Proposed flags of New Zealand

Flags

SUMMARY

New Zealand has a history of support for redesigning its flag, which came to a head in 2016 with an official contest and referendum. This was a total fiasco – The judges had no relevant qualification or experience, the process was mishandled and the finalist designs were hated, among (many) other problems. In the end, voters opted not to change the flag.

Yet this was not a total victory for the current flag! A significant 43% voted against their own national flag, showing that it no longer has the prestige it used to, and a better flag design with a few percent more support would have won. What design would that be?

I and James Fitzmaurice have made and perfected these designs over the years, based on analysing thousands of designs and comments, consulting surveys and social science research, and more. Our designs are frankly far superior to the other proposals in aesthetics, symbolism and justification. Any one of them would have won the referendum. You don’t need to look any further if you want a design to support for the next time this topic comes up again in the public arena.

Is this all a product of raging narcissism or qualified judgement? For the first time, we have collected all of our designs in one place so you can decide!

Proposed flags of New Zealand by Brian Cham and James Fitzmaurice.

Proposed flags of New Zealand by Brian Cham and James Fitzmaurice.

INTRODUCTION

As with all design, the how and the why is more important than the what. This article begins by describing our extensive design process. Firstly, it describes our overall methodology and guiding principle. Secondly, it lists all of the common flag design traps that we tried to avoid. Thirdly, it explores New Zealand’s national symbolism and how to effectively express it in a flag design. Afterwards, this article covers each flag design with commentary, larger graphics and construction sheets.

The 7 most popular New Zealand flag proposals (according to the public)

Flags

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

When I was thinking of designs for the New Zealand flag competition, I was curious about the preferences of the wider public. No doubt others are too. Unfortunately, polls had a limited selection of designs to begin with, and while the government gallery had social media sharing and suggestions for every submitted flag, there was no way to sort the gallery to show the most popular.

So I made a quick Java script to scrape all entries in the website and identify the most popular flags. This is measured in number of times each design was independently suggested. Ten was the minimum number to get on this list.

Keep in mind that popularity does not equal quality, nor is it a final indicator of public preferences. It is affected by many factors like age, status and prior exposure of the design. Obviously, this list is biased towards well-known older designs rather than newer designs even if they’re great. This list is simply for interest of the data itself.

Flags are listed in ascending order of popularity. Each one lists the three main points of the respondents.

7. Silver Fern Flag – Kyle Lockwood’s ‘New Zealand Colours’

Silver Fern Flag – Kyle Lockwood’s 'New Zealand Colours' Designed by: Kyle Lockwood

Silver Fern Flag – Kyle Lockwood’s ‘New Zealand Colours’. Designed by: Kyle Lockwood.

Suggestions: 13

  • Similar to current flag
  • Black and white are national colours. Silver fern is national symbol. These are already recognised worldwide and have historical significance.
  • Māori represented by black (I think this is a reference to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag which includes black?)

Top 50 New Zealand flag proposals (according to me)

Flags

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.

I automatically dismissed any jokes, offensive statements, political statements and 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.

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.

This list is in no particular order.