Design Moment: The European flag, 1955

Myth surrounds its origin – including speculation that the stars were inspired by the 12-star halo on a statue of the Virgin Mary

The European flag: its stars represent the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony.

The European flag: its stars represent the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony.

 

When Brexit happens, the European flag will remain the same – not one of its 12 stars will have to be removed.

Typically, on flags when there is more than one star, there is a numerical reason attached, for example the federal states of the US. Instead, the European stars – five-point, not touching – represent the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony.

There is some confusion as to who actually designed the flag in 1955 – first for the Council of Europe, later adopted by the European Union – but it is usually attributed to Paul M Levy, then director of information at the Council of Europe, and Arsène Heitz (1908-1989).

Myth surrounds much of its origin – including speculation that the stars were inspired by the 12-star halo on a statue of the Virgin Mary. The blue, the council said in 1955, “is the blue sky of the western world . . . the circle is a sign of union”.

The base colour of the flag is Pantone Reflex Blue, while the golden stars are Pantone Yellow. In basic design terms, it fits the key criteria of being easily recognisable and easy to make. Its blazon – the formal heraldic description – describes the design as: “On an azure field a circle of 12 golden mullets, their points not touching”.