As boundaries between nations crumble, do we need new types of flags? Rem Koolhaas certainly thought so—he redesigned the EU flag as a barcode in 2001. A recent gallery show in Frankfurt invited 16 artists to continue Koolhaas’s work, reinventing the flag to for a global world.
Curated by three young German graphic designers, Flags posed a simple question: If you could design a flag for your version of the world, what would it look like? "A flag is often used as a symbol for the affiliation with a certain collective, which shares similar opinions, values, and ideas," write curators Arthur Ruppel, Christoph Tim Schneider, and Sebastian Zimmerhackl. "How does a contemporary flag, divorced from historic and national symbolism, express your values and ideas?"
The resulting flags are as diverse as the nationalities of the artists, who hail from countries like Holland, Syria, Russia, Switzerland, the U.S., and Germany. Some are funny: "Drop Gradients, Not Bombs!," says German designer Alexander Lis, whose contribution is, of course, full of gradients. Some are political: Foundland’s flag is based on imagery by Syrian activists currently fighting the Al-Assad regime. "We hope to raise awareness and curiosity about this cause," writes the studio. "But also to show our collective’s fascination with protest images which combine both Western and Arabic symbolism."
Others are simply beautiful: German graphic design studio Deutsch & Japaner submitted their vibrant geometric design without an explanation, inviting us to "see what we want to see." The curators explain that the goal of the group show wasn’t to develop universally relevant flags. Instead, "the goal is to question the traditional ways of designing a flag, to interpret the medium in a new way and to develop new creative approaches."
Flags debuted at the independent publishing fair, About, in May. But each flag is available for sale on the Flags website, in limited editions of 10. While I’d love to hang one of these from my fire escape, I think they’re destined for framing.