T003 - Designing the Flag of Pakistan

In lieu of Pakistan's Independence day, I will look back on a familiar memory, talk about the history of Pakistan's flag, a color system, and design the flag itself to the accurate measurement.

Before diving into this week’s newsletter, I want to thank the people at the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) who were quick to respond to my query for giving me access to the design specification sheet of Pakistan’s flag.
This post is also inspired from the Insta Story posted by Khurram Siddiqi, Art Director of Bareeze.

💭 A Memory: School Assembly

You’re in middle school, standing in a vertical line with your fellow peers in the early hours of Monday morning. Its 8.30 or maybe its about 9.00, there is chatter all around about what everyone did in the weekend - played with cousins, bought a new video game, had a friends night in. In the next few minutes, the principle calls for pin-drop silence, that follows up with a thundering drum roll to commence the National Anthem.

After a minute into the Qoumi Tarana, everyone utters the line energetically:

“Parcham-e-Sitāra-o-Hilāl”

The line which is echoed in the last verse, that roughly translates to “the flag with the star and crescent”, is a line that people born and raised in Pakistan associate with unity, faith and discipline.

14th/15th of August are monumental days in the history of the subcontinent. As I wish my neighbor their independence day, this days mark the 73rd year to the end of British colonial rule where both Pakistan and India established independence, a saga involving one of the biggest cross-country migration in history.

💡 Conceptualization of the Flag

Amidst the events that occurred pre/post partition, one of the less documented story has been of the conceptualization of Pakistan’s flag. A story, which I wanted to shed some light on.

The country has a mixed definition to what the green and white colors symbolize.

Some say the colors represent peace and prosperity [1] while Dawn claims the green symbolizes the Muslim majority and white, the minorities [2]. There is consensus on the second definition.

Based on other alternative accounts on the web, the Crescent on the flag represents progress while the five-rayed star is intended to define light and knowledge.

Interestingly, the flag that we know today was used way before independence. The flag was created to represent the All India Muslim League in 1906 before it was officially adopted by the first Constituent Assembly in August 11, 1947, just few day before partition.

One can refer to this flag as an earlier release of the model leading up to the one that became Pakistan’s universal icon.

Dhirendra Nath Datta, a member of Congress raised a concern of how Pakistan’s flag was not inclusive of minorities, the color being very singular in representing the Muslim majority population. He added that India’s version of the flag using the Tricolor palette embellished with the “Ashoka Chakra” symbol ascends above and beyond through representing the nation’s virtues than of any specific community.

Liaquat Ali Khan; the first Prime Minister, responded by mentioning that Amiruddin Kedwaii’s version of the flag included a white color which was “made of seven different colors” expressing the state’s openness to accommodate “not only all the minorities that are today but for any other minorities that might spring up hereafter” [3].

After some tussle between the two parties, the assembly eventually gave the go ahead to officiate the flag, ready to be hoisted up on the 14th of August.

🎨 Standardization and Color Systems

Based on the official document published in 1985 by the PSQCA, the Textile division; comprising of 25 committee members, took the responsibility of creating the flag and other government specific emblems. The document records fine details describing the visual blueprint, the material, and measurements of the flag, as well as testing methods, the protocol for marking and packing the flag before distributing to vendors.

No photo description available.
Colors

While researching on the color selection process of the flag, I discovered an older color system known as the British Colour Council or BCC (pictured below [2]). The color palettes were transcribed in record books that would be used as a reference by artists, textile industrialists or government officials tasked to decide the color for specific institutes.

The British Colour Council dictionary of colour standards - Museum ...

While current day designers use the Pantone color matching system [4], it was really the BCC that set standard of big color systems. Between the years 1930-50, regions under the commonwealth were the main consumers of BCC-defined colors, formally used in spaces involving government establishments, academia and even horticulture.

Pakistan being part of the commonwealth, the dark-green color that was selected for the flag came from this very color system. I dug into the spec sheet and the dark green color is referred to as Tartan Green [5] or Lincoln Green.

Additionally, what is interesting to see in the spec sheet is that the colors are defined using Trichromatic values which is an another; much older, way of representing the Red, Green and Blue (RGB) hues but using luminance as the main driving property. This is what the XYZ signify:

  • X is the mix of response curves that are non-negative

  • Y is the luminance value

  • Z is the quasi-equivalant of the blue color

To put it simply, the XYZ decimals define the green and white color. Contemporary designers like myself understand the RGB format where:

  • The green is computed as R: 0, G: 64, B:26, or #00401A in hexadecimal.

  • The white is computed as R: 255, G: 255, B: 255 or #FFFFFF in hexadecimal.

Dimensions & Material

Talking about the dimension, the flag was intended to be rectangular in shape with length to width ratio of 3:2. The flag has two rectangular panels, where the size of the white panel is 1/4ᵗʰ of the total size of the flag while the remaining 3/4ᵗʰ is assigned to the green portion.

The flag is intended to be woven out of cotton yarn stitched into a plain weave that is resistant to decoloration and bleeding. The weave goes through quality testing to maintain conformity of set standards which means checking for measurements, labeling, tear, fading and shrinkage.

The wooden toggle or handle is proposed to be made out of well seasoned timber where Shisham, Sal or Teak are recommended species. Even the type of thread required to stitch the flag is also included in the sheet which showcases the level of detail in

📐 Flag Design using Figma

In the following few lines, I will follow instructions on how to draw the flag to the accuracy as defined in the spec sheet. I used Figma throughout the process to design the flag.

We start with drawing a rectangle. Using the 3:2 ratio, we create the rectangle at 12 x 8 inches. The size of the white portion is set to be 1/4ᵗʰ of the total size of the flag while the remaining 3/4ᵗʰ will be the green area which we will color at the end.

We draw the diagonal from top-right hand corner to the bottom left hand corner of the green portion. On this diagonal establish two points ‘A’ and ‘B’.

Point A should be equal distance from top right to bottom left hand corner i.e the center of the green portion. Point B should be at a distance from top right hand corner equal to 13/20ᵗʰ of the width of the flag.

With point ‘A’ as the center and a radius equal to 3/10ᵗʰ of the width of the flag described as the arc. With point B as the center and a radius equal to 11/40ᵗʰ of the width of the flag describe the second arc.

The Area enclosed by the two arcs forms the crescent.

The dimensions of the five-pointed star are determined by the circle with a radius of 1/10ᵗʰ of the width of the flag. The star lies with one point on the diagonal and pointing to the top-right hand corner of the flag. The tip of this point lies on the diagonal at a point where the larger arc cuts the diagonal.

Lets add the final touches with color and we will achieve the final design. Having removed the dashed lines, the flag now looks complete.

Conclusion

The flag is a symbol of national identity but it is also defines the meticulous effort that went into defining standards to maintain the longevity of the flag.

In the next post, I will share my thoughts on culture-driven artform and its link to decolonization of design.

Footnotes:

[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Pakistan

[2] https://www.dawn.com/news/651351/facts-about-the-pakistan-flag

[3] Making of the Pakistan Flag: Politics and Controversy: https://journal.sbbwu.edu.pk/FWU_Journal_of_Social_Sciences_Winter_2016_Vol_10_no_1/Making%20of%20Pakistans%20Flag%20Politics%20and%20Controversies.pdf

[4] Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture: https://moda.mdx.ac.uk/object/badda780/

[5] The British Council Color Dictionary of Colors for Interior Decoration Volume iii: https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.14074/page/n49/mode/2up

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