Friday, January 28, 2011

Flag Friday XXII

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: Disliking "bad colours," he gives it a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: It's a little surprising to find red, gold, and green this far north, and assuredly Lithuania has never been a significant player in the pan-African movement.  But that doesn't make the colors of its flag "bad."  Just distinctive.

It's hard from this distance not to think of the Baltic States as a trio, and one thing I like about their flags is that they are all tricolors yet all immediately distinguishable both from each other and from the tricolor of neighboring macrostate Russia.

Grade: B+


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

Michael5000: Hey, speaking of distinctiveness...  Here's the schematic for the flag of Luxembourg:

...and here's one for the flag of neighboring Netherlands:

Keeping in mind that both of these countries border on France, you can't help but wondering if the Luxembourgers might have come up with something that would make them stand apart a little more in the way of national symbols.  In their defense, the design does have roots stretching back eight centuries.  On the other hand, the flag wasn't made official until 1972, and at that late date maybe something more contemporary could have been done.  

Michael5000's proposed more distinctive flag for Luxembourg
Just a thought.

Grade (for the current flag): B-


Parsons: "Looks unfortunately like a target," he says, but it's "original," which is worth a "C+", 60/100.

Michael5000: The Macedonian flag doesn't really look unfortunately like a target, which generally have an array of concentric circles rather than covering rays.  No, the Macedonian flag looks unfortunately like the "Rising Sun" flag of fascist Imperial Japan.  But that is not to be worried over, as modern Macedonia is rather remote from the tribulations of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

I actually like the Macedonian flag more than I thought I would when it was first unfurled.  The red/yellow combination is unusual and highly distinctive.  The radiating-rays design is a good one, and Macedonia's take on it goes a long ways towards rehabilitating the concept.  So, a cautious thumbs-up for The State That We No Longer Have to Call the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Grade: B+


Parsons: This time, "original" is worth a "B", 73/100.

Michael5000: I quite like the subtle but simple geometry of the Malagasy flag, which combines three 2:1 rectangles into a simple 3:2 banner.

For some reason, the red, white, and green color scheme has always especially failed to say "Madagascar" to me -- maybe I'm subconsciously looking for some African gold or black in there -- but apparently they are colors with deep historical associations, so what the heck.  In any case, it stands out among the African flags, and would stand out against the flags of its neighbors.  Except, of course, Madagascar doesn't have neighbors.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Unhappy with "bad colours," he nevertheless gives it a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Malawi has undergone the world's second-most recent flag change (since superseded by Burma, but I expect that one will prove to be fairly temporary), and you no doubt followed the coverage here on the L&TM5K.  Niece#3 did, and her subsequent current events paper for Global Studies not only got an "A", but also extra credit for covering a country that no one else had got to yet.  But I digress.  Parsons reviewed a substantially redder flag:

Here they are together, old and new.

And, apparently the new one is actually showing up in real life:

At first (politics aside) I disliked the new design, regarding it as something of a "dumbing down" of the old flag's unusual red-on-black scheme.  Also, it must be said that the new sunburst, though single-color, does have a hell of a lot of fussy little pieces.  That aside, I'm coming to recognize that Malawi Flag 2.0 remains distinctive and is really a little easier on the eyes.

Grade (for the current flag): B+

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flag Friday XXI

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: Disliking "graven images," he gives it a "C", 55/100.

Michael5000: Parsons and I share a healthy dislike of the kind of elaborate-national-seal-on-a-flag frimframery that stinks up some national flags (and a great many U.S. state flags).  I can't hold with him when he calls simple one-color shapes "graven images," though.  The Lebanese flag is a red-white-red tricolor with a wide center stripe and a green shape in the center; it passes the Betsy Ross test with (to use the unintentional pun for about the thousandth time) flying colors.  It's simple, dignified, and in the top ranks of recognizability.  I like it.

Grade: A-


Parsons: Disliking the "weapons" on Lesotho's flag, he gives it a "D", 55/100.

Michael5000: So I started out by thinking, "huh, I really like Lesotho's flag, I wonder why I haven't noticed it more before."  Then I read Parson's comment, and I was all like "'weapons?'  WTF?" But THEN I realized that Lesotho had a relatively recent flag change.  2006, in fact.  Here's a reminder of the old flag:

I think the change was a good idea.  The old flag was perhaps a bit more distinctive, but the new one has that classic tricolor charm.  The switch from brown to black was good.  As for the change of symbols, it's a nice gesture.  Quoth the BBC (Oct. 4, 2006):
The small mountain kingdom of Lesotho is marking its 40th anniversary of independence from the United Kingdom by flying a new more peaceful flag.
The military emblem of a shield, spear and knobkerrie is replaced by a traditional cone-shaped hat on the blue, white and green flag.
The hat worn by indigenous Basotho people was on the first independence flag but was replaced after a coup.
Lesotho says its new flag shows it "at peace with itself and its neighbours".
Probably they took Parsons' criticism to heart.  We flag critics have a lot of clout.

Grade (for the current flag): A-


Parsons: It's "too busy" and represents "plagiarism," but "at least an improvement on the US flag."  He gives it a "B", 74/100.

Michael5000: Hmm, "plagiarism."  Y'all know about Liberia, right?  American abolitionists buy the freedom of a bunch of slaves and literally send them back to Africa, thus dislocating not only the freedmen from their North American homeland but also the African folks who happened to be living on the territory chosen for the project.  Good thinking, guys!  The repercussions are still in full swing.

So, "Liberia," liberty, freed slaves.  Capital: Monrovia, after U.S. President Monroe, under whose tenure the whole scheme was hatched.  And the flag is, yes derived from the United States'.  Under the circumstances, "plagiarism" seems a little hard.

At least an improvement on the US flag?  Hard to argue with that.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Asks "did you even try?" but calls it "original" and "simple" and gives it a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Green!  The color of Islam!  And Libya is not shy about announcing itself as an Islamic country.

If you're like me -- which seems unlikely -- you've always wondered what this simplest of flags really looks like in actual use.  Here it is on a ship:

And here's a bunch of them among some public buildings:

Kind of weird, isn't it.  They don't quite look like flags, but like a placeholder for some more conventional flag to be determined at a later date.  Which leads to the main problem with the Libyan flag: it's quite distinctive when you are looking at it on a table of "Flags of the World" or whatever.  Whereas, if you see it in real life, it's loses any sense of distinctiveness.  "Is that a flag, or just a piece of green fabric," you ask.  I have a set of sheets that are essentially Libyan flags, but no inferences regarding my attitude toward the North African state should be made based on this fact.

Grade: C


Parsons: Without comment, he consigns it to a "C", 56/100.

Michael5000: Sure, the crown is a little fussy, but hats off to the Liechtensteiners for altering their flag when they realized that it was the same as one of the many iterations of the Haitian banner.  That was class.  Also, the crown is a just one- or two- color geometric element, depending on where you look, and therefore relatively inoffensive. Too, isn't a nice anachronistic crown pretty appropriate for a geopolitical relict as cute as a European microstate?  Tell me this isn't charming:

Viva Liechtenstein!

Grade: B+

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

God Hates Flags

Uh, oh... We'd better watch out, Michael... the Westboro Baptists are on to us...

Via Regresty

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flag Friday XX

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: Citing "graven images" and a design that is "too busy," he gives it an "D", 41/100.

Michael5000: The images on the flag of Kiribati -- incidentally, are you pronouncing it right?  Better check. -- are not all that graven.  Only four colors are in play, with even the seagull being a simple cut-out shape.  I can't deny that it's a bit on the busy side, though, with those ocean-wave squigglies seeming less and less of a good idea the longer you look at them.  Certainly distinctive among the world's banners, the flag of Kiribati is nevertheless just a little too representational for my tastes.

Grade: C


Parsons: Calling it "original," he assigns a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: Wait -- Jordan is "eyewatering" and Kuwait is "original"?  They're the same four colors, with Kuwait subbing in a trapezoid for a triangle (slightly original) and ditching the seven-sided star (slightly original).  Bit of a wash, really.  Except Jordan's is a little better.

Grade: C


Parsons: Disliking the look of a "corporate logo," he gives Kyrgyzstan a "C", 57/100.  "Is that a tennis ball on this flag?" he asks.

Michael5000: We have to be generous to Dr. Parsons, who wrote his flag assessments nearly nine years ago, a primitive time when you still had to wonder about things, before there was the Wiki.  For of course that isn't a tennis ball on the Kyrgyz flag.  It's a red ring crossed by two sets of three lines, a stylized representation of the tündük or crown of the traditional Kyrgyz yurt, a symbol replicated in many facets of Kyrgyz architecture.  Duh.

I like it.  It's got a two-color boldness to it, and although I can see where Parsons is coming from with his "corporate logo" complaint, well -- it that were a corporate logo, it would be a damn fine corporate logo.  Especially for a yurt manufacturer.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Praising "good colours," he gives it a "B," 71/100.

Michael5000: It's a very simple design, yet one that Laos pretty much has all to itself.  Easy to recognize, eminently flaggy, it's a whole new take on the good old red, white, and blue.  Although one can't help but lament a little the loss of the prior flag, which featured a three-headed elephant.  

Grade: A-


Parsons: Disliking "bad colours" and a "bad shape," he assigns a "B-", 65/100.

Michael5000: I like a good old 3:2 ratio myself, but the 2:1 ratio of the Latvian tricolor is common as can be.  The dark hue of the red is pretty much unique, this side of Georgia, and I guess that could make the Latvian banner seem unflaglike to some.  To me, it is simply very distinctive, as is the 2:1:2 ratio of the stripes.  It's not the most beautiful flag ever sewn together, but you'd have no trouble finding it in a pitched battle and, if you saw it flying above the post office, you'd know you weren't in Estonia or Lithuania.

Grade: A-