Dancing with the stars — New Zealand’s Flag Colouring Competition…


A comment by Brian Richards – a brand strategist with career-supporting credentials:

I’ve watched from the wings and resisted to comment to this point, in that like every proud New Zealander, who am I to pontificate when changing the flag is everyone’s business. What will be will be of course will be, and as the saying goes we get the design we deserve, particularly when it becomes the current colouring competition we are going through, managed and judged by retired All Blacks, Advertising Executives, Reality TV entrepreneurs and token citizens.

The final 40 as picked by the Flag Consideration Panel

The final 40 as picked by the Flag Consideration Panel

This has now become an electoral process of the inexperienced eye judging the many to a point of “mediocrity” where you throwthe final lineup to everyone, because no one wants to take the rap. It’s how Auckland botched its new Town Hall and Te Papa with all our precious Taonga ended up looking like a Woolstore of old on Wellington’s beautiful harbour’s edge. New Zealand in its 1200 years of human settlement has virtually no lasting man made structures, emblems, icons, effigies or the like that have any significance on the world stage.

This has now become an electoral process of the inexperienced eye judging the many to a point of “mediocrity”

We didn’t design the kiwi bird or the silver fern, nature did it brilliantly. And so it seems whenever we get involved beyond our beautiful backdrop we seem to screw up, with our endless committees out there scything any overgrown poppies. Perhaps we all think we are designers and should have a say. At least our Aussie mates decided they were not and commissioned someone who knew something, to design them a globally iconic Sydney Opera House not conceived by a committee.

Sydney Opera House — Not conceived by a committee

Sydney Opera House — Not conceived by a committee

We have a Government agency initiative called Better-by-Design, Institutes of Design and Architecture, with eminently qualified members better experienced to judge and decide these things. Their silence surprises me and as the political spin marches us all on to the big night, it feels like some Dancing with the Stars event with our PM as the MC on the mike under the mirror ball. Of the $26 million being spent on the communications campaign, $17 million is being spent on postage to reach every nook and Granny in this little nation. A brilliant revenue earner for New Zealand Post.

Michaelangelo wasn’t into surveys across the whole of Tuscany. He was commissioned by a favoured few with taste I imagine and we’ve been grateful for the discernment ever since. With over 30 years experience as a brand strategists advising many Companies & Government agencies here and abroad I can say hand on heart I have never designed anything myself in defferrence to my esteemed design colleagues whom I’ve worked alongside respecting their craft over these many years.

When the ‘why’ is discovered and agreed the designers and storytellers work their magic and deliver the ‘what’

My job as a strategist has always been firstly about the Why and the designers role is to express the What. If you ask kiwis casually as I have done about the “flag thing” most aren’t sure why we are doing it which is always the starting point in re-branding anything. When the ‘why’ is discovered and agreed the designers and storytellers work their magic and deliver the ‘what’, it’s a simple two step process.

The Red Peak flag design left out of the final 4 designs is now included after public pressure

The Red Peak flag design left out of the final 4 designs is now included after public pressure

For me the current jingoism is scary stuff and we’re going to see lots more as our boys in black charge up and down the playing fields of England taking the game back to where it came from in the next month. At present we are wallowing in self congatulatory nostalgia as we annoint this mediocrity with little air time being given to what kind of Nation we want to become. National identity is all about why we are the way we are and what matters to us.

As a beautiful nation blessed by nature with our pristine backdrop, currently at serious risk, surely getting a balanced scorecard and the vision right for our children and future generations to thrive is more important than changing the flag in a few more months. It seems we’ve got the what before the why. I personally need to know why we are dancing with the stars.

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