Friday, December 17, 2010

Flag Friday XIX

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: "A classic.  Simple, to the point."  He gives it an "A", 87/100.

Michael5000: Japan's flag is so simple, and such an elegant solution to the problem of making a recognizable symbol on a rectangle of fabric, that it's kind of astounding that nobody else got to it first.  I've read that the Japanese are rather conflicted about actually using their flag, with many having aversions to overt displays of nationalism.  That's fair.  But just as a flag, though?  Awesome.

Grade: A

the Vatican

Parsons: Bothered by a "bad shape," "hideous colours," and "graven images," he dismisses the Papal flag with a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: Heavens, what is the Vatican doing here in the J's?  Parson files it under "H," for "Holy See," and I think I started to move it towards "V" but didn't follow through.  Whatever.  It's square and riddled with frimframery, and looks more like the flag of a city than of a real country.  But then...

Mercifully, it looks like some of the detail gets simplified down in real life:

Grade: D+


Parsons: Feeling that it's "eyewatering," he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Of the family of similar flags among the Arab states, I think I like Jordan's best.  I haven't always been a fan of seven-sided stars, but in this case it helps the Jordanians stand out a bit among their like-bannered neighbors.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Parsons sees "bad colours" and a "corporate logo," and thinks it's "too busy," so he gives it a "D+", 45/100.

Michael5000: I've said it before and I'll say it again:
When you deviate from simple color fields, it is easy to get your flag design into real trouble. Look at Uganda, Dominica, Macedonia, or South Africa for great examples of ways to make a hash of it. Kazakhstan succeeded where so many others have failed by keeping the primary flag design element, color, under control. A fairly complex central design and the inward-side filigree characteristic of the "Stan" flags are rendered spare and elegant by their rendering in just two mature and memorable but unconventional colors. One of the best new flags in recent history. 
Grade: A


Parsons: Disliking the "weapons," finding it "eye-watering," and judging it "too busy," Parson gives a "C", 55/100.

Michael5000: Kenya's flag rocks the pan-African colors, with a simple representation of indiginous Massai spears and shield in the foreground.  And if that's the way the Kenyans want to play it, that's their call.  If this flag had been suggested by a non-Kenyan, though, it would seem like an offensive casting of Africans as colorful tribal people chained to the pre-industrial past.  Personally, I'd like to see something more progressive from an African regional power.

Grade: B-

Friday, December 10, 2010

Flag Friday XVIII

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it an "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: The first of three vertical tricolors today, the flag of Ireland is -- hoo boy.  It's certainly one of the most symbolically explicit of the tricolors, with Catholic green and Protestant orange unified by peaceful white.  It was originally conceived as the flag of the island of Ireland, but functions as the flag of the Republic of Ireland.  And, it's distinctive and attractive!

It's a 2:1 flag, but those seem to work pretty well with vertical tricolors, where things don't look all stretchy.

Grade: A-


Parsons: Again without comment, he gives it an "A", 85/100.

Michael5000: Last Flag Friday, I conceded that I might not be too crazy about the flag of Iran if I were a religious minority in that country.  Too, I probably wouldn't love the flag of Israel if I were a religious minority in that country.
As things stand, though, I think the two-color framing of a distinct but simple nationalist symbol realized on the ol' Degel Yisrael to be among the real triumphs of Twentieth Century flag design.  There are few sharper-looking flags.

Grade: A+


Parsons:Again, no comment.  Just a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: This isn't just a tricolor, it's il Tricolore!  It seems to have a nutty, complex history, which boils down to it being the compromise version of a bunch of far more complex predecessor flags.  It can be confused with the flag of Ireland under certain light conditions.

Grade: A-

Ivory Coast

Parsons: With an accusation of "plagiarism" and calling it a "bad tricolor," Parsons gives it a B, 70/100.

Michael5000: Now some people say that the flag of the Ivory Coast is just the flag of Ireland backwards, but that's just crazy talk.  Ireland's a 2:1 flag!  Ivory Coast is 3:2!  So, We've busted that myth.

Apparently back in the days of independence there were hopes that Ivory Coast and Niger might be able to unify or at least be very good pals, and this got reflected in the green/white/orange motifs of their respective flags.  I have to say, though, that as much as I don't like calling a national symbol "plagiarised," and as unlikely as it is that the similarity would ever cause much trouble, the Ivory Coast flag committee of 1959 really probably should have avoided adopting a banner quite so close to that of another recently independent country.

Grade: B+


Parsons: It has "good colours," but still gets only a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Now that, my friends, is NOT a tricolor.  Well, except in the sense that it has three colors, I suppose.  Jamaica became independent at the same time as many of the African countries (three years, in fact, after the Ivory Coast), and as a country with a population largely of African descent, it employed some of the colors of pan-Africanism that we've talked about before.  Instead of green, gold, and red, Jamaica went with green, gold, and black

It is not, to my eye, the most attractive banner ever, but it is certainly very recognizable and distinctive.  As a symbol, it is somewhat compromised (here in the North American home of the L&TM5K, anyway) by a common application of this formula:
Jamaican flag = Jamaica = Rastafarians = Pot = Groooooovy
Which is kind of a shame.  Mon.

Grade: B

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flag Friday XVII

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it a "B+", 75/100.

Michael5000: The flag of Iceland is more or less the opposite of the flag of Norway.  And both of them are awesome.

Grade: A


Parsons: Complaining that it is "too busy," he gives it a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: Not so fast, Dr. Parsons!  That device in the center of India's orange, white, and green tricolor -- it has the satisfyingly South Asian name of the "Ashoka Chakra" -- is really just a complicated blue geometric shape.  The Indians have managed to get a national symbol on their flag without requiring anything more than good scissors and applique skills from their flagmakers.  More power to them.

I am told, too, that the Indian flag is a successful one in that, wherever you go in the immense diversity of the world's largest democracy, you will find copious use of the orange/white/green motif.  Can't attest to it personally, though.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Saying that it's "simple" -- a good thing?  a bad thing? -- he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: The Eurocentric among us look at the flag of Indonesia and see either the flag of Poland flying upside down, or the flag of little Monaco flaying right-side up.  But the Indonesian banner has local roots going back several hundred years, and was used by the resistance to Dutch colonial rule in the first half of the Twentieth Century, so it's the real deal.   Still, it's simple -- a bit too simple to inspire out-of-town admiration, I think -- and a little too similar to too many other national banners to hold its own in a plaza of international flags.

Grade: B-


Parsons: It's busy, apparently WAY too busy, and Parsons slaps it with a D+, 45/100.

Michael5000: OK, to explain what's going on here, I think we need to go right to the Wiki:
The red emblem in the centre of the flag, designed by Hamid Nadimi, is a highly stylized composite of various Islamic elements: a geometrically symmetric form of the word Allah ("God") and overlapping parts of the phrase La ilaha illa Allah ("There is no god but Allah"), forming a monogram in the form of a tulip. Written in white on the inner edges of the green and red bands is the repeated phrase Allahu Akbar ("God is great") in a stylized version of the Kufic script used for the Qur'an. This writing renders the flag non-reversible.
Now I'm not a big fan of theocracy, and all of the verbiage might get on my nerves if it were legible to me, or if I were, say, a member of a religious minority in Iran.  Those things not being true, I think the flag of Iran is pretty sweet.  The script merely modifies the border of what is essentially a basic horizontal tricolor, and the central symbol is graphically simple and direct.  Handsome and immediately recognizable, it is a fine banner for that great, if troubled, nation.

Grade: A-


Parsons: Complaining that the "Best features of this flag [were] stolen from Syria, he charges the Iraqi  flag with "plagiarism" and is irritated by "writing."  Liking the "good colours," he settles on a "C," 55/100.

Michael5000: You may have heard that the country of Iraq has been in considerable flux in recent years, and the same is true of their flag.  From 2004 to 2008, the design that Parsons reviewed had a font change:

And then, in 2008, it had a star-ectomy.

