Monday, April 30, 2012

New Flag for Haiti

In a recent post over at Create/Recreate - Flags, etc., a blog with a similar purpose to this one and which is currently finishing a critique and improvement of the flags of the Brazilian states, the flag of the state of Rio Grande do Sul was examined:

This flag has the unfortunate attribute of showcasing the state seal, which in turn features the state's flag four times.  I suppose this becomes an infinite regression, since each of those four flags would have the seal on them, which would each have four flags, which each have the seal, etc.  The first thing that came to my mind when I saw this was the flag of Haiti:

As you can see, the coat-of-arms in the center of the flag makes the same mistake Rio Grande do Sul makes, but this time there are six flags instead of four.  Like the old South African flag or the Georgian (US) flag of a few years ago, flag designs which prominently feature flags don't tend to be very successful.

I should reiterate at this point that any critiques I make of the flags of other nations are purely from a design perspective and in no way am I intending to insult or denigrate the ideas those flags may represent for other nations.

The Haitian flag is a nice one overall, and because the coat-of-arms is fairly small proportionally, this flag remains recognizable from a distance.  It is very similar to the flag of Liechtenstein, a problem that was noticed at an early Olympics, but Liechtenstein decided to change their flag to avoid further confusion (they didn't make a big change, just added a crown to the upper-left corner).  The imagery of the coat-of-arms is pretty good, but is also busy with lots of detail.  This is what the coat-of-arms looks like enlarged:

My favorite part of this coat-of-arms is the palm tree in the center, representative of the nation's climate and Caribbean location, which is topped by a Phrygian cap, a symbol (from Ancient Greece) of liberty.  I've mentioned elsewhere how much I love the Phrygian cap as a symbol, but have never seen it utilized successfully on a flag.  It usually shows up on seals as just another detail among many others.  My idea to change the flag was to maintain the tree and cap, but remove the cannons, text, and especially the other flags.  Here is what I came up with:

This flag keeps the red and blue background, as well as the symbolism of the cap and tree.  The palm fronds could be simplified, but I kind of like the little detail that remains.  It reminds me of the flag of South Carolina, which is one of the best American state flags even though the palmetto it features has a fair amount of detail.

Thanks to Leonardo for the inspiration for this post.

One last note on flags that feature flags. I have family in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, a region whose NFL team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  As team names go, I like this one, particularly since pirates are a big part of Tampa's identity (they have an annual event called the Gasparilla Pirate Festival).  However, the team also has a flag which is flown at local businesses and by fans which looks like this:

The flag comes in a variety of shapes and with different background colors, but the common theme is the picture of a flag being the sole feature of the flag.  I suppose without the image, you wouldn't know the flagpole is a sword, but really Tampa?  That can't be the best you can do.  I've also seen flags with just the skull and crossbones on red, but the flags like the one seen above are very, very common.

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Flag for Nebraska

Back in 2001, the North American Vexillological Association conducted a survey (which I have mentioned on this blog in the past) in which they endeavored to rate the flags of the states, provinces, and territories of the USA and Canada.  New Mexico, Texas, Quebec, Maryland, and Alaska made up the top five best designs, while this week's flag, Nebraska's, came in at number 71, second to last:

"If that flag is second to last, which flag was the worst?" I can hear you asking.  Well, the survey was conducted in 2001 and at that time, Georgia was in the middle of a flag transition and had a odd combination of state seal and all the state's previous flags in one design (see my post New Flag for Georgia for more info).  Since then Georgia's flag as changed and while it still isn't in the top 10 or 20, it is definitely better than last place.  The only conclusion I can draw is that Nebraska now holds the secure spot as being the worst flag in the USA and Canada.

I suppose I should tread lightly in regards to Nebraska's flag, for in doing research for this post I found the official information on the flag provided by the government of the state.  On Nebraska's Secretary of State page, it said "State law says no part of the state flag is to be used as a business advertisement or trademark, and insulting the flag is forbidden."  I have no intentions of trademarking this design, but it is possible I'll be insulting it as we go.

This flag is awful and the vexillology survey got it right. It seems like Nebraska was trying to follow the rule of having few, contrasting colors, but ignored the idea of keeping the imagery simple and concise.  The end result of course is the mess seen above. 

Honestly, I don't see anything worth keeping in this flag.  Even the imagery used in the seal, ignoring how fussy and confusing it is, could be representative of almost anywhere (generic mountains, a river, fields, etc.).  In the end I decided to maintain the shades of blue and the yellow used in the seal and discarding everything else.  I used the natural monument Chimney Rock as the basis for a new design as it is unique to the state and served as an important landmark for several of the trails used by American settlers to travel west, primarily to Oregon, California, and Utah.  Here is what I came up with:

Chimney Rock is balanced by a Zia sun symbol (also used on the New Mexico flag and seen on my proposal for a new Wisconsin flag) in the upper right in a design reminiscent of what was used on Nebraska's state quarter back in 2006:

If I had any artistic ability, I would have tried to include the image of the covered wagon, but I'll leave that to people who are using something more precise than MS Paint.

