Design is an important tool in communication. How something is set out on a page, the colours used, the symbolism it evokes all help to create a powerful and unique message. Sometimes that message is intended to be flippant, or ephemeral, but at other times the message of a design is required to be lasting, driving home consciousness of a serious issue with a power beyond words.
So it is with a flag recently designed for the Rio Olympics by Yara Said. Her design, the symbol for the refugee team that competed at the recent games, is made up of a block of vivid orange with a single black line running horizontally across it. The work is bold, eye-catching and unforgettable.
The design was inspired by Said’s own experience of crossing the seas to safety. Herself a refugee from Syria, Said chose the bold orange to represent the lifejacket that she wore for her own journey out of danger. The single black line that stretches across the block of colour standing for the black of the straps that tied the life vest around her. As she herself explains, in a recent interview with the online design blog It’s Nice That basing the flag on a life vest marks “a symbol of solidarity for all those who crossed the sea in search of a new country”.
The strength of the design comes through its simplicity, its internationally recognisible symbolism and its stark message about the threat that refugees leave behind and take to get to safety. The mark of its success is that once seen the flag is easy to recall and impossible to disconnect from its story.