We'll see a lot of these red, white, and black tri-colors in the Middle East, as we did in Egypt.  They are not entirely to my taste, but it's hard to fault the essential design.  For Iraq, I think ditching the stars was a good move.  The writing is again the phrase Allahu Akbar -- it's nice to see Iran and Iraq agreeing on something -- and, as it's in Arabic, the flag is flown from the right-hand side rather than the more common left.  See how that works?

Grade (for the current flag): B

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Flags: It's What's For Dinner

Eat your way around the world with little flag pizzas!

From the Tiny Urban Kitchen. Includes step-by-step instructions.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Flag Friday XVI

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it an "B-", 68/100.

Michael5000: It's refreshing to see a red, gold, and green African flag not getting accused of plagiarism.  This spares me having to retell yet again the story of how the African flags got their stripes.  Longtime readers won't be surprised that I'm not crazy about this one.  Too 2:1ish.

Grade: C+


Parsons: Says it's "original," and gives it a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: Now here's a red, gold, and green flag that could just barely be accused of plagiarism, since it can't directly buy into the pan-African thing.  You realized that Guyana isn't in Africa, right?  O.K., O.K., just checking.

Unfortunately nicknamed "The Golden Arrowhead," the Guyanan flag was designed by a Massachusetts consultant.  He didn't include the white and black piping though, which was added later.  Good call.  The black and white make the flag.  It's handsome, crisp, and -- especially regionally -- admirably distinctive and uncluttered.

Grade (for the current flag): A-


Parsons: Praising that it is "simple" and has "good colours," he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: The civil flag of Haiti is certainly simple as can be, and I guess red and blue are "good colors."  Trouble is, from what I can tell from perusing the internets, nobody nor their dog uses the civil flag of Haiti.  Like many other countries in its part of the world, Haiti favors a much fussier state flag:

The business in the center, which includes no less than six Haitian flags, which presumably have among them 36 Haitian flags, which have 216 Haitian flags, which have....  duuuuude......   ...but wait, I digress.  The business in the center, which includes some cannons, a scroll, anchors, bayoneted rifles, Haitian flags (duuuude...), and a palm tree, seems to appear in a wide range of sizes relative to the flag as a whole.

There was apparently a minor flap at the 1936 Olympics when Liechtenstein and Haiti realized they were flying the same (civil) flag -- Liechtenstein, with much fewer people and a more recent design, stepped down and stuck a crown on their blue-and-red, which was mighty gracious of them in my book.  The more common state flag of Haiti certainly gets points for being distinctive -- it is immediately recognizable among the world's banners.

It loses some points for being busy, failing both the Betsy Ross test and the kid-with-crayons tests.

Grade (for the state flag): B-


Parsons: Accusing Honduras of both "plagiarism" and of having "too many stars," Parson allows this flag a "B-", 68/100.
Michael5000: Plagiarism?  What the what?  Because it's similar to the flags of neighboring countries El Salvador and Nicaragua?  Well, um, they used to be a single country?  And they made adjustments to the flag they were used to when they separated into the modern independent countries?  So that's not plagiarism?  I mean, geez, how are we going to make any progress in vexillological criticism if you don't check these things out, Dr. Parsons?

The Honduran flag is certainly not jaw-dropping in its special beauty, and it probably looks a bit washed out against the Central American sky.  But I say, three cheers for a Latin American country that uses its civil flag as its state flag, and doesn't feel the need for a persnickety coat of arms on either of them.  Hip hip!

Grade: B+


Parsons: Without comment, it gets a "B-", 68/100.

Michael5000: The Hungarian tricolor rocks.  The colors are firmly associated with all things Hungarian -- check out any bottle of paprika -- and the dominant red and dark green sandwich the white center stripe in a perfect balance of color value.

After the second world war, a Stalinist device was added to the center of the flag.  As things lightened up later in the century, it became a popular gesture of defiance to rip those puppies off -- they were too fussy! oh, and symbolic of a totalitarian nightmare -- and you had lots of flags that looked like this:

There is a movement afoot in the Hungarian government to get some sort of state seal back on the flag.  Bad call!  You've got it good, Hungary.  Stick with the tricolor, the whole tricolor, and nothing but the tricolor.

