function over form.
when he created what is widely known as the "pi flag" in 1995 on microsoft paint, jim evans chose its colors for their symbolic meaning rather than their aesthetic quality.
his intention was to create a graphic symbol that could function as an identifier for non-monogamous folks—not a visually appealing or inspiring flag.
a bit of color theory.
color theory helps us understand why jim's original flag often receives negative feedback.
some colors appear to recede, some appear to advance, some produce unpleasant effects on the eyes—all of this has to do with the frequency of the light waves being reflected by those pigments.
the color vibration phenomenon.
some colors paired together create a visual phenomenon known as a "vibration".
vibration occurs when "opposing" light wave frequencies approach the eye simultaneously. most often, this happens when two colors with similar luminance and tone are placed side-by-side—as they do in the polyamorous flag.
like this red on this blue.
and this yellow on this red.
designer & color theorist
this initially exciting effect also feels aggressive and often even uncomfortable to our eyes.
seeking a solution.
many find the pi flag "hard to look at." this begins to explain why attempts at "fixing" the design have been aimed at reducing the vibration phenomena between the colors—
but these alterations are an incomplete solution, because they only address one of the design's many problems.
we believe, if we as a community are going to alter the original polyamorous pride flag at all, we should examine and improve every design element—including color.
even if that means replacing each of those elements with something entirely original.
does it mean what you think it does?
because its significance to the community isn't evident, many polyamorous people aren't aware why the pi symbol (π) is on the flag at all. here are some common (and generous) guesses:
love is endless, like the endless digits of π.
love is irrational, like the number represented by π.
π = 3.14, referencing "more than two" people.
sometimes the simplest answer is the right one— even if a bit lackluster.
pi is the greek letter 'p'
the first letter of 'polyamory'.
though other LGBT-related flags have donned greek letters, those have also declined in use, in part because the symbol's purpose is not clear.
regardless of the intention, the symbol's strong connection to science and mathematics makes it a confusing choice for the polyamorous flag.
from the designer himself.
"the symbol in the center of the flag is a gold greek lowercase letter 'pi', as the first letter of 'polyamory'...
my tools for creation at the time were literally limited to microsoft paint running on windows 3.1.
...'pi' was readily available on computer typographic platforms even in those days, so i chose that."
designer of the original "poly pride flag"
let's be clear.
if our flag bears a symbol at all, its relationship to polyamory & non-monogamy should be clear, and its usage should be specific to people within our community.
as we work to develop new, original designs for a democratically selected polyamorous pride flag, we want every design decision to be thoughtful and intentional.
let's be clear.
when jim evans first designed the polyamorous pride flag, he chose its colors based on the history of their usage (in the english-speaking west) and his own cultural associations, and assigned meanings (shown at right) to each color he used.
this is part of flag design. each color must stand for some thing or idea which is important to the group the flag represents, otherwise the flag as a symbol is, in more ways than one, meaningless.
is mostly subjective.
colors do not have objective meanings.
the symbolic value placed on particular colors can & does vary dramatically across cultures.
cultural context depending,
these colors can have wildly different and
even contradictory meanings or associations.
an interesting example of this is the flag of france, whose colors have changed little for two-and-a-half centuries, while the prescribed and perceived meanings of those colors have changed significantly over time.
what does all of this mean?
knowing that color symbolism varies over time and across cultures changes what we prioritize when choosing colors for a new polyamorous flag design.
instead of choosing colors based on prescribed cultural meanings, we can consider a broader palette to create a bold, impactful flag which looks and feels great to a wider and more culturally diverse audience, while assigning relevant meanings to those colors ourselves.