desktop’s 5: iconic national flag redesigns

Published:  December 1, 2015
Tara Watson

As New Zealanders submit their ballots before 11 December to decide which of five new flag designs best represents their country, we take a look at some of the more successful outings in flag redesign. Through examining vexillology (the study of flags) the most popular flag designs serve a specific purpose through uncomplicated simplified design, using meaningful symbolism and basic colours that need to translate to different forms such as fashion i.e sports team representation. Ultimately the design should be distinctive.


Failing these principles can lead to a flag that becomes an international inside joke, this is typified in Libya’s flag prior to 2011 – an uninspiring plain green banner.

The following are the most iconic flag redesigns, that excel in their country’s national branding; symbolic of how the nation approaches its own design.

New Zealand Flag options- NZ Gov new

New Zealand

One of the five above options will possibly be New Zealand’s new flag design. The current design is a defaced Blue Ensign with the Union Flag in the canton, and four red stars representing the asterism within the constellation of Crux, the Southern Cross. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has said that the current flag is too similar to Australia and no longer represents modern New Zealand.

Three of the proposed flags feature the fern – an unofficial but frequently seen symbol for New Zealanders, with Air New Zealand and sports team the All Blacks using the emblem. The fourth design features a curving Koru Maori emblem and the fifth is a white chevron with red, black and blue triangles. Key initially advocated for a silver fern on a black background, but this was eventually rejected as the design was later likened to the widely recognised banner of the Islamic State.

An October poll indicated that the white fern on a red and blue background design by Kyle Lockwood will win out of the five contenders. It does tick a lot of boxes:  simplistic, attractive, symbolic and with complimentary colours to the current flag. The winning flag will go head-to-head with the current flag next year, however 65 percent of New Zealanders have stated in a poll that they would prefer to keep their current flag, so the whole redesign process could prove to be fruitless.


Canada: Past Flag


Canada: Present Flag


The redesign of Canada’s flag is widely considered the most successful. To replace the union flag, the adopted flag design by George Stanley was based on the banner of the Royal Military College of Canada and includes a red field with a white square at its centre and in the middle features a stylized, red, 11-pointed Canadian maple leaf.

The red and white used is consistent with the national colours of Canada since 1921, red is symbolic of England and white of France; paying homage to Canada’s colonial foundations.

The present flag is now celebrated as an international symbol of Canada, seen to represent freedom, equality and peace; all the values that are synonymous with the great north.

South Africa: Past Flag

South Africa: Past Flag

South Africa: Present Flag

South Africa: Present Flag

South Africa

Post-apartheid South Africa in 1994 adopted a different flag at the beginning of the general election and Nelson Mandela’s inauguration to represent the new democracy and the end of white-supremacy in the country. The new national flag was designed by Frederick Brownell and combined the black, green and yellow of the banner of the African National Congress and the red, white and blue from the old Transvaal vierkleur, the Dutch tricolour and the British Union flag.

A nationwide public competition was held in 1993 to decide on the design, with the National Symbols Commission receiving more then 7,000 designs. Yet none of the flags submitted by the public were supported by the committee charged to select the final design.

The current flag was first commissioned only as an interim flag and was decided upon at the very last minute but soon became nationally accepted, and remains an inclusive symbol in keeping with South Africa’s move towards reconciliation.

Georgia: Past Flag

Georgia: Past Flag

Georgia: Present Flag

Georgia: Present Flag


The nation of Georgia adopted a redesigned flag in 2004, a design originally used by the Georgian patriotic movement following the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. The design is known as ‘the Georgian historical national flag’.

The flag displays a red-on-white Jerusalem cross, originally the flag of Tblisi in a 14th-century map, dating back to the height of the medieval kingdom of Georgia’s power, and is recognised as a symbol of national pride.

The previous flag in wine-colour with white/black lines was to represent the nations peaceful times contrasted with the turbulent times under Russian rule.  However, Georgians later decided they did not want their flag to represent a time of warfare.

Myanmar: Past Flag

Myanmar: Past Flag

Myanmar: Present Flag

Myanmar: Present Flag


The flag of Myanmar was officially adopted in 2010 as part of the renaming of the country from Burma, laid out in the 2008 changes in the constitution.

The design of the flag has three horizontal stripes of yellow, green and red with a five-pointed white star in the middle. The yellow represents solidarity; the green symbolises peace, tranquility and lush greenery; the red represents courage and determination and the white star symbolised the Union of Burma in the canton of its flag.

The flag design however, remains starkly similar to the flags for Lithuania, Ghana and Senegal. As part of the adoption of the new flag in 2008, orders were handed out to ensure all old flags were burned.


Images: Wikipedia Commons and the New Zealand Government

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *