What if Twitter had been around in 1776 when the Founding Fathers asked Betsy Ross to craft a new banner for the fledgling United States? @BetsyRoss tweets, “Working on new flag design. What R UR thoughts?” I’m betting we would have had some interesting designs plastered all over Ye Olde Instagram and Tumblr. Well, today New Zealand is taking that very endeavor online by holding a competition, in hopes of replacing its 113 year-old flag. The current design went into use in 1902 and now the country is considering replacing it with something more modern and meaningful.
The government started this project by taking a poll, asking what New Zealand stands for, with answers such as freedom, equality, and history ranking high. The contest was then open for everyone to submit and share flag designs. The entire process is being overseen by a diverse panel with such members as former mayors, Olympians, military personnel, and pro soccer coaches as well as CEOs, academics, and flag historians. Oddly lacking is a designer or someone from the artistic or creative professions. The government’s website does feature a short—and I thought, very informative—video from the New Zealand Design Institute on what makes a good flag design.
With more than 10,000 designs submitted, the panel recently released a longlist of 40 designs, which will be culled to a shortlist of four by September. The recurring themes included the southern cross (of four stars) featured on the current flag, the iconic silver fern, and Māori symbols and in color palettes of red, black, and grey or red, white, blue, and black. Some of the cleanest most striking designs featured green and black—strong colors in the history of New Zealand—and a step away from the colors of Britain’s Union Jack. A referendum will be held this winter to choose a design from the shortlist, then another referendum next spring will allow the people to decide whether to use the new design, or to keep the familiar 1902 flag.