A quick note on the Zia sun symbol.  The Zia tribe is located in New Mexico, but that symbol has been found on flags in Wisconsin and Kansas, so I thought Nebraska (conveniently located between Wisconsin and Kansas) could use it as well.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Progress So Far

In case anyone is interested, I wanted to post a quick entry on the progress I've made since beginning this blog:

If the state/province is green, it means there is a blog post for that flag.  I could post a map of the Australian states too, but it would just be solid green (except for the ACT).  As you can see, there are only six states left to do, though I'll admit there are a few I have done that are pretty awful and so they deserve another look.  With the exception of Virginia, the remaining states have not been filled in because it has been tough coming up with decent design ideas.  Virginia is the special case as it is my home state and I really want to get that flag right.  I'm on my 5th design so far, and I'm just not happy with it yet.

At any rate, these are the states you have to look forward to in the coming weeks.  After I finish the US (though probably before) I think I'll move on to the flags of the various British territories, most of which are textbook examples of monotonous.

As I've been working on this blog, I've also tried to keep up with all the countries from which someone has visited the site:

The vast majority of visits have come from Canada, the USA, and Australia, in that order.  Not very surprising, since I've devoted time to the flags of each of those countries.  The one that shocked me the most though was early last month when I got a number of hits from Syria.  I'm not sure how interesting the conversations on this blog can be to someone in Syria, but I doubt anything on this site is a threat to the Assad regime.  Not directly related to the flags, but I thought it was neat how even an obscure subject like this can be found by people all over the globe.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Flag for North Dakota

Let's hope my attempt at a new North Dakotan flag turns out better than the one I did for South Dakota.  Here's what we have to work with:

This is yet another example of a seal and blue flag, but at least this one has a neat eagle.  The eagle is way too detailed, the plus side being that it isn't surrounded by superfluous stuff like most state seals.  For the Louisiana flag, which also prominently features a large bird, my main change was to simplify the creature to make it less fussy.  I considered doing that with this flag, but didn't want to repeat myself.

My next idea was a wood chipper on a white and red background, but I doubt North Dakota wants that to be the new symbol of the state.  Plus, it would be too regional, and I want to represent more than just Fargo.

North Dakota doesn't have much flag history.  The current design was adopted in 1911 and was based on a regimental banner carried by North Dakotan soldiers in the Spanish-American War.  The only change they made when it was officially adopted was the addition of the banner along the bottom.  In recent months, there was an attempt to change the flag to a much simpler design, but I've been unable to find that news story again.  If I remember correctly, it was a single large star in yellow and blue, but I may not have that right.  I know it didn't get through the legislature though.  (It might have been South Dakota actually, which would be embarrassing for me)
EDIT: The proposal I was thinking of was South Dakota, thanks Leonardo, and my bad.

At any rate, I wouldn't want to use that design anyway, as I do try to be original in my suggestions.  They aren't always good, but I try not to (overtly) copy others.  In that spirit, I decided to take my inspiration from a flag that I'm sure few outside of North Dakota would recognize (and probably not too many inside if we're being honest), the standard of the Governor of North Dakota:

This flag, even with all the tiny details, is better than North Dakota's current flag.  Green is not a common background color in the US, which I think is a shame, but this flag makes good use of it.  The text will have to go, as will the bow and arrows at the top, but in the end I didn't make as many changes as you might expect:

I've altered the dimensions of the flag, making it less long and narrow, and removed the detail I mentioned above.  I also rotated the arrowhead, so that it is now pointing north, for obvious reasons.  North Dakota has a much better connection to its Native American heritage than many other states and the use of the arrowhead reflects that. 

As for the four stars, I decided to justify them as representing the four corners of the state.  I was initially pleased because I thought North Dakota was the 40th state and that only having four stars could represent that as well, but when I double-checked my dates, I found it was the 39th, so no help there.  I do not know what they stood for on the original governor's flag, but they seem to show up on many governors' flag across the country, so maybe they don't belong here at all.  Regardless, I decided to keep them, mostly because I thought it looked  little boring with just the arrowhead.

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Flag for Nevada

Nevada, home of deserts, Las Vegas, and Area 51 (which probably doesn't have aliens, my sole reason being that if the government can't cover up a break in at a hotel, I doubt they could hid a spaceship for this long).  The flag for this state should be interesting and dynamic, but sadly, this is not the case:

Nevada's flag is blue.  There is a little seal in the corner to keep it from being a blue version of Libya's old flag, but it still isn't very interesting.  I like the phrase "Battle Born" (used because Nevada became a state during the Civil War), but that doesn't mean it belongs on the flag.  This flag was also designed in a contest, and unlike Alaska, this contest didn't turn out so well.  Luckily, Nevada had another flag back at the beginning of the 20th century, so let's take a look:

I like this flag better than the current one, but we would need to do something about the text.  Even though the key feature of this flag is words, I toyed with the idea of leaving it as is.  It makes a very simple statement "We are Nevada. We have silver and gold.  That is all."  It was referring to the rich mineral wealth of the state, but it could be interpreted today to be a reference to casinos as well.  Eventually, I decided to use the flag as a template and this is the result:

Using the color scheme the flag already had, I turned the word "Silver" into a silver stripe, the word "Gold" into a gold stripe, and removed the word "Nevada" completely.  I re-centered the stars, and as there are 36 and Nevada was the 36th state, I didn't think any further changes were necessary.