Jake Goretzki writes:
As a closet vexillologist, I have always had an inexplicable fascination with flags. Flags are brands with armies and navies. Just like brands, they can be relaunched, repositioned and stretched. They can suffer from all the hazards facing any consumer good: lack of differentiation, poor on-shelf standout, out of step with current values, and so on.
Indeed they are probably the most powerful expressions of graphic design and branding anywhere. Try to imagine the brief to a flag designer: “Zac, mate, we want you to unite a people – or at least try to foster cohesion. Can you also try to convey a sense of mission, reference history and national allegiances? And differentiate us. Make it visible from a distance too? Is Monday morning okay? We’re presenting on Tuesday morning”.
There’s no better recent example of a wholesale brand relaunch than the new flag of semi-recognised Kosovo (top left). The use of blue and yellow – to say nothing of the stars – intentionally references the EU flag (top right), with EU membership being something of a national mission for Kosovo. Meanwhile, the new branding has wholeheartedly dispensed with ethnic Albanian symbols and colourways – the black eagle on a red background. The hope – the optimist might say – might be to engage (or at least pacify) new target markets: the Serb population, along with EU opinion. This is one to watch, and the most recent off the catwalk.
Kosovo wasn’t however the first to adopt those go-faster-stars. The flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina (top centre), adopted in 1998, also donned an ‘EU’ colour scheme, reflecting similar aspirations to membership, and also a similar brief to avoid favouring any of B&H’s constituent ‘nationalities’. The result is not very Serb, nor Croat, nor Bosnian. Looking at it another way, both these new flags might be seen as EU brand stretch.