Grade: A

Friday, October 15, 2010

Flag Friday XV

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Calling it "original" and "eyewatering" -- in fact, "impressively eyewatering, given only two colors" -- he gives it a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: The Greek flag is a remarkable flag achievement, combining the simplest of elements to create a banner that is instantly recognizable, unique, and iconic.  It's a flag classic.

Grade: A


Parsons: Again with the "eyewatering," in fact "possibly the most eyewatering flag in existence." He gives it a "C+", 60/100.

Michael5000: Ol' Kalaallit Nunaat isn't a full-fledged "country" -- it is largely autonomous, but still looks to Denmark for diplomatic representation, defense, economic policy, and, well, money.  I'm covering it here only because it was on Dr. Parsons' list, and because it has an awesome flag.

Greenland 's flag is not entirely unlike Greece's: a strong color interacting with white, very simple elements, and an effect that is visually distinct, elegant, and memorable.  Here are the specs is you are moved to sew one up for yourself:

Incidentally, does anyone here see anything "eyewatering" about either the Greek or the Greenlandic flag?  I think Parsons needs to lay off the eyedrops.

Grade (for the current flag): A


Parsons:He feels that it has "too many stars" and is "too busy," and assigns it a "D", 40/100. "What is that thing on the left?" he asks.

Michael5000: Living in those dark days before everybody knew about the Wiki, Parsons had no way of knowing that "the symbol in the hoist represents a clove of nutmeg, one of the principal crops of Grenada. It also represents a link to Grenada's former name, which was the 'Isle of Spice.'" And, who knows, maybe nutmeg cloves are immediately recognizeable and cause patriotic stirrings in all good Grenadans.  It does seem like a rather obscure visual reference though.

Too many stars?  Too busy?  I'd have to agree.  The bright colors might inspire our hypothetical child with crayons, but they'd be well advised to use a coloring-book template.

Photographic evidence suggests that flagmakers play pretty fast and loose with the dimensions of the central star.  And also that the flag, for all that it is rather busy, has a certain sunny exhuberance to it as well.  Which is nothing to sneeze at.

Grade: B-


Parsons: "There are so many things wrong with this flag," notes Dr. Parsons, and lists them: it is "too busy," has "bad colours," includes "weapons," "writing," and "graven images." It is slapped with a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: As usual, Parsons dislikes a Latin American flag because of it displays a coat of arms.  I'm sympathetic, although as usual I'll note that he could just choose to fly the civil ensign on important Guatemalan holidays.  It has no weapons, writing, graven images, or busy-ness of any kind:

But actually, although I don't in general approve of this level of detail and frim-frammery in a flag, I can make an exception for Guatemala.  Know why?

Because that bird perched on the gun between the laurel branches is a freaking Resplendent Quetzal, that's why!  A Resplendent Quetzal makes up for a variety of sins, that's what I always say.

Grade: B


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: As Ghana adopted the colors of the Ethiopian flag out of a spirit of pan-Africanism, Guinea adopted the colors of the Ghanaian flag when it became independent the next year.  The obvious downside is that the flags that followed this pattern are not visually distinct.  Mali, neighboring Guinea to the north and east, has a vertical tricolor of green, yellow, and red.  If the two nations became embroiled in a 18th-Century infantry conflict, rallying around the flag would be tricky business indeed.

Grade (for the current flag): B

Hot Hungarian

Occupying a prominent location in the Cartophiliac kitchen is the Szeged Hungarian Hot Paprika. Good stuff, not only because it features a map on the tin!

But wait, there's more! The map of Hungary, in three regions, looks like a sideways flag of Hungary!

Can any Hungarian carto-vexillo-fans out there tell me if the tri-colored regions on the tin represent three distinct regions in the country?

Vexillophiles note: Michael5000 gives the flag of Hungary an "A" in his latest Flag Friday post.

