This monstrosity has the feel of an overenthusiastic client repeatedly asking the graphic designer to add things until it’s just an unmanageable clutter. “Can you add a saw? And an oar. And an axe. Don’t forget the boat and the tree. And have the guys stand on some grass. Maybe have them carry the axe and oar that are already covered elsewhere…” Also, the two men are really badly drawn. A truly appalling effort.
Central African Republic
Looking entirely as if it was designed by committee, the Central African Republic abandons classical tri-colour elegance in favour of four bands. Which, frankly doesn’t work. But to compound the error, someone’s gone and put a little yellow star in the top left corner, and a red vertical stripe down the middle. It manages to be both a mess AND completely indistinctive.
It’s not as bad as the Central African Republic’s atrocity, but the Mauritius flag proves once and for all that four stripes of different colours really doesn’t work on a flag. It looks like an e-number riddled layer cake that you’d probably just leave on the side of the plate, claiming you’re too full from the main course.
Let’s face it, all flags with a Union Flag tucked in the corner are bone idle and ugly-looking. Fiji just about gets away with it because the rest of the flag is a jaunty light blue, but Australia and New Zealand’s are full-on abysmal. So which is worst? It has to be Australia for trying to overconceptualise. It would have been ideal if there were six stars in the Southern Cross – one for each state – but there aren’t, so a clunky big extra one goes under the Union Flag.
Putting a red stripe on top of a white stripe is not only phenomenally lazy and dull to look at, it’s not even original. When Indonesia unveiled its yawn-some flag in 1945, it seems so little effort went into it that no-one thought to check whether it’s exactly the same as Monaco’s. If you’re going to nick someone else’s flag, at least pick a good one, like Japan’s or Lebanon’s.
There should be no place for writing on flags – it defeats the whole point of symbolism. And the Saudi flag is the equivalent of a cartoonist writing names on people’s shirts so you can tell who they’re supposed to be. The dull green background doesn’t help either, although using a sword to underline the Arabic inscription saves it from being a total write-off.
Some colour combinations are strong, and stand out well due to the contrasts. Blue, green and yellow is not one of these combinations, and the colours sludge into each other. Brazil and St Vincent and the Grenadines get round this with design gimmicks. But Gabon’s looks insipidly boring.
Rwanda’s is worse, though, as it also employs the awkward top stripe being twice the size of the other two technique that messes up Colombia’s flag. Combining two really bad ideas does not a good flag make.
The outline of the yellow bird under the sun is wasted because you can’t tell it’s supposed to be a bird until you closely inspect the flag. Kazakhstan also makes the mistake – one shared by Belarus – of thinking a column of intricate patterns down the side is a good idea. It might work on, say, a door frame in a palace, but it’s way too fiddly for a flag.
The worst offender for the intricately-patterned column, however, is Turkmenistan. This looks like the offcut of a carpet that wasn’t needed for the floor of the president’s office, but frugality dictated it shouldn’t be wasted so was put on the flag instead. Also, the positioning of the white stars and crescent moon seems entirely arbitrary, and would work better in the top right corner.
The jutting triangle trick – as popularised by Cuba and the Czech Republic, but done especially well by Guyana and East Timor – is a good one. But South Sudan ruins it by going wild with the paint palette. As a general rule of thumb, you need a very good reason to have more than three colours on a flag, and South Sudan goes hog wild with six. The end result is one you’d expect from a parent not having the heart to tell a child: “No.”