New Wave: Facts About Flags [book review]

By Ted Kaye
Originally published in The Vexilloid Tabloid #31, December 2011

New Wave -- Facts about Flags.  5”x7”, full color, 144 pages   Black Dog Publishing (2011) ISBN:  978-1-907317-30-9
Libby Waite (Ed.).  New Wave: Facts about Flags. 5”x6.5”, full color, 160 pages Black Dog Publishing (London, 2011) ISBN: 978-1-907317-30-9

Many of us like to give flag books as gifts to those who don’t yet fully understand why flags appeal to us.  Here’s one that merits a place in the “present drawer”.

New Wave is not the typical flag book—a compilation of flags of the world arranged by country.  While it devotes a few pages in the back to national flags and some sub-national sets (Brazil, Canada, Spain, U.S.A.), it is more a book about flags.  Sections cover:  The History of the Flag, Colours, National Flag Stories, Twentieth Century Flags, Flag Families, Religious Flags, Protest Flags, Flag Etiquette, Flags at Sea, Sports Flags, Popular Culture, Sovereign Flags, and Flag Terms.

A pocket-sized paperback, New Wave uses a bold graphic style with large blocks of color and a very dynamic layout.  It would engage both a younger reader and an adult.  It has color on every page.  While a British book, hardly any aspects of it would jar an American or Canadian reader.  And though Max and Patrick found some factual errors in our last meeting, it is well-researched and quite accurate.  Interestingly, no author is credited, as if the book were a team effort at its London publishing house.

New Wave is part a compilation of flag trivia, part a mini-reference book, and part a series of short articles on several flag-related topics.

The fun section on Fictional Flags probably makes it the only flag book with an illustration of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.  In a shout-out to vexillologists, the flag of FIAV is included among the International Flags.

Its own blurb correctly says “Spanning geography, politics, history, culture, design, and art and presented in an accessible and refreshing format, New Wave is an entertaining exploration of the diversity of flags, as well as the rituals and communication aspects that inform them.”

(For more information, check out Black Dog Publishing’s page for this book.)

The Flags of Our Children

Carlos Fort Garcia is a “graphic designer and graphic activist” living in Barcelona, and author of a highly imaginative and playful vexillolographic project entitled Las Banderas de Nuestros Hijos: Deconstruvendo Banderas (The Flags of Our Children: Deconstructing Flags).

Carlos Fort Garcia (@carlossoyo)

The project text is in Spanish, and my Spanish, alas, is very rusty, so I am sure I am missing some subtleties. But it is also highly visual, and well worth investigating even by the Spanish-illiterate, either in its online form at or its 80-page booklet format (published by Play Attitude, ISBN-13: 978-84-15149-49-1, first printing May 2014) if you can get your hands on a copy.  (Full disclosure: I was one of the project’s crowdfunding supporters.)

The Flags of Our Children, in booklet form.
The Flags of Our Children, in booklet form.

The gist of the project, I think, is this:  In an increasingly interconnected world, national flags too often serve more to divide than to unify, even while peoples’ identities often do not fit nicely within a single nation’s cultural borders.  A person may feel equal parts American and Japanese, for example, or Catalonian and British.  So Fort Garcia has produced playful mash-ups of national flags to create hybrid forms to better represent such shared allegiances, or at least call strict boundaries into question.  Hybrids are created by first deconstructing two national flags into basic graphic ideas, and then recombining these elements into something the looks pleasing or at least inviting of attention.

Japérica o Amepón del Norte
Japérica o Amepón del Norte
Reilunya Unida o Catano Unido
Reilunya Unida o Catano Unido

I think it’s telling that the recombinations aren’t presented formally as strict rectangular flags, but rather with rounded corners as something like large graphic icons — actual hybrid flags might be seen as sacrilegious to patriots of either source nation, but by showing these to be flag-like (vexilloid!) creations but not literally flags, perhaps this goes a little way to begging forgiveness of such critics.

In the most politically-charged chapter, entitled Confluencias, Fort Garcia imagines uniting warring (or at least oppositional) countries.  These matter-antimatter collisions may be utopian, but they are certainly visually and conceptually provocative. They also feel more natural or legible than the other pairings — enemies, after are, are in a salient preexisting relationship, and so perhaps their flags already want to interact, at least in our imaginations.

Espadi o Euskaña (Spain + Basque Country)
Espadi o Euskaña (Spain + Basque Country)
Palesel o Isralestina (Palestine + Israel)

Whereas the book is beautifully rendered and visually stunning, it doesn’t seem to be available currently for purchase. The much more accessible online version, unfortunately, just shows a relatively small number of examples.  Perhaps with added interest, there will be added development of the project.  Even so, it’s a nice contribution to the vexillology of the imagination and the art of flags.

Blog entry by Scott Mainwaring.