Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands

It was Christmas yesterday and because the timing just lined up too well, this week we'll be looking at two Aussie flags that need no fixing, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands:

This is the flag of Christmas Island, an Australian territory that lies just to the south-west of Java.  It has a small population (1,400), but an awesome flag.  This one has it all in my book: a map, a representative (but stylized) animal, and clear colors.  The Southern Cross clearly links the territory to Australia, but it even mixes it up by placing the constellation on the left, rather than the right.  I really love this flag, and wouldn't change a thing (well, I might remove the little eye-spot on the bird, it seems kind of fussy).

Not too far from Christmas Island, you can find Australia's other Indian Ocean territory, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands:

This flag also uses the Southern Cross, but by changing the color scheme, it makes it more interesting.  The crescent speaks to fact that the majority of the population (of about 600) is Muslim.  I also love this flag.  It takes a familiar Australian symbol and uses it in an unique way.  The palm tree could be simplified a little, but that is a minor quibble with what is otherwise a great flag. 

Why is it that the Australian territories are so much better at flags than the actual states?  If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'm all ears.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Flag for South Australia

I can't think of anything clever to introduce another of Australia's cookie-cutter state flags, so here's South Australia:

The bird in the badge is called a Piping Shrike, though apparently there is some controversy over what bird it actually depicts, with the Murray Magpie and White-backed Magpie being two contenders.  If this were just another bird emblem, I may have gotten rid of it, but because it is a mystery bird, I'm keeping it.  The Union Jack gets no such reprieve.

I figure Australia is missing a good tricolor design, so I'll use one here for South Australia's new flag:

The colors here can stand for the typical flags things, oceans, agriculture, prosperity, etc., but I chose this order for a couple reasons.  The first being that blue never seems to get to be in the center, and the second because placing the shrike on the far right replicates the style of the current flag.  It also give the flag a unique feel, as the vast majority of flags place their emblems in the center.  And just in case the off-centeredness of this design bugs some people, here's what it would look like in a more traditional style.  I believe I increased the size of the bird a bit too:

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Flag for Australia

This week I'm taking a break from my usual format of fixing state/province flags and looking at one on the national level:

I've been criticizing Australian state flags for sticking too close to the national template, but the national flag isn't that great either.  As flags that use the Union Jack go (and aren't the UK flag), this is one of the best, mostly because the constellation pattern is much better than the usual seal that accompanies the flags of Fiji, the Falklands, and Montserrat.  On an overall flag scale though, it falls behind the simplicity, elegance, and uniqueness of Canada, South Africa, and Japan. 

This is not a problem of which Australians are unaware.  Just before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, an organization called AusFlag put out a poster that challenged Aussies to identify their national banner from a group of state, provincial, colonial, and yacht club flags, all of which used the Union Jack design.  This organization and others like it (including the Flag Society of Australia) are pushing for a better flag for the commonwealth (or republic even, depending on which site you're looking at, some use the flag debate to argue for severing many ties to the UK), one which is more representative of the nation and its people.  They have put forward some great designs over the years, so I'll just show a few of my favorites:

This flag was designed by Harold Scruby and portrays the Southern Cross "shining over the great red island continent, surrounded by the seas."  That seems to say it all.  Kangaroos are another popular theme, ranging from great designs to spin-offs of the Qantas logo.  This flag is one of the former:

This flag reminds me of Papua New Guinea's, and I really like that one.  The design is by Russell Kennedy and uses the Southern Cross and kangaroo to great effect.  It is also a great example of a reconciliation flag, one which uses the colors and imagery of the Australian Aboriginal flag (which I have shown and used in previous posts) and the current national flag.  But I can't talk about reconciliation flags without showing you this last example:

Designed by Brenden Jones, this places the Commonwealth Star (a much-used symbol of Australia, each point representing states and territories) in the Aboriginal side and utilizes black, red, yellow, and blue.  I kind of like the boomerang shape, but I can't help seeing East Timor's flag when I look at this one.

