Yesterday, I did a post and wee graphic about proportions of flags, and how when designers need to use a lot of flags (like next to World Cup games and tables), the designers, understandably, standardise the flag proportions. This inevitably creates a wrong Switzerland flag.
After putting the post up, Twitter user @AMR_MN made a good point:
@flipflopflying I'm surprised none of those countries are that close to the Golden Ratio. 5:8 would be very close.
— AMR (@AMR_MN) June 11, 2014
Here’s that graphic again, with the golden ratio marked as a black line:
This got me thinking. At the World Cup, the closest flag ratios to the golden ratio (1:1.618) are those of Costa Rica, England, and Germany which have a 1:1.666 ratio. The only nation’s flag that has the golden 1:1.618 ratio is the flag of Togo.
So I decided to re-jig some flags to be golden rectangles. First thing to note was it was a thoroughly absorbing exercise. It’s great to look at flag design and see how changing the ratio is a big step, cos you are messing with things that the original designers deemed important. So at this point I should note this is not me trying to improve on flag design. I’m just tweaking the flags so they are golden rectangles.
I didn’t look at every flag. I looked at a selection that cover most of the basic flag designs. A few tribands, vertical and horizontal, a Scandanavian cross, and some others. I wanted to not just look at the easy-to-manipulate flags. In that sense, the most difficult ones were the British, Australian, and American flags. In reality, unless you’ve got an extensive knowledge of flags, you probably wouldn’t even notice that the tweaks had occurred.
Some flags were a lot easier than others. Germany, for example, was easy. It’s close already, only being 0.048 away. Sweden, too, which is 1:1.6.
Others, it was just a matter of keeping the proportions of the flag parts as close as possible. Here, the Canada flag and Mexico flags, vertical tribands with a thingy in the middle, I kept the triband proportions the same, and re-sized the centre bits so they were the same proportional size horizontally. Same with the rhombus on Brazil’s flag. Israel and Switzerland were relatively simple, too: just adding space at the edges and extending the colours. The Switzerland flag now feels wrong. The Swiss flag’s squareness seems such a huge part of the flag.
Portugal wasn’t too hard. The green bit is two-fifths of the width in the actual flag. I kept that proportion and re-sized the coat of arms and centred it where the green and red meet. With the United States flag, there’s a few more changes that are needed. The blue starry bit is two-fifths of the width and seven red and white stripes deep. Not rocket surgery, but when you do that re-jiggery, you need to re-space the stars within the blue canton. Such stuff makes me nervous. You are messing with things that people view as important. But, the US flag has changed so many times over the country’s history, if such a thing as a golden rectangle re-design were to happen, it’s an issue that would need addressing. So, USA, I’ve dang well gone and addressed it.
With flags that have diagonal elements, you have to fundamentally alter the flag. The flag of Trinidad and Tobago has a band where the top left of the band begins in the top left corner, and the bottom right edge of the band ends in the bottom right corner. The angle of the band only changes by a couple of degrees, but a couple of degrees is a couple of degrees. Flags with chevrons, like Cuba, change too. The triangle-y bit has a shorter peak bit poking out into the bands. Of all the golden triangle re-designs, this is the style of flag that suffers the most, I think.
Just a couple more, both of which feature the UK’s Union Flag: the United Kingdom, obvs, and Australia. Leaving aside the discussion of whether Australia should get rid of their Britty flag and have a properly Australian one, these re-jigs were by far the trickiest. And kinda the most fun to get my head around. I don’t wanna underestimate your flag knowledge, but just in case you don’t know, the UK’s flag is kind of a composite of three flags, an English one, a Scottish one, and a Northern Irish one. The Welsh, you ask? Well, the flag overlords of the UK deemed them fuck-off-able. Changing the British flag from a ratio of 1:2 to 1:1.618 means changing angles like with the Cuba chevron. Not too tough with the English part (the red symmetrical cross), but tougher with the Scottish (a blue and white saltire) and Northern Irish (a white and red saltire) bits. To have the Northern Irish red diagonal stripes correctly touching the corners of the flag, I had to approximate the proportions. On the real flag, the white and red diagonal parts are split into six equal imaginary stripes. In the top left quarter, for example, going from left to right, it’s one-sixth white, two-sixths red, and three more sixths white. Mine isn’t perfectly correct. But it’s close-ish.
The Australian flag has the British flag taking up the whole of the upper hoist quarter, so that’s that sorted. The rest of it messes up a bit. I kept the proportional size of the stars the same and the proportional placement the same, but their placement ends up looking different in the fly half of the flag. Because of the thinner horizontal size of the flag, those stars all look a bit more squished. I imagine, should a golden rectangle version of this flag ever be done, the size of the stars may be altered so that the relatively placement of the stars is the same as the current flag.
Anyway, that was a fun way to kill a couple of hours.
And while we’re on the topic of flags, Scotland is voting on independence on September 18th this year. Should they leave the United Kingdom, I think we, the British, should have a new flag. It’d be wrong to keep the Scottish part if they are not a part of the UK. Plus, now’s a good chance to give Wales some flag presence. This is what I’d do: simply swap the blue for green. It’d be fun to have a new colour in there. Plus, y’know, red, white, and blue… yawn. 26 countries have red, white, and blue flags; only nine have red, white, and green flags. Come on, Queenie, you know it makes sense. (More post-Scotland flag designs here.)
More flag factz:
88 sovereign states have flags with a 2:3 ratio. 54 states have a 1:2 ratio flags. That’s 142 of the 195 countries. Kinda nuts. In my opinion, 1:2 is an ugly ratio.
Aside from Switzerland, Vatican City is the only other 1:1 flag.
Nepal’s flag is bonkers. Two triangles on top of each other, with a 0.820 ratio.
The only flag with a ratio longer that 1:2 is Qatar’s, a mammoth 1:2.545. Bully for them, eh? Let’s hope they get stripped of their World Cup and have to take solace in having a fancy flag.
All original flags from Wikipedia.