Monday, May 30, 2011

Quebec and New Flag for Prince Edward Island

First off, Quebec:

This flag has a lot going for it; only two well contrasted colors, a basic design, and symbols that perfectly represent the province.  The fleurs-de-lis on this flag are free from too much detail and it is difficult to see another province (or state even) laying claim to them the way Quebec can (maybe Louisiana).  Plus, and this is a big one for me, Quebec's flag shares its template with the flag of Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean that uses coiled snakes instead of the fleurs-de-lis:

Too bad they aren't fully independent or they would shoot to the top of the flag rankings.

Prince Edward Island's flag is a tough nut to crack:

On the one hand, there are a number of things that can be criticized, most notably the detail given to the lion and trees.  On the other hand though, I really like this flag, British lion and all.  Maybe it's because it has a sense of self deprecation (We're so small, we can only fit four trees in the whole province!) or maybe it's the alternating red and white along the border.  Whatever it is, my fix for this flag is a bit of a cop out:

As with others in my Canadian series, I've removed the lion.  This flag is quite similar to the changes I made to New Brunswick's flag, with the notable exception of some changes to the background.  The blue is meant to be the sea, nothing more, and while the trees should be simplified, the detail they provide is not wholly unwelcome (in this one instance).  The three saplings contrast nicely with the mature tree bearing acorns, and whatever the symbolism, I just think it looks good.  Plus the blue accentuates the border, separating it from the numerous flags which add a fringe in an attempt to class-up their flags (or whatever that's for, I don't know).

Two more provinces down, two to go.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Flags for Yukon and the Northwest Territories

A few weeks ago I briefly discussed Nunavut, one of the three Canadian territories that lie on the Arctic Circle.  Today I'll attempt to fix the other two, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Both of these flags share a basic template, but first we'll look at Yukon:

Another shield flag it's true, but unlike some provincial flags (and more than a few state flags) Yukon at least went to the effort of giving it a tricolor background, rather than a single color.  This flag also scores points on the abstract elements of the shield.  The cross of St. George shows up again, and the husky and flowers are a little detailed, but the central imagery is not as obvious.  Turns out, they are geographically symbolic, representing the rivers, mountains, and mineral wealth of the territory, not to mention the roundel of vair (an old heraldic device used to depict squirrel fur and standing for the fur wealth of the area).

Despite the cleverness of the vague central devices, most of it has to go.  The downfall of generic symbols is that almost any area with mountains, rivers, and mineral (and fur) wealth could use it just as easily.  Thus, I've eliminated two major components of the flag, the majority of the shield and the central white stripe.  The shield is for the reasons previously stated, the stripe because it is a common flag design and I want to try something new.  As with other Canadian flags thus far, I have also changed the ratio from 4:3 to 3:2, making it a little less long and narrow:

The symbolism of the white stripe (snow) has been retained, but now that comes from the mound the husky is standing on.  The dog was kept because how many other flags have dogs on them?  (They may be out there, but I can't think of any)  The image isn't the best, since I basically just enlarged and tried to clean up the image at the top of the coat-of-arms, but it only uses three colors, and isn't all that detailed.  I have no doubt it could be improved, just not by me.

Ok, confession time.  I had an ulterior motive for keeping the husky.  I went to the University of Washington in Seattle and found it impossible to resist putting my school's mascot on a flag.  In my defense though, I picked one where it was appropriate and it was already on the coat-of-arms.  I just took advantage of the situation in favor of a little school pride.

The second flag for today is that of the Northwest Territories, like Nunavut a vast, sparsely peopled area of the arctic.  Their flag is similar to Yukon's, employing three bands (but only two colors) and a central shield:

The river at the top I understand, also the arctic fox's head.  The gold rectangles on the green though, let's just say it looks a little too much like Tetris to me.  Based on the previous flag fix, the obvious change would be to enlarge the fox and remove the rest, but I tried that and it didn't look so good.  However, Yukon did give me the idea to look at the rest of the coast-of-arms and what I found was this:

The details are a little different, but that could easily be the source.  The important point is the figures at the top.  Once again, this coat-of-arms provides the opportunity to put a unique and relevant animal on a flag, this time a pair of narwhals:

The star can serve the same purpose here as it does for Nunavut, Alaska, and a handful of other northern entities, that of pointing out the importance of the North Star to their identity.  The narwhals, like the husky, could be simplified, but the stern visage they share seems appropriate.  Perhaps they're steeling themselves for the long, harsh winter, or are tired of eating seafood, but whatever the reason it gives them a hint of character that a pair of silhouettes just wouldn't have.

