Sunday, 19 February 2017

Nigel Johnston's NI flag

Apologise for the lack of activity at the moment I am currently very busy, but I have material for a few posts waiting which I will try to get up when I can.
About a year ago Nigel Johnston posted a design on the New Flag for Northern Ireland facebook page. It was a green/blue bicolour with six hexagons in the middle. It is a most interesting design certainly one of my favourites, but there are a few aspects I don't quite like about it.
Northern Ireland flag proposal by Nigel Johnston

  1. It ignores the rule of tincture. Although this is a rule of heraldry rather than vexillology, it is generally considered good flag design practice to observe this rule. (although for all the rules of flag design there are example of flags that break them and still manage to be rather good flags). 
  2. It is rather cooperate looking, This is a major one, the design has the feel of a logo rather than a national flag, which is a major flaw as it is a really clever combination of shapes and colours. 
however despite that I think this is fixable.
I played with it a little bit, and decided to add a white dividing line between the green and blue. I also changed the colour of the hexagons so that they reverse the colours of the field. i.e green on blue and blue on green, with the centre ones being divided in the middle. 
I also coloured the centre star white to make it stand out a little more and added a red hand of Ulster in the middle. 
However in the spirit of Johnston's original flag I refrained from using the traditional heraldic red hand and opted instead for a red hand print, like a child's hand. This was idea I think was first voiced by Dr Dominic Bryan for his own proposal in 2010, and I think it's a good twist for a traditional symbol on a modernist mix of colours and shapes. As Well as be a recognisable regional symbol it is also a great way to symbolise the future. 
Lastly I moved the charge off centre towards the hoist.
I admit it still has a little bit of that corporate feel about it, but that is probably unpreventable when not using traditional heraldic symbols. I do think however that by taking the above mentioned steps that the corporateness of it is greatly reduced and it has more of a flag like feeling. 
Of course the original symbolism of Nigel Johnston's flag was the star representing the six NI counties and the hexagons reflective of the Giant's Causeway, which is maintained.
The colours were reflective of those descended from Gaelic Irish roots and agriculture (green) and the social and cultural connections between Northern Ireland and Scotland and the sea (blue). 
while these are all good things to symbolise I feel that trying to symbolise two communities by colours is doomed to failure, as by the very nature of flags one will always be seen to be the more senior. Plus by moving the dividing line off centre greater emphasis is put on blue which could be perceived to be more in favour of those of Scottish decent. 
I think therefore it would be better to state that both green and blue are traditional colour historically associated with not just Northern Ireland but the island of Ireland in general. In fact green, white and blue are popular colours for NI international football supporters and are also used by other international sports teams both all island and Northern Ireland specific. 
The main purpose of moving the charge of the flag off centre is actually a little bit of an optical illusion, as when the flag is flying it gives the impression of the charge being centred, and it is also more easy to identify when the flag is at rest on a pole (when no wind is blowing):
As this doctored picture of the NI Assembly building shows:
It is important to remember that flags are moving 3D objects and not static 2D images on a screen or page, They also have to be recognisable at a distance. These is I think where Mr Johnston's original proposal let down. However it was still an excellent design with potential, which I hope with my alternate adjustments can be exploited. 

1 comment:

  1. This design has some design similarity to our Northern Territory flag eg. bi-colour and multi petalled stylised flower. I quite like it - although I prefer the simple flax flower design I've seen elsewhere. The problem with acceptable divided community flags is you often end up with something non descript eg. Cyprus, the first Bosnian flag and more recently Kosovo.