Morgan Foundation Flag Competition Judging Results

The judges went through all (nearly 1000) entries in three rounds. In the first round they looked at each flag flat individually and whittled them down to 123. In the second round the judging panel looked at the flags flying and read the blurb, whittling them down to 14 serious contenders. These were each discussed in depth, in the context of other international flags, to get the list of two finalists with seven on the shortlist.


The challenge to design a flag in response to Gareth Morgan’s criteria and the design values set out by the design jury, was deceptively complex.

To suggest not only our past and who we currently are as a nation, but importantly, to explore where we want to be and go as a nation was a proposition we were interested in seeing responses to — how might design convey these concepts, and galvanise our national spirit.

Overall, we were really pleased with the response to the competition and want to acknowledge the standard of ideas, visual communication design and execution. In our search for a flag that addressed the criteria, and went beyond expectation, fewer entries succeeded in weaving core visual communication design skills and expression of fresh thinking, without referencing the all-too familiar iconography (including the inevitable re-appropriation of the Walters’ koru and the flag of Tino Rangatiratanga).

For the jurors, it was challenging to settle on the perfect flag. A successful design, even if unexpected in resolution, can grow in significance, and be absorbed and embraced over time, as symbolic of our culture and place.

It should be noted that each of the designs selected met the practical design critieria of scale, flying and draping, and being visible in complex environments.


Wā kāinga / Home — by Studio Alexander


What the artist says

Each triangle of colour fits into each others space. Symbolic of the transition we currently have underway in Aotearoa. Maori/Colonial/Multicultural. Coexisting around the Maihi. (white space between the colours). The bottom multicultural triangle in our national colour black is symbolic of strength.

What the judges say

A thoughtful, well-executed submission displaying pure graphic form, this design reached the judge’s second-level shortlist, before being a late inclusion in the final selection. The symmetry of the composition conveys a formal sense of place and calm, however, there was a reservation that this tended to an overly cerebral geometric, rather than an emotional force which would engender strong attachment and feelings. In one breath this design is identifiably Aotearoa New Zealand, in another it just holds back from entering new territory expressive of inherent explorative and innovative characteristics of New Zealanders.

Judge’s Finalists:

1. A New Dawn — by Jarred Bishop


What the artist says

Our new flag should honour our past and look to the future.
This design is inspired by a crop of the Tino Rangatiratanga and suggests a new dawn, long white clouds and the shoulder of a mountain.

What the judges say

While this design may be seen as derivative (and politically controversial as detail section taken from Tino Rangatiratanga), this is a strong abstraction of symbolism. Reductive, graphic, and emotive. The colours and curvilinear shapes reflect that of Māoridom, and multi-culturalism. The upward movement expresses aspiration, freedom and possibility. An openness evolving from a past that is acknowledged rather than erased. At first glance, the koru reference may not be immediately picked up: when it is, this element of discovery is rewarding.

2. All — by Kris Sowersby


What the artist says

Represents all people and all things throughout time. With regards to Ralph Hotere.

What the judges say

A minimalist design that portrays extraordinary confidence, strength, and sophistication. Whilst it acknowledges Ralph Hotere, one of our greatest artists, the circle is utilised as one of the simplest and most powerful graphic forms: all inclusive, democratic, power to the people — I AM!

Te kore, te po, te ao marama [reminiscent of Māori creation story]

Judge’s Shortlist:

1. Mana Taurite — by Phil Dunstan-Brown


What the artist says

Equality. All people of Aotearoa having equal importance. Bound together in history. Moving forward together. Reflecting on those before us. Acknowledging those here now. Preparing for those to come.

What the judges say

Aesthetically and proportionally balanced. The symmetry of partnership and equality is clearly symbolised in the woven pattern of positive and negative shape, constructing a unique visual language. Bold, simple, with a level of detail that remains legible in scale and movement. A directional nod to the past, present and future.

2. Southern Crux – by Phil Dunstan-Brown


What the artist says

The Southern Cross is contemporised. Four stars spun on an axis. Shapes echo the old Union Jack, but form eight points on a compass. There are echoes of Tikanga Māori, but also Pasifika. It talks of our passage here, whether we are first peoples or latecomers.

What the judges say

A bold move to propose something so apparently gentle. Subtle reference to the indigenous cultures pathway of navigation through the Pacific Oceans — the stars, and the Frangipani flower — this is meaningful, symbolic language. A nod to the current flag, the designer has progressed the traditional form of the star shape to one of relevance and distinctiveness. Addresses balance well between negative and positive space.

3. Topana Taurite – by Jeremy Snowsill


What the artist says

The essence of the design reflects balance (tōpana taurite). The theme of balance represents 2 aspects. Firstly it acknowledges our past, the union (treaty) between British settlers and Māori, and secondly it captures our future – the dynamic balance of diversity coming together in unity.

What the judges say

Visually strong, this particular version stands out: internationally it reads as unique in shape and form. Delightful interplay between two forces — a yin yang balance. Successful use of powerful iconography reinforced by contemporary national colours.

4. Raranga Weave 8 – by Pax Zwanikken


What the artist says

Inspired by the geometric forms and colours found in Māori raranga and tukutuku. Weaving has strong roots both in Māori culture and the tartans, checks and tweeds of the British Isles. Since the signing of the Treaty more cultures have migrated here, each adding a thread to our collective culture.

What the judges say

Great link to weaving traditions of Māori, Pacific and British cultures. Reductive with impact. Sophisticated in the weighting of form and placement. Stands out amongst the international flag palette of colour, shape and form.

5. Koru via Walters 01 – by Kris Sowersby


What the artist says

An attempt to turn simplified traditional koru forms, via Gordon Walters, into something strong and appropriate for an Aotearoa/New Zealand flag.

What the judges say

There were numerous attempts in reference to a very respected NZ artist – this was probably the most successful, with a well-considered, balanced composition. An eye for positive and negative space, and colour. Sensitive to the original artistic form, while moving it forwards. Symmetrically powerful. The test fly and drape influenced the decision for this particular colourway (at least one other in the set).