If I were given a vote (though as an American, I doubt Aussies care what I think), I would go for the second flag I presented, Russell Kennedy's, but this post has barely scratched the surface of the amazing designs out there.  Green and yellow are often used as the national colors of Australia, showing up on uniforms and sports stuff, and there are lots of great flag ideas that use that color scheme.  I highly encourage folks to check out AusFlag and the Australian Flag Society for more.

Thanks to wok for helping me remember I wanted to talk about this.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Flag for Victoria

What's that you say?  There's no way an Australian state flag can be a bigger copycat of the Australian national flag than New South Wales?  Well then allow me to introduce you to Victoria:

I believe the ratio of Union Jack to Southern Cross may be a bit different than the national, but if it wasn't for that little crown, you would be hard pressed to distinguish the two.  Victoria, in case you couldn't guess, is named for Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, and sovereign of Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt, and many, many other places at various points during her reign.  When the state that would be Victoria was separated from New South Wales by the British government, it is no surprise the named the new colony after their monarch.  The crown on the flag, which was adopted later, was meant to symbolize this connection.

The crown specifically depicts St. Edward's Crown, one of the British crown jewels which is used for coronations and appears on a number of flags and shields (such as the British Indian Ocean Territory).  Keeping this connection in mind, I feel like the crown should be retained in a new flag, but the basic template can be discarded.

Luckily (for me), Victoria has a great flag from it's past, the Eureka flag, a banner used in a brief rebellion in 1854:

This flag is not without controversy, but as the rebellion is often credited with bringing universal male suffrage to the colony, it provides a great symbol for democracy and for Australian independence.  I think with the addition of the crown, it provides historical background in a way unique to the state:

The only thing I wasn't sure of was whether the blue should continue behind the crown (between the top part of the crown and the red cloth, you should be able to see through it), so I've included that version as well:

I'm a little surprised I've gotten this far into Australian state flags without putting a kangaroo on one.  Don't worry though, it's coming.  Maybe for Queensland since I just did a monarch themed flag...

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Flag for Western Australia

The flag of Western Australia suffers from the same issues as all the other Australian state flags, literally, almost the exact same problems:

That swan is kind of neat though, so it will be retained, but the rest of the universal Aussi flag template is gone.  The swan is a Black Swan, the state bird of Western Australia and a common symbol for them, showing up on their seal as well.  If you've read my post on the flag of New South Wales, you'll understand my affinity for the Australian Aborigine flag, so my first idea to improve Western Australia's was a little lazy:

I think this one looks good, but if I rely too much on the pattern and color scheme, I'm not really fixing these flags, just shifting the theme of them.  So with that in mind, here was my second attempt:

This one is a uses blue for the vast coastline of the state, yellow for the incredible mineral wealth, and retains the swan as a central figure, thus using common flag concepts with one that is unique to Western Australia.  It is also a tad off center (top-to-bottom wise) so as to make it look like the swan is floating on the water.  My only concern with this one was that the swan seemed a bit too small, so I made it larger, filling the space a bit more, but still maintaining a simple figure:

Voila, a new flag for Western Australia.  Two down, four to go (five if I can think up a good one for the ACT).

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Flag for New South Wales

The first of the Australian states, it seems only fitting to begin this series by trying to fix the flag of New South Wales.  Here's what we have to work with:

If viewed on its own, this flag isn't that bad.  The Union Jack ties in the British heritage, as does the lion and cross of St. George.  In fact the only thing on this flag that is vaguely Australian are the four stars on the field, stars which are also used on the national flag.  The main problem with this flag is that it is almost identical to the flags of the other five states, the only difference being the contents of the seal, so rather than try and tweak this design, I've decided to scrap it and start fresh.

