The power of symbols is difficult to overstate. And perhaps no symbol is more powerful than national flags, which attempt to convey a shared culture, heritage, and way of life. And yet, for all the talk of how we live in a globalized world, how interconnected all of our lives are, and our perpetual fascination with the search for extraterrestrial life, it’s striking that we don’t have a flag that represents the entire planet.
“I have wondered for a long time why Earth doesn’t have a flag,” says Oskar Pernefeldt, a student at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, Sweden. “We have a long tradition of signaling where we come from on ships at sea. But now we sail in different waters–that is, in space. Therefore it would be relevant for us to signal from what planet we come from.”
For his graduation project, Pernefeldt decided to take it upon himself to design a flag for Planet Earth. The design incorporates visual elements that express elements common to everyone on Earth. A blue background represents the blue planet’s water. Seven interlocking rings, inspired by the Olympics logo, are arranged as a flower in the center.
“The rings are formed as a flower to represent life on Earth,” says Pernefeldt. “And the rings are linked together to show that all life is interconnected in one way or another.
Originally, Pernefeldt imagined the seven rings representing Earth’s seven continents. But he says he’s shunned that representation because he wants the flag to last for thousands of years. And, just like Pluto is no longer a planet, we might eventually decide that Europe and Asia aren’t actually separate continents. And there’s always the possibility that climate change or geoengineering could radically remake the surface of the planet so that we have many more continents.
The project is formulated as an official proposal, though Pernefeldt acknowledges that there isn’t exactly a singular “client” he can propose the design to. The United Nations might be the closest thing, but there isn’t exactly a process in place for that. Not to mention the UN already has its own flag, though Pernefeldt doesn’t believe it fills the role of a planetary flag.
“The UN is an organization on Earth, not the planet itself,” he says. “We need a flag that can signal to a stranger in space where you come from.”