4 Regression Analysis

2. Main Design Proposals

2.1 Advance

2.2 Reconciliate and Advance

2.3 The Triptych of Australia

2.4 Sun and Stars

3. Other Design Proposals

3.1 Dotted Sun and Stars

3.2 The Ancient Land

1. DESIGN PROCESS

1.1 Overall Methodology

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.

1.2 Common Traps

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.

1.3 The Four Symbolic Themes

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.

The four symbolic themes of Australian graphical identity.

The four symbolic themes of Australian graphical identity.

1.4 Regression Analysis

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).

2. MAIN DESIGN PROPOSALS

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.

2.1 Advance

This one is the simplest and most elegant of my proposals. If it seems annoyingly familiar, you are probably thinking of Captain Marvel.

Advance

Advance

Mock-ups for Advance

Mock-ups for Advance

Construction sheet for Advance

Construction sheet for Advance

2.2 Reconciliate and Advance

This one was actually the precursor to Advance. It has more explicit Aboriginal symbolism but has more colours.

Reconciliate and Advance

Reconciliate and Advance

Mock-ups for Reconciliate and Advance

Mock-ups for Reconciliate and Advance

Construction sheet for Reconciliate and Advance

Construction sheet for Reconciliate and Advance

2.3 The Triptych of Australia

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.

The Triptych of Australia

The Triptych of Australia

Mock-ups for The Triptych of Australia

Mock-ups for The Triptych of Australia

Construction sheet for The Triptych of Australia

Construction sheet for The Triptych of Australia

2.4 Sun and Stars

This one is also nice and simple. However, for some, it suffers from a lack of a single focus.

Sun and Stars

Sun and Stars

Mock-ups for Sun and Stars

Mock-ups for Sun and Stars

Construction sheet for Sun and Stars

Construction sheet for Sun and Stars

3. OTHER DESIGN PROPOSALS

These ones didn’t make the cut for various reasons but I still present them for the sake of interest.

3.1 Dotted Sun and Stars

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.

Dotted Sun and Stars

Dotted Sun and Stars

Mock-ups for Dotted Sun and Stars

Mock-ups for Dotted Sun and Stars

Construction sheet for Dotted Sun and Stars

Construction sheet for Dotted Sun and Stars

3.2 The Ancient Land

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.

The Ancient Land

The Ancient Land

Mock-ups for The Ancient Land

Mock-ups for The Ancient Land

Construction sheet for The Ancient Land

Construction sheet for The Ancient Land

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