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Flags made in Competitions

Last modified: 2016-03-30 by rob raeside
Keywords: competition | alaska | antigua and barbuda | bahamas | barbados | greenland | guyana | kiribati | marshall islands | nauru | papua new guinea | st. christopher and nevis | nunavut |
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Countries whose Flags Came Out of Design Competition

Some countries and states whose flags came out of design competitions include (this is a very non-exhaustive list):

Also, the flags of many U.S. States came out of competitions. I don't, though, have the books in front of me with which to come up with a list.
Perry Dane, 24 July 1995

I'm not sure that Dr. Whitney Smith's design of the Guyanese flag counts as a competition winner, since he may have designed it as a commercially commissioned exercise, which is not quite the same thing. Perhaps someone could clarify the circumstances.

It's probably impossible to provide a definitive answer - several states approaching independence have run flag competitions, but these are usually informal or advisory. For example, pre-independence Namibia ran a competition and I believe certain elements in the entries were incorporated into the new national flag, which was finalized by a state committee. So while the competition might be said to have influenced the flag it would be difficult to say that any one entry was the 'winner' because the final flag was a composite. South Africa also saw several informal competitions when planning its post-apartheid flag. Again, no one design emerged as the winner.
Stuart Notholt, 27 July 1995

The Best Process for Designing a Flag

What's the best process for designing a flag that "works" aesthetically, emotionally, and politically? Can the process of flag design itself bring a community together without exposing its deepest divisions?
Perry Dane, 24 July 1995

That question was asked here quite a bit while the new flag debate was going on (it's subsided a bit recently, by the way). The general suggestions seemed to be:

  1. find a national symbol that is not disputed or culturally insensitive (in New Zealand, the Southern Cross, the Kiwi - bird, not fruit - or the Fern Leaf).
  2. find colours that are traditional colours, preferably of both the native race(s) and of the colonising Europeans. (In New Zealand, these are Red/white/black and Red/White/Blue respectively).
  3. symbolically represent your country's features, resources or location.

Note that many of the flags that have won design competitions have stressed the nation's location (e.g., Nauru, a small island below the equator), racial mix (e.g., Guyana), or some representative feature associated with the land (e.g., Alaska's latitude).

Thus, for example, one of the alternative New Zealand flags I sent to the list a few months back looked like the Canadian flag, but was Blue, White, Blue with a black fern leaf in the centre. This was symbolic in a multitude of ways: we are like Canada, a commonwealth member proud of our identity. We are represented by the fern leaf. We are an island nation in the middle of the ocean (white between blue). We have two main races (black on white). The blue and white come from the British flag, the black and white from traditional Maori colours. It has also been suggested that the white should be bordered in red, the third colour in both of these traditional sets of three. The blue-white-blue can also represent the sea, mountains and sky (although this would make more sense if the stripes were horizontal).

As to the aesthetics of such a flag… that is up to the designer.
James Dignan, 25 July 1995