New Zealand is getting ready to choose a new national flag, per the wishes of its prime minister John Key, who ordered a binding referendum on a new design despite public indifference and political opposition to the idea.
A public call for design submissions yielded more than 10,000 entries. Today the government published a list of the 40 options selected for further consideration. None of the quirky designs—like the ones with sheep, ice cream cones, or smiley faces, made the cut. As the government’s flag consideration panel noted: “A flag should carry sufficient dignity to be appropriate for all situations in which New Zealanders might be represented.”
According to the panel, a flag must also be “timeless,” ”so simple it can be drawn by a child from memory,” and “[communicate] swiftly and potently the essence of the country it represents.”
Many of the finalists include a silver fern or the koru, a spiral based on the shape of an unfurling silver fern frond, which Key has argued represents New Zealand as strongly as the maple leaf represents Canada. Other designs used some variation of the British Union Jack, or the constellation of stars known as the southern cross.
None of the Quartz staff will be voting on the new flag. Nevertheless, here are 10 of our favorites.
Three things to like about “Black Jack,” in the words of one government panelist: It’s “black and not blue so it won’t be mistaken for the Australian flag”; it unifies the Union Jack and the koru; and “it looks cool and black flags are rare.”
“New Southern Cross” is simple and traditional.
“Land of the Long White Cloud” is translated from “Aotearoa,” the Maori name for New Zealand. The panelists liked these designs for their “iconic” colors and the “nod to our geographic location within the world.”
“Manawa” is described as “simple and punchy“: “The night sky. The Southern Cross. The long white cloud/whitecaps. The green of the land and sea. All with a strong Māori design element tying it together.”
“Southern Koru” comes with this flowery description: “The koru represents new life and harmony and forms a wave in the negative space that represents the oceans that surround our land and Kupe’s journey across them guided by the stars to arrive in Aotearoa.”
The Matariki constellation is also known as the Pleiades. For the Maori, these stars signal the arrival of the new year.
The prime minister’s favorite design was reported to be a silver fern on a black background, like the one above. It’s similar to the logo of the All Blacks, the national rugby team, but one flag expert said this design could easily be mistaken for an ISIL banner.
Perhaps one of these other ferns will do the trick: