Dear John, we want better flag choices

To John Key and the NZ government:

We call on you to revisit the proposed flag designs, get at least one designer involved in the selection panel and take feedback from the public to decide on the final four flags before going to an expensive referendum.

If you like, we can even run this process for you at a fraction of the cost, so you can redirect the remaining funds to alleviating child poverty, fixing the housing crisis or compensating families of the Pike River Mine victims.

Will you sign?

10,000 signatures

Earlier in the year, the Designers Institute of New Zealand worked with the Flag Consideration Committee to create the video above outlining the five principles of design and how they can be applied to flags. Sadly, it seems the Flag Consideration Committee lost sight of these principles along the way.

The four designs that could replace New Zealand's current national flag have been revealed and from what we have observed online, ActionStation members are either:

A) Unhappy with the final four flag designs,

B) Irked that there is an expensive and ill-timed flag referendum in the first place or,

C) Feeling like the whole process has been a farce.

We believe there has been a massive missed opportunity for innovative democracy and good design to take place. Instead we’ve had an overpriced branding exercise manufactured to win over public opinion, combined with a design-by-committee process. In other words, the worst of both worlds when we could have had the best of them all.

In his speech before the final four flag alternatives were shown, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English noted that flag debate had been "overwhelmingly driven by social media". There is no reason that digital outreach could have been much more effectively utilised to gather public opinion and input in the selection of the final four designs.

Here are our reasons for this Open Letter:

1. There is not enough choice in the final four designs, especially given the large number of diverse flag submissions

The selection in the final four flags is not diverse enough. Three ferns and one koru is not choice. Two of the designs have only slight colour variation between them. This hardly qualifies as a different design or a valid alternative choice.

"A great flag should be distinctive and so simple it can be drawn by a child from memory."  

Open Letter from the Flag Selection Panel

Would the final four designs even pass that test?

2. There weren’t any designers on the Flag Consideration Committee

Designers have training, expertise and an informed opinion on what constitutes good design. At least one designer should have been on the panel

“Imagine if we were having this discussion about about changing the national anthem. It would be pretty bizarre if the panel didn’t include a single musician right?”

Toby Morris, Auckland Illustrator: Flagpole Blues.

3. The process has been flawed

To date this over-priced process has failed to meet its own objectives - both in terms of good design principles and meaningful public participation. Why? Because the Government hasn’t listened to genuine public concerns, whether about the lack of designers on the committee or the structure of the referendum process.

At the same time, the lack of opportunity for New Zealanders to have their say on other important issues, like the TPPA, has left many people disinclined to engage in the flag redesign process full-stop.

Before we embark on an expensive referendum process - let’s go back a step - take on board the advice of New Zealand’s best designers and the views of the public - and come back with four designs that are more diverse, and more inspiring, options for our new flag.

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