This year, New Zealand has made it a priority to find a new flag. The current design, the nation argues, is emblematic of colonial Britain due to its prominent Union Jack. But instead of commissioning professional designers, the country invited its citizens to directly engage with the government and submit their own design for consideration. Getting people to participate was a success, with over 10,000 designs submitted, which were whittled down to a longlist of 40 designs and further condensed into a shortlist of four.
The public was not pleased with the results and rightly complained that there wasn’t enough variety in the options. Three of them used the silver fern leaf, a strong national symbol, and the other was based on a Maori koru, which stands for new life, growth, strength, and peace. After campaigning for Aaron Dustin’s “Red Peak” design, the people got their wish. Over 50,000 people signed a petition to resurrect the design, presented it to Parliament, and now the flag is officially part of the shortlist.
A Guardian story quoted Prime Minister John Key saying, “In the end, I just didn’t want people playing games … In the end, I’m not wanting to be the one that stands in the way of people having some choice.”
While some have criticized the design, saying that the triangle is a Nazi symbol, Dustin based the chevron and triangle motif off of tāniko weaving patterns, abstractions of the landscape, and folklore. “The shapes and color positioning suggest a landscape of alpine ranges, red earth, and black sky, which refers to the Maori mythology of Rangi & Papa,” Dustin writes on his website.
The design on this flag has as much symbolism as the others, but it has its advantages over the other four–its design will be legible when viewed from afar and works well in a variety of contexts, such as visual branding or apparel.
But the contest isn’t over yet. The next referendum for late 2015 will narrow down the five options to one, which will go head-to-head with the existing design in early 2016.