The New Zealand flag referendum is under way and people are spoiling their votes — due to suggestion on social media — like bloody idiots.
As a designer, I feel the way the entire flag change has been addressed is simply abysmal. We’ve had:
- Non-designers designing flags.
- Non-designers as judge panellists to short-list flag options.
- Non-designers ranking the flag options.
It reeks of design contest dynamic, where the client is asked “do you like them”, and “which one do you like the look of most”. Have no doubt that that is what people will be basing their judgements on — subjective personal appeal. Candid street interviews suggest this when respondents literally answer, “well, I like the look of this one”. Personal appeal doesn’t always constitute good design, and it is unfair how certain options have been marketed with celebrity endorsement.
However, please don’t spoil your vote in the first part of the flag referendum. You are not proving anything. You will just be supporting the most popular vote. You will have the opportunity to vote in favour of keeping the current flag in part two of the referendum.
I understand the informal votes stem from good intentions, but they are misplaced. I urge you to consider part two. What if the current flag doesn’t win a majority vote? Your preference of alternate flag design will not be included if you did not vote properly in the first round. (Please don’t let the fern-junkies win).
If you think the flag change debacle is an embarrassment, yes it is, but we are committed to seeing it through now. So we need to act on this opportunity maturely, and have the foresight to realise the even larger embarrassment and national blunder it will be if we end up with a bad flag (of which the risk is high at 4 of 5 new designs). A bad flag that will represent us for decades to come. I don’t want it to be because people turned out to vote for the pretty fern that was marketed to them, and because others failed to think through the repercussions of their “voting strategy”.
I will be ranking the Red Peak first. It already has a history, as the people fought for its inclusion in the referendum to begin with. It’s heartening to finally see it here in print. It’s a great, open-ended design that everyone can find meaning in. Or, is it true we’ve been dumbed down to choosing the prettiest picture?