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Design Science

Meltdown Flags Visualize the Climate Crisis's Toll on Glaciers Worldwide

March 30, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Meltdown Flags

A new digital project called Meltdown Flags envisions the disastrous effects of the ongoing climate crisis. Countries with glaciers see a reduction in the amount of white on their flags, which serves as a visual representation of the shrinking ice masses. Canada’s middle section begins at full width in 1995 before condensing in both 2020 and 2050. The United States’ white stripes similarly are a fraction of their usual height by the middle of the century.

Created by the digital design studio Moby Digg, Meltdown Flags also functions as an online tool replete with statistics about the percentage of glacier retreat from 1995 to 2050, the nation’s population, landmass, and emissions. Information on Argentina, for example, details the consequences of melting glaciers in the Andes. “Although the Perito Moreno glacier has shown an advance in the past years, ice in this region is being lost at some of the highest rates on the planet,” the page says. “And as ice vanishes, heat increases, resulting in long periods of drought, heavy rainfall, and flooding which could affect up to 130,000 people.”

The project outlines the severity of global warming, saying that based on the current projections, glaciers will be gone by 2100 and “with them, 69% of the world’s drinking water.” Meltdown Flags begins its timeline in 1995 when the first United Nations Climate Change Conference occurred. The UN hoped to reach net-zero emissions and keep the global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celcius by 2050.

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Design History

Delicate Sketches of the Original Peace Symbol to be Exhibited in London

February 20, 2017

Christopher Jobson

Sketch of nuclear disarmament symbol, by Gerald Holtom. © Commonweal Collection.

Stretching back over a half century, one of the most iconic symbols adopted by the international community has been the peace symbol. Utilized by millions of activists, organizations, and artists across the globe, most people are probably unfamiliar with the design’s unique origins and the meaning behind the multi-pronged symbol.

Artist Gerald Holtom created the symbol for the first Aldermaston March in 1958, part of a series of anti-nuclear weapon demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s. The symbol was next adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and soon peace groups around the world displayed it in a variety of configurations. But what exactly does it mean?

Holtom designed the peace symbol around the visual language of flag semaphores, a telegraphy method for communicating with flags at a distance, combining the letters “N” and “D” standing for “nuclear” and “disarmament.”

Flag semaphores for the letters “N” and “D” and an overlay. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Holtom’s original 1958 sketches are now in extremely fragile condition and are rarely seen in public. However, a few of them, along with 300 objects from a century of anti-war activist campaigns in the UK, will be on view as part of People Power: Fighting for Peace at the Imperial War Museum in London from March 23 through August 28, 2017. You can read more about the peace symbol’s history over on Hyperallergic.

Hey art and design teachers, here’s a fun project idea: have students create new symbols for ideas important to them using flag semaphores or some other symbolic alphabet as a starting point. Send the results to [email protected] by March 20, 2017 with the subject ‘Peace Project‘ and we’ll share our favorites here on Colossal.