As the state is named New South Wales, I figured I'd start with the flag of Wales (though I've always wondered whether it means a new Wales in the south, or only named after Southern Wales):

This flag is awesome, mostly because of the dragon.  Since they use the Welsh name, I thought the folks in Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong might like to borrow some Welsh symbols.  This was my attempt at an antipodean version:

This quick flip of the colors and dragon orientation is a simple fix, but it packs a lot of meaning into a simple (well, calling that dragon simple is probably a stretch) design.  However, I wasn't satisfied and decided to change the color scheme as well.  The colors of the Australian national flag are red, white, and blue, but that combo didn't really work, so I went to another set of Australian colors, those used on the flag of the Aboriginal community:

This is an excellent flag and the colors provide a great contrast while conveying a deeper meaning.  Here is the final product:

With this flag you get the symbolism of the Aboriginal flag and the Welsh flag, while at the same time utilizing a very unique design, perhaps rivaled only by Bhutan in coolness.  I've removed almost all the interior detail of the dragon, excepting the eye and wing outline, and while it wouldn't be too easy to draw, it would be instantly recognizable.  This flag also has the added bonus of no longer being interchangeable with the flags of every other Australian state and most other British colonies.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Australian state flags

Ok, been awhile, but I'm back to start a new series.  For the next few weeks, we'll be looking at, and trying to improve, the state flags of Australia.  In the past, I've complained about monotony in both Canadian provincial and American state flags, but compared to the Aussie ones, those are a rainbow of diversity.  Every state flag Down Under flows a simple formula, the Union Jack in the top-left corner and a seal on the right, all on a dark blue background.

In a sad way, the flags of the Australian territories have far more interesting and unique flags than their state counterparts.  Here are a couple of the best examples of this:

This is the flag of the Northern Territory, home to Ayers Rock/Uluru and the only part of mainland Australia that isn't a state (maybe the capital area too, but that's a different situation).  They've taken three colors that contrast well and used them to recreate two very prominent symbols, the Southern Cross (a constellation also found on the national flag) and the Sturt's Desert Rose (the territorial flower which also has historical connections).  A very nice flag which is very different than any of the state flags, even though it uses similar symbols.  Another great example of an Australian flag done right is Norfolk Island:

A small island in the Pacific, populated largely by descendants of the HMS Bounty's mutineers.  Although the tree in the center may be a bit too detailed, the Norfolk pine is a familiar symbol of the island, and the fact that they only use two colors for the flag works well.  Like the Northern Territory, Norfolk Island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but isn't a state.

In the coming weeks, I'll be going through the states of Australia, and maybe some of the other territories, and trying to help them stand out, or at the very least be distinguishable from one another.  First up will be New South Wales.  I'd be on the look out for me playing up the "Wales" part of that, mostly because I have difficulty resisting the urge to put a dragon on a flag.

Monday, October 3, 2011

New Flag for West Virginia

West Virginia's flag has taken a page from Massachusetts by utilizing a white background, but by adding a blue border:

The border makes this flag stand out, but it isn't enough for me to keep it.  Born in battle, West Virginia came into being during the Civil War.  The common wisdom is that the state of Virginia was split because of slavery, but neglect would be a better, more inclusive term.  After decades of being treated as country cousins and losing money, power, and influence to the wealthy plantation owners in the Tidewater of eastern Virginia, the counties along the Ohio took the opportunity of Virginia's secession to secede themselves.  As the war progressed, the new state added more counties, many of which had voted to leave the Union, until two years after the war when the Supreme Court awarded two more counties from Virginia and thus created the modern state borders we know today.  In light of all that amazing history, isn't it too bad that this flag was the best they could do?

Their slogan is great "Mountaineers are Always Free" (in Latin, of course), but doesn't belong on the flag.  Neither does the name of the state.  Like I said, the border is good, but not good enough.  In the end I decided to go with a little used design in state flags (but ubiquitous everywhere else) the tricolor.  This was my first attempt:

I feel that black is underused in American state flags and it can look so good, contrasting with the sky.  I figured West Virginia, a state built on (literally and figuratively) coal would be the perfect one to utilize it.  The blue and green are also symbolic, standing for the Ohio and Potomac Rivers and the forests of the state.  As I considered this option, I decided that though I like the black being on the flag's fly, but it just wasn't right.  So I decided to change the orientation:

This one I like more, particularly because it now has a geographic component.  The blue still represents the rivers, as well as their place at the "top" of the state (the North Branch of the Potomac on the northeast and the Ohio on the northwest).  The green is for the entire state which lies below the rivers, and the black coal is on the bottom because it is underground.  However, I still thought it needed something, so I made one last change:

The yellow doesn't symbolize anything in particular, it just seemed to strengthen the difference between the bands.  I tried using red, for "born in battle" or something, but didn't like how it looked or what it stood for.  Yellow came in as the compromise choice, as white made it look too much like the flag of The Gambia.

Also fun fact, to me as a Virginian at least, did you know that in John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" that the main geographic features that he mentions, the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains, are barely in West Virginia at all?  The Shenandoah touches the state only at the eastern tip and the vast majority of the Blue Ridge are in Virginia, and only a small part is in West Virginia.  Really John, you couldn't have checked a map? (Or whoever actually wrote it, it doesn't matter).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another New Flag for Nova Scotia

A few months ago, I suggested the following flag as a fix for the province of Nova Scotia:

This was essentially the current provincial flag, I just removed the central shield which featured a lion.  In flags, simplicity is key, but I may have let the pendulum swing too far in this instance.  As I mentioned in the original post, this flag also closely corresponds to the Russian naval ensign, an uncommon flag I'll admit, but there's no reason to use a Russian flag in Canada.  While searching for new ideas, I came across the flag of Cape Breton, the island that makes up the northern part of Nova Scotia:

As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for nautical icons on flags, particularly those from the Age of Sail, so this really jumped out at me.  The golden leaf design around the edge is a little distracting, but at least this flag is heading in the right direction.  After a little more searching, I found the flag of Halifax:

This one maintains the St. Andrew's cross of the provincial flag, but adds some more elements and replaces the white with yellow.  I like the bird (a kingfisher?) and ships, but the arrows seem unnecessary.  I decided to use this flag as a template for the whole province, and this was my final product:

I have kept the yellow on the ships, partially because it would have taken forever to change their color using Paint, but mostly because they give a splash of color to the blue and white.  As you can see, I hanged the central "X" to white and removed the arrows, giving the flag as less cluttered look.  I'm not entirely sure if the bird is a provincial symbol or specific to Halifax, but either way I think this version does a better job of representing the province and not being simple for simplicity's sake.

Thanks to Francis for the ideas.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another New Flag for Montana and New Brunswick

Two more updates this week:

This is my version of Montana's flag, based primarily on the flag of the city of Denver.  The biggest issue was the poor contrast of the silver, which is too light and from a distance would be almost indistinguishable from the white snow caps.  In response, here's a fix:

The silver (really more of a gray) is darker now, and does a much better job of standing out.  Not everybody was a fan of the snow caps either, but I still kinda like them.

And New Brunswick:

All I had done to the original was get rid of the lion that formerly resided in the red stripe.  But now it just looks like something used to be there and it doesn't look natural.  It really should balance out the blue of the waves, rather than dominate it:

It now is better balanced by the blue/white sea, plus the flag is now more elongated, a common trait of Canadian provincial flags.

Thanks to Voron X and Francis for their input.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Another New Flag for Georgia and Maine

Just a couple of quick fixes this week, based on comments I've received.  First, Georgia:

This what I suggested a few months back, replacing the seal on the curent flag with a peach, a simple design and one that resonates with Georgia.  However, it is difficult to differentiate the peach from the background (especially the leaf), so I gave the fruit a thin white border:

A very minor change and one that make the design a little more complicated, but it helps the symbol stand out.

Second, Maine:

This idea wasn't really an idea, merely the hope that Maine would ditch its current flag in favor of the one above, which had been the state's flag about 100 years ago.  In the spirit of offering my own fixes instead of just pulling from history though, I'll alter this one a bit as well.  For one the star represents the north, but by switching it to the other side of the flag, it also can portray Maine's position as the easternmost state.  The green of the tree can also be used to represent the whole state and provide a different background for the flag:

I like this version, but the star now suffers from the same issues as Georgia's peach.  Instead of the white outline though, I'm just going to make the star white as well:

This design is striking and unique while only using two colors and two shapes (and relatively simple ones at that).  I've come to like this design better than the one provided by history.

Thanks to Voron X and Dennis Bolt for their suggestions.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Another New Flag for Delaware

This week I begin a month of retrospection, looking back at some fixes I have suggested and working to improve them.  These new fixes will be based on comments and any better ideas I've had since posting.  I'll start with the state I first attempted to improve, Delaware.  As a quick reminder, here are the current flag of Delaware and my suggestion for making it better:

For my full rational, see the original post, but the bullet points were that the colors were original and worth keeping and that the seal was bad, so I replaced it with a shield with the Swedish flag, because Delaware was formerly a Swedish colony. 

The first thing I need to change is that replacing a seal with a shield may have simplified the design, but it doesn't make for better aesthetics.  The second is the fairly poor contrast between the Swedish blue and the Delawarian (?) blue.  Not a great combo.

Two things remain important to this design and which I will attempt to maintain; the colors of the original flag, which are supposedly taken from the colors of George's Washington's uniform, and the Swedish connection, which I feel deserves to stay, at the very least because it makes a state, which is only really famous for being first, stand out in the crowd.

I decided to try a defaced design, enlarging the Swedish part of the flag but eliminating things like the unnecessary shield.  Here was my first attempt:

This one, in my opinion, is better than my first suggestion.  It has a new background, the buff color shared only with New Jersey, but they're neighbors and it feels like this flag is also saying the importance of Sweden is greater than that of the state.  In case that was confusing, here is the flag I settled on and which I present as my Fix of my Delaware Fix:

This time Sweden is in the background, supporting but otherwise very different from the state Delaware has become.  This flag says something like "We have Sweden in our history, but now we're writing our own history" but hopefully less sappy.  The buff, yellow, and Swedish blue have a nice contrast here and contain a color and design element of the old flag with updates highlighting their unique heritage.  I also altered the Swedish background, choosing not to make the yellow vertical stripe off-center as it is in the actual flag of Sweden.

I also tried both these designs using the Delaware blue instead of the buff, but increasing the space given to both blues did not an attractive flag make.

Thanks to Voron X for the suggestions.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Flag for Rhode Island

Rhode Island is another state that, like Wyoming, is almost great:

As flags with text go, Rhode Island's is about as good as it gets.  Only a single word, "Hope," on a blue banner, providing both the state's motto and a splash of color to the yellow and white of the rest of the flag.  Also like Wyoming, the fix for this flag is fairly obvious and has been done before.  A simple deletion of the blue banner and enlargement of the anchor.  As much as I would like to suggest some amazing new flag, the one I offer is only slightly changed:

It looks like I did next to nothing and I'll admit that is true.  The anchor has been enlarged and centered like in other designs and all I've really done is make the stars a light blue.  My main reason for only minor alterations is that this flag has great history.  The anchor design for Rhode Island dates from 1640, within five years of Rhode Island existing as a colony and that is just too historic to discard (the "Hope" banner also dates from this period, but my commitment to history is only topped by my commitment to eliminating text).  I felt that the splash of color should be maintained though and that it was silly for a state with "Island" in its name to not have any blue.  I tried this with darker shades, but I prefer the more subtle contrast of the light blue rather than the competition with the anchor that navy stars created.  It keeps the flag simple, recognizable, and maintains one of the most successful examples of a white background.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Flag for Wyoming

Wyoming's flag is unfortunate, for two big reasons:

The biggest reason is that this was almost an amazing flag; the red and white borders, the contrast of the white bison on the deep blue.  But then they had to go and shove their boring, complicated seal into the center.  It's just sad.  The other reason this flag is unfortunate is more personal, in that the fix for it is very simple, but others have already suggested it.  Over at Your State Flag Stinks, the seal was  removed the seal and you're left with a pretty great flag, and I can't imagine that's the first place to suggest that.  I suppose I could chicken out and do the same, but flip the bison so I can pretend to claim originality:

But that feels like a cop out.  There are some other state symbols of Wyoming that would look good up there, if I had any artistic ability, including the Horned Toad (state reptile) and the Triceratops (state dinosaur).  Another option would be the rodeo rider that graces their licence plate and state quarter.  It is a fairly simple outline and used throughout the state already:

In the end, I don't think this looks to bad, but the design of the modern flag (minus the seal of course) is a tough one to dismiss.  It can be hard to fix a flag when the best solution is already taken.  Not that I'm complaining, I wish they were all this easy.