(I'm also hoping the title "Hot Hungarian" will help me get more hits from web surfers....)

[Cross-posted to Cartophilia]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flag Friday XIV

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: He awards it "good colors," but calls it a "bad tricolour," which apparently rounds out to a B+, 75/100.

Michael5000: I hold the opposite opinion. The colors of the Gabonese flag are, to my eye, a bit too pastel and washed out to assert themselves with a properly flaggy boldness. On the other hand, they are complementary enough and make a perfectly serviceable tricolor.

You might well come up something like this if you were designing a flag for any coastal place with forests, be it Gabon or Chile or, say, Oregon. Ocean, beach, woods. Officially, though, the gold stripe here in Gabon indicates the Equator. I can't say I really get that, either as a piece of representation (thick gold line?) or point of national pride ("visit beautiful Burma, home of the Tropic of Cancer!"), but that's nobody's business but the Gabonese.

Grade: B-


Parsons: "Great design and colour choice," says Parsons. "Also represents the geography of the country (without being a map)." Praising "good colours," he assigns an "A+", 90/100.

Michael5000: I like the flag of Gambia. The darker green is a good companion color to the classic red and blue, and the white trim adds a distinctive note to your basic horizontal tricolor.

The common belief that it is a diagrammatic map of the country, however, is badly overstated. It's true that the blue stripe is supposed to represent the Gambia River, along which the country's territory is stretched, but there's no particular concept of a northern red or a green south involved. Also, Gambia is more than ten times as long east-to-west as it is wide north-to-south, whereas its flag is your basic world-standard 3:2.

So the cartographic nature of the Gambian flag would amount only to "we're a country with a river running through it," which I suppose is more than Nauru can say. Fortunately, it doesn't need to be a map to look sharp.

Grade (for the current flag): A-


Here's the flag of Georgia that Parsons reviewed:

Parsons: Complained of "bad colours" and assigned a "C+", 60/100.

Michael5000: I thought of that flag (which flew from 1990 to 2004) as among the world's most distinctive, but not in a good way. I would not have been as kind as Parsons in grading it. Fortunately, a new Georgian flag was adopted by Presidential decree in 2004. Here's a picture of me and some friends celebrating that exciting event:

Sweeping claims are made regarding the historicity of this flag design -- Fifth Century! -- which would put it in use many centuries before the origin of flags per se, at least as I understand the vexillological timeline. But that's OK. The important thing is, Georgia has come up with a design with some sort of national resonance, and it's not butt-ugly to boot.

The specs call for the red to be a perfect 255-0-0 fire-engine candy-apple red, baby, but I think the design works a little better if the red tends towards the maroon of the previous flag. Judging from photo evidence, everybody else does too.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Best things about Germany's flag: it's a very distinctive combination of colors, if you ignore Belgium (which Germany has an unfortunate history of doing). And it certainly stands out against, well, anything, including a blue Central European sky:

The downside is that the colors are, frankly, a little hard on the eyes. They are a little too befitting of crude stereotypes of the German personality: the utilitarian colors of industrial diagrams and signage, or the excessively flamboyant tie of a man who is ho-ho-hoing much too hard at his own joke.

We love you, Germany! Thanks for saving Greece!

Grade: B


Parsons: With an accusation of "plagiarism," he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: OK, Ghana was the first of the "newly independent" countries to escape European rule in the late 1950s. The new flag did indeed deliberately quote the colors of the Ethiopian flag, as I described last time. A lot of other countries in Africa would subsequently join Ethiopia and Ghana in choosing green, yellow, and red for their flags, reflecting an aspiration for a united continent that, however naive it seems in retrospect, was rather noble and idealistic in its time and place. Parsons is only kidding when he reduces this whole process to "plagiarism," but it still makes me kind of sad.

The black star in Ghana's center stripe is thought to be an homage to the Black Star Line, a short-lived maritime company founded in the 1910s by the journalist, African-American community leader, and unintentional Rastafari prophet Marcus Garvey. Which is pretty far out.

Grade (for the current flag): B