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Black and white flag would be a mistake

January 30, 2014

Black and white flag would be a mistake

A branding expert from Massey University has welcomed the Prime Minister raising the issue of New Zealand’s flag, but says we should not race to adopt a silver fern on a black background.

“We need a flag that draws attention when people are glancing our way. That requires colour, rather than being black-and-white,” says Professor Malcolm Wright, deputy head of Massey’s College of Business.

“Black-and-white works for Kiwis because it looms large in our consciousness, but that is unlikely to be the case for people from other countries. It’s not widely used commercially – just google ‘black-and-white logos’ and see if you like the results.”

Professor Wright says New Zealand’s current flag is a major branding problem and, while no one would suggest a flag should be chosen for purely expedient reasons, it “is in effect our national logo and should be distinctive and reflect New Zealand values and images”.

“Unfortunately the New Zealand flag is not unique. Compare it to the Stars and Stripes or the Maple Leaf. Our current flag simply says we are one of several ex-British colonies, so I agree with the Prime Minister that is it time for a change.”

Professor Wright recommends using a single symbol that reflects New Zealanders’ own sense of identity, but not restricting the flag to a monochrome colour scheme.

“My recommendation would be for a single symbol, whether it be the Southern Cross, the silver fern or some kind of koru,” he says. “Using multiple symbols confuses people – it creates competing activation in memory networks, making it less likely that processing takes place.”

He believes the Māori Tino Rangatiratanga and Hundertwasser flags provide the right sort of inspiration.

“Both these flags are distinctive and contain simple yet strong symbolism – but, again, I don’t think the colours are right. We need richer colours that are more likely to draw attention and provide rich stimuli to encourage cognitive engagement, such as the green of our forests or the blue of our skies.

“That’s not all that hard so, ideally, we should design several good possibilities that meet these criteria, have widespread discussion about them, and present them in a referendum.”


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