The "What if ..." factor

Everyone has their own ideas about what a new New Zealand flag should look like, and every New Zealander loves to tinker with things- trying ideas this way and that. This page addresses the question "What if the flag were changed a bit - would it look better?"


1. What if the stars were the same as on the present New Zealand Flag? OR what if they were smaller? Of what if the fern leaves were more jagged.

To begin with, the design on the right shows that the 'regulation' white edges on the stars are very narrow and may not show up well - especially if the stars were decreased in size. The official width of the white edge is supposed to be 1/60th of the height of the flag  - It is possible some representations of the flag have unofficially widened the white edges.

 The fern shown has corrugations in the leaves. All told there are 100 corrugations, to represent 100% of New Zealanders.  However the corrugations do not look pleasant. The smoother leaves probably are better.  


(If you want to refer to the above design in feedback, call it wi1, for "what if 1")

Next, the Silver Fern looks good on a north-east kind of angle as shown. Such an angle has an onward-and-upward shape, and also feels intuitively right to New Zealanders because it is similar to the angle of the islands of New Zealand.

The problem is that if the stars are vertical then the whole flag looks a bit unbalanced - especially since the right-hand star of the Cross (delta crucis) is higher than the left-hand star (mimosa beta crucis) so the overall impression of the Southern Cross is that it is on a bit of a north-east lean as well. Something needs to be done to the Southern Cross in order to balance the fern.

Also if the stars are vertical this means the Southern Cross and the Fern seem isolated from each other. I wanted to avoid anyone taking the idea that the fern and stars were separate, as if ambitions (stars) could be separated from concern for people and other living things (fern), or as if Maori (symbolised by the indigenous fern) could be separated from people from everywhere else (symbolised by the universal stars)

The approach taken by most designers who have combined Stars and Fern (John Hepburn,  Kyle Lockwood and Mike Lloyd) is to have the stars smaller so that they sit above or under the fern and so balance the visual effect and bring the two symbols together. However making the stars small this tends to make them seem less important than the fern.

In the Star Fern Flag the intention was to make the stars bigger so that they balanced the fern as a symbol of equal importance. Putting them on an angle gave space for larger stars, improved the visual balance of the flag, and let the two symbols come together in a V-for-victory shape.

The designs below show that with smaller stars one can restore a 'balanced' look to the flag but at a cost of hiding either the white edges or the centre red stars. (Left design wi2, centre wi3, right wi4)

2. What if there was no silver line, or a darker line instead?

A Silver fern needs something special around the stem line to give it definition. A plain white fern with triangular leaves looks quite pathetic. The silver line on the Star Fern Flag gives definition by hinting at a shadow on the fern stem.

However the shadow should not be too dark. In particular it needs to contrast with the blue and green background colours as well as with the white of the fern leaves.Having too dark a line makes it look like the fern has been cut apart with a knife - exactly the opposite to the intended meaning. Using a silver line gives a nice link back to the idea of a Silver Fern, and to the idea of the road of progress - that dialogue is a pathway to peace and progress.

Left design without stem wi5. Right design with black stem wi6.


3. What if the shape of the fern leaves was different?

The leaves of the silver fern are oval when laid out flat, which is not so pleasing to the eye. A fern with plain curved leaves is less interesting than one with leaf-lets. However with too many leaves it gets too busy. A flag that tries too hard to look 'biological' may not really look fern-like.

Flag with superimposed real leaves wi7, flag with plain curves wi8, flag with too many leaves wi9, flag with non-fern leaves wi10.