Creator of “Flag of Flags” Seeks to Promote Common Understanding Around the Globe
The World Flag Project:
Creator of "Flag of Flags" Seeks to Promote Common Understanding Around the Globe
BY SARAH GRIGG
The United States flag was born amid war, South
Africa's flag from the end of apartheid. The World
Flag's creation also began with painful and unusual
circumstances-a truck hitting a guy on a bicycle.
In 1988, Paul Carroll was biking near New Canaan,
Conn., when he was struck by a cargo van and incapacitated.
With only partial use of his limbs, Carroll
passed hours of bed rest using his only fully functional
Carroll emerged from his rehabilitation with a
clear and compelling vision: to create a symbol of
world unity and cooperation that would be universally
recognizable and comprehensible. This ambitious
project ultimately produced the "World Flag",
which has flown around the world, from the World
Trade Center in New York to Nepal, and continues
to find new places to fly today. The World Flag
Project was initiated to promote multi-cultural
understanding with a focus on geography and common
world issues through the global exposure of
the World Flag.
Designing the Flag
In 1988 Paul Carroll envisioned a global image
that would resonate with the people of the world.
He chose flags as the mark-making system for his
original design. Because of their inherent symbolic,
nationalistic, and subconscious power, individual
flags offered inherent possibilities for his vision.
"Moving individual flags into the global realm-
transcending borders, race, and religions-creates
unique impact from micro to macro and back,
Carroll wrote. TheNew Scientist noted that "[t]he
power of symbols to both inspire and unite people
finds its most relevant and meaningful perfection in
the national flags and banners of the world."
As Carroll strove to create a meaningful global
symbol, some thought him crazy; others encouraged
him. While recovering from his accident he began
the arduous task of assimilating and arranging the
flags of the world.
Working on the floor with a set of 4" x 6" U.N.
flags, Paul spent his days configuring and reconfiguring
different designs for the original World Flag.
His ultimate goal-a flag whose design and underlying
symbolism could not only be interpreted globally,
but also be produced and manufactured, the first
World Flag to fly around the globe.
The challenge of assembling 160 flags into a
meaningful, engaging image was daunting. The
options and combinations were virtually unlimited.
For Carroll, the mission was well beyond a piece of
art or a one-time experiment. He set out to create a
global symbol that would change and evolve as the
world changed and evolved. He wanted the World
Flag to grow organically, creating historical documents
in time. His 1988 design represented the 159
members of the United Nations, plus the U.N. flag.
In order to create a 13 x 13 "flag" rectangle, Carroll
eliminated a 3 x 3 area in the center. Placing
Buckminster Fuller's sky-ocean (Dymaxion) map in
this space made it the core around which the design
would grow. With Carroll's awareness of history,
philosophy, and geopolitics, the first World Flag was
born. Major global concerns-the Cold War,
apartheid, the Middle East, and other political and
social issues-all influenced the design.
Flying the Flag
Flying the World Flag would prove even more difficult
than creating a vibrant global symbol.
Carroll's original flag (fabric on canvas) as well as
the second image (paper on canvas) were incredibly
labor-intensive and in essence original works of art,
not meant to be flown. Flag manufacturers' capabilities
were not up to the task and creating a "real
flag" proved impossible. Carroll then looked outside
the flag world to the billboard industry for the needed
large-scale printing expertise for the first flag.
In 1988 Carroll's parents introduced the World
Flag to delegates from the Society of Prayer for
World Peace based in Tokyo, Japan. Impressed, they
invited Paul to participate in the upcoming United
Nations Prayer for World Peace in December 1989.
This became the first public unveiling of the World
Flag. Attended by Dr. Noel Brown, Director of the
U.N.'s Environmental Program and Friends of the
U.N., the event was auspicious and timely.
The publicity led New Jersey's governor to appoint
Carroll as Hoboken's U.N. Representative. After
attending the U.N. event with Carroll, his long-time
friend Don "Poz" Pozarycki joined the effort to bring
the World Flag to the people, as did his brother
John. They took to the road to promote the project
at various venues, building a freestanding structure
to hang a large World Flag to display at each event.
They attended environmental symposiums, school
assemblies, concerts, street fairs, and international
events, sharing the vision with thousands of people
around the United States.
They found a California billboard company that
produced large banners for both indoor and outdoor
use, employing a roller dot process with low-resolution
imagery. They commissioned two banners, 13' x
18' and 30' x 50'. Working with the 20th
Anniversary Earth Day Committee in 1990, Paul
secured locations at the World Trade Center and in
Central Park to hang the World Flag. Although
some officials felt that the image was too political,
they eventually agreed to allow the larger banner to
hang on Tower One. Local unions donated all labor
costs, through the intervention of the Carrolls'
father, a long-time union steamfitter.
The day of the flag's unveiling began sunny and
very windy. Despite the wind, the union men hoisted
the 30' x 50' World Flag well over 100 feet. The
flag created an amazing visual image for the assembled
press and all who passed by. Eighteen minutes
later, a severe gust howled through the courtyard,
tearing the huge banner diagonally. Just before the
press conference began, the World Flag came tumbling
down. Fortunately, the smaller banner was
unfurled days later at the Earth Day concert in
Central Park. There, hanging on the MTV press
tower, it was seen by close to a million people.
Evolving the Flag
The World Flag's design next changed in 1992.
With the Cold War ending, the fall of apartheid in
South Africa, and the continuing trend toward a
more interconnected global economy, Carroll
believed that the new design should encompass the
entire world, not just United Nations members. This
brought the next incarnation of the image to 216
flags and used the resources of the Flag Research
Center. He also changed the depiction of Earth to a
more recognizable map. The 1992 version debuted
at the Alliance for Environmental Education conference
in Washington, D.C. Shortly afterwards, the
World Flag Project took a hiatus until real flags
could be manufactured.
In 2006, project founders reunited in Portland,
Ore., and updated the design. They researched the
possibility of finally creating a real flag. Annin &
Co. used its latest advanced digital printing process
to produce flags in February 2007. Technology had
caught up with the vision of the World Flag.
Working with local web designers, John Carroll
has spearheaded the first concepts for a World Flag
web site, initially planned to use the World Flag as
an educational tool to learn about geography, languages,
environmental treaties, and regional relations.
The website is creating a living text available
to people around the world, enabling them to
upload their unique daily rituals in real time.
The World Flag Today
The Project hopes to see the World Flag fly in
every country around the world. The World Flag
Project is offering people from all walks of life-
educators, backpackers, mountaineers, scientists,
and all concerned citizens, and especially children
of the world-an opportunity to act as ambassadors
in delivering the flag to classrooms, hostels, sea vessels,
national parks, organizations, businesses,
homes, cities, towns, and villages. In 2008 the flag
has already visited elementary schools in the U.S.,
Panama, and Belize. Soon, volunteers will deliver
the World Flag to remote corners of the globe,
including Antarctica. Expeditions to the world's
highest summits are also in the works.
The project's founders see the World Flag celebrating
cultural diversity while inspiring unity in all
matters of global concern. In their vision, children
everywhere will grow up sharing a common symbol
of hope uniting them all. Their motto is: "Teaching
Unity-Sharing Diversity". One World, One Flag.
As proud new NAVA members, the World Flag
team is excited to be a part of the study and history
of flags. As they continue their ambitious project
they are seeking manufacturers, retailers, educators,
sponsors, and all others who may help achieve these
The World Flag is available in 2'x3', 3'x5', and 5'x8' versions.
For more information, visit www.theworldflag.org. A portion of
proceeds are donated to non-profit and charitable organizations
with an emphasis on education. For details about The
World Flag and Events contact John@theworldflag.org.