I could go into great detail about why I chose to move to a monotone blue background rather than keeping the three stripes, but the real reason is I couldn't get the tusks to fit in without making the narwhals tiny or the central stripe too wide.  Not super exciting.

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Flags for New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador

This will be another post in which I look at some flags which are on the right track, but which I feel need a little extra push to become good flags.  Today we'll be examining 3/4 of the Atlantic provinces of Canada, continuing my series of Great White North posts.

New Brunswick is first up, a beautiful flag that went a step too far:

Objectively, this is not a great flag.  It was way to much detail on both the ship and the lion.  However, for some reason I can't fully explain (even to myself), I'm a sucker for nautical imagery on flags, particularly when it hearkens back to the Age of Sail.  With that in mind, there is little I can do but turn my wrath on the lion.

I understand the British connection, I even like that it appears to be sticking it's tongue out at me, but it doesn't need all those line to help the viewer understand it is a furry creature.  I suppose it could be simplified, but that isn't for me:

I have done away with the lion altogether, ending up with a flag that vaguely recalls a horizontal tri-color.  Though the ship could be simplified, I like the fact that this flag uses black, white, and the primary colors to depict a complex image.  Not very simple, but highly recognizable, and it continues the apparent mission I have been on in my Canadian posts to dispense with any provincial ties to the United Kingdom.

Nova Scotia's flag is only ok.  It has a shield like several other provencial flags, but that is filled by an ornate lion and nothing else.  There is no attempt to sqeeze 46 other symbols of the province into that small field and even the background blue cross on white is clean and distinct:

As with the previous flag, the lion is the thing that needs to go.  As Nova Scotia means New Scotland in English (translated from Latin, though originally Scotia was a name Romans had for Ireland), the blue cross presents a great flag opportunity squandered by the crest and so my only change will be a bit of removal:

Clean, simple, distinctive colors, historic connection, this flag has it all in an elegant little package.  This flag is simple a reversal of the Scottish flag, and while it is almost identical to the ensign of the Russian Navy (the ratio and thickness of the cross being the only real differences), I don't think that should prevent the use of this flag.  I mean, how often would the two ever be displayed in the same place?

Last for this week is the flag of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Adopted in 1980, it is one of Canada's newer flags, appropriate since Newfoundland and Labrador are the newest province.  It also has the nickname "The Golden Shaft," which caused me to stop for a second.  I suppose it could just be Wikipedia messing with me, but it fits the design.  This flag could easily go without any changes, as it seems to represent the British connection, their natiucal heritage, and a clean, clear design all at the same time.  My only suggestion came after looking at an unofficial flag of Labrador, the mainland component of this province:

 This flag is also very nice, and thus I will steal from it to improve the flag for the entire province:

I dunno, I just really liked that little spruce twig, and I think the touch of green looks good here.  I tried adding two, with the second being a mirror image of the first on the other side of the yellow stripe, but it reminded me too much of antlers.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Flag for British Columbia

This week is part two of my Canada appreciation month (I guess, or at least until I get bored with it).  On the docket today; British Columbia, land of Sasquatch, the Winter Olympics, and probably other stuff too:

This is a great flag.  It's busy, but there are only four key elements, each with an important link to the province, so the problem is too much detail rather than too much going on. 

1) The setting sun, denoting BC as Canada's westernmost province
2) The wavy blue and white lines, representing the provinces position between the Rockies and the Pacific
3) and 4) The Union Jack and the crown, both linking BC as a former colony within the British Empire.

Straightforward and distinctive, but not very easy to draw.  I toyed with a number of ideas, including removing the Union Jack, simplifying the sun, and starting from scratch, but none seemed right.  However, I recently stumbled across a site that advocates independence for the Pacific Northwest under the name the Republic of Cascadia (, an intriguing idea to say the least.  The website which is fairly tongue-in-cheek (the Cascadia Defense Force would be made up of 2,000 bigfoots (bigfeet?)) states that they wish to see British Columbia and the states of Washington and Oregon break away, reminiscent of Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia.  What makes the site relevant to this blog was the flag proposed for the future nation:

Their proposal looks really good.  I might take issue with the way the top stripe gets cut off, but straightening the stripes out would make it look an awful lot like the Utah flag I recently proposed.  This flag combines a number of of the symbols of the old BC flag, but in a simplified manor, disposing of the British imagery.  Using this flag as the template, I would only make a few changes:

As you can see, I've kept the basic design, but toned it down a little.  Some of the main elements from the original flag are still present, but the royal symbols have been discarded.  The green is meant to stand for the temperate rainforests of the province, but could also work for the many other vague ideas green tends to indicated on flags (agricultural, prosperity, etc.).  Were I more talented, I would replace the pine cone with something more species specific but I'll leave that to someone who isn't using Paint.