Why the new NZ Flag was a creative failure

This week New Zealanders went to vote for a new flag or keep the existing flag. The public ended up voting for the existing flag but until the result was known, I had been on tenterhooks, hoping that my fellow Kiwis would see sense. Watching the referendum process unfold had been painful over the past 12 months. The open call for designs was romantically democratic but would you choose anyone other than a plumber to fix your sink? The panel who decided the shortlist did not include any designers. Then we, the people, were forced to choose one terrible design from a shortlist of terrible designs. I wrote the post below on the eve of the voting deadline.
Full disclosure: I HATE the proposed alternative design. And these are words from a graphic designer who actually has a Visual Arts degree, which is more than can be said for Mr Lockwood who looks as though he taught himself how to design one rainy weekend with free software.
Even before designs are created, I ask my clients why do they need a design, what are they looking for, what is it they are trying to say to the world? I’m puzzled why we need a new flag right now. We are not a new republic, we still are part of the Commonwealth and presently enjoy those links (under 30s can work in the UK). When the day comes, and it probably will, when the Queen’s head is off our currency, then we can think about taking the Union Jack off our flag.
Even if we get past that there is no logical reason to have new flag now, I cannot get past that the alternative design is just plain ugly. If John Key is sick of being confused with the Australian flag then it’ll be worse to be known as the Australians’ frumpier cousin.
The fern with its clunky leaves isn’t elegant and even a logo is more refined (the All Blacks logo to be exact). Look at the colours – the black bit from the All Blacks flag wasn’t brave enough to march over the space so there’s a bit of the old blue in there…it’s a compromise of not being able to decide who it is. A flag’s purpose is to represent and lead the way, and there’s nothing brave or inspirational about this alternative flag.
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