Oslo City Flag

The city flag. All cities has a flag, just like all countries. Flags represent the history and identity of a country. It’s the symbol we rally behind.

The Norwegian flag was designed by Statesman Fredrik Meltzer. It used to look like this:

Norwegian flag from 1814-1821

If you look really close, like super duper close, a keen eye might see that it looks rather Danish. Norwegian history 101 – Loads of Danish and Swedish hostile takeovers and a few acquihires. So the flag needed to change.

Fredrik removed the lion, as it would not been seen on the ocean where the boats are far away from each other. We don’t want to be mistaken for Danish. Even to this day the gravest injury you can inflict a Norwegian is to confuse us with the Danish, so we needed a better flag. And Fredrik thought it should be red, white, and blue. It symbolised freedom. Red, white, and blue had united the Dutch, the British, the Americans, and recently the French had rallied behind the tricolor after the storming of Bastille. After several centuries of being having some very one sided mergers and acquisitions by Danes and Swedes, Fredrik thought the three colours was a nice tip of the hat to our previous owners and our national history, but more importantly to our future.

Flags are fashion. The Stars and Stripes are seen more often on clothes than on a flagpole. Geri Halliwell eternalized The Union Jack. But these are big national flags. What about city flags? Roman Mars makes the case for city flags. Have a look at 99% Invisibles Roman Mars TED Talk for an intro to city flags. It’s a great talk. It will entertain and give you a quick intro to vexillology, the study of flags.

Now that you know a bit about flag design. Imagine what incredible flag Oslo has. Norwegian capital, Scandinavian design etc. Just take two seconds to conjure up an image. Remember that image.

Lets jump back in time to 1924. Kristiania has just turned 300. Kristiania was Oslo’s old name, before we rebranded in 1925 for a better domain name and to attract more top talent. The flag is blue and white. Its pretty and simple, or pretty simple if you’d like.

Old Kristiania Flag

Its symbolic meaning is not known, but feel free to impose your meaning and logic.

Now letz zip forward to 2000, Y2K is over(phew!), and Oslo is getting another rebranding. Am pretty sure we rebranded this time because a consultancy agency said we needed to make our value proposition stand out and to change our brand portfolio – I mean, why not, it’s kinda plausible. The rebranding consisted mostly of Tigers and a new city flag. So what is this new beautiful flag?

The new Oslo flag

Its Oslo’s Patron Saint Halvards seal on a blue background… Yeah, I know it’s not a flag, it’s a seal on a blue background. And just so its mentioned: St Halvard is not from Oslo, he is from Lier in Drammen and died in the Drammen Fjord. It’s 30-40 minutes with car outside of Oslo. But I digress – What’s so wrong with the flag?

Now it’s the time to use the knowledge Roman gave you.

Lets see how the Oslo flag stands up to the 5 rules of Vexillology.

  1. Keep it simple
    Remember how Fredrik simplified the Norwegian flag, so it can easily be recognized from a distance. The current flag is not where near simple
  2. Use meaningful symbolism
    There is a lot of symbolism going on in the seal. Because its a seal.
  3. Use two or three basic colours
    The seal has 5…
  4. No lettering or seals of any kind
    Woops…
  5. Be distinctive
    Bad is distinctive right?

The Oslo flag is the same as Oslos manhole covers upon a blue background. A manhole cover is not a flag.

Manhole Cover in Oslo

There is only one good thing about Oslos flag. Its illegal. The flag is not legal. Yeah, not illegal. According to a law from 1933, flags on government property and buildings needs to be approved by the King. The Oslo flag is not approved. Which means that certain people in the Oslo government is eligible to a prison sentence up to 3 months. Which seams a little short considering how ugly the “manhole cover flag” is.

This information leads us to the ultimate question: what does it mean to be human. I mean: Can we have a nice flag please? Either take back the old blue and white or design a new one. Something we can actually use since it’s legal and has a good design. Something Geri Halliwell can wear.

As Roman said “All cities deserve a beautiful flag”. Even Oslo. Let Oslo join the Vexillonaire Club, an imaginary club for nice flags.

If we must have a seal on a blue background – I nominate this flag:

Seal on blue background

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