Apex engineering firm part of New Zealand ‘Red Peak’ flag dispute

A flag design called “Red Peak” is being considered as a new flag in New Zealand and is a subject of political debate. The design was originally rejected from becoming a finalist, but a social media campaign has brought it back into consideration.
A flag design called “Red Peak” is being considered as a new flag in New Zealand and is a subject of political debate. The design was originally rejected from becoming a finalist, but a social media campaign has brought it back into consideration. Red Peak NZ Flag Facebook page

An Apex engineering firm has found itself unwittingly in the middle of a tense political debate on the other side of the world.

New Zealand residents are choosing a potential new flag design in November. Thanks to a social media campaign, one of their choices could be a design that looks nearly identical to the corporate logo for Peak Engineering & Design of Apex.

Government officials there narrowed the designs down to four choices. But a sizable social media campaign – with more than 50,000 signatures as of Tuesday – is calling for a fifth option, the design that looks like Peak Engineering’s logo.

Prime Minister John Key is open to the idea of including it in the election, according to New Zealand media, but opponents appear to have other ideas for the vote.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Jeff Roach, the Apex man who founded Peak Engineering.

He said he had no idea New Zealand was even debating its national flag until calls and emails from reporters in the island country began rolling in late last week.

The two designs look almost exactly alike. Their names aren’t far off, either.

Both the Peak Engineering logo and the flag design – which is called Red Peak – feature a white chevron and three triangles. The flag design incorporates slightly larger triangles and changes the color of one of the triangles from black to blue. It was inspired by the creation myth of the indigenous Maori people, according to Wikipedia.

Jeff and his wife, Beth Roach, who also works for the firm, said they’re skeptical that the flag design is original, but they say they’re flattered, not angry.

Raleigh firm Yellow Dog Creative created the Peak Engineering logo in 2008 when the engineering firm was founded. The triangle-heavy design is meant to invoke Apex’s motto, “The peak of good living.”

Aaron Dustin, the man behind Red Peak, has told New Zealand media that there’s nothing improper about his design. His design was one originally considered by the government before the four other options were selected.

Yellow Dog Creative owner Julie Schmidt, who made the logo, said she’s not sure if her design was stolen.

It could simply be a surreal coincidence, Schmidt said Tuesday. But she also said it’s common practice in the design world to do a thorough search to make sure one’s work doesn’t infringe on someone else’s.

“We do that when we start with clients,” she said. “We look up other logos to make sure we’re not thinking of something that’s already been done.”

National debate

The flag vote is the biggest national news story in New Zealand. The official push began last year, after decades of concern that the flag looks too much like Australia’s, among other issues.

Still, aside from a humorous John Oliver monologue in August on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight”, the story has received little attention in the United States.

The Roaches said the idea that their company logo had been pulled into a political controversy in another country was unbelieveable at first.

“We got an email that was like, ‘Hey, have you heard your company logo is being used for the New Zealand flag?’ ” said Beth Roach. “And I was like, ‘This is spam. Delete.’ 

But the emails and calls kept coming, and now the couple has been quoted in several media outlets about the issue.

Both said Monday they understand the appeal of the design – they paid for something very similar seven years ago, after all – even if they don’t quite follow the politics of the debate.

“I understand it’s popular with a certain group in New Zealand, but I’m really not sure who or why,” Beth Roach said.

She said the logo is a “clean, crisp design.”

“To me it’s kind of maritime, when you’re looking at it from a flag perspective,” she said. “From a corporate perspective, it represents the peak, and just sturdy engineering.”

It’s not clear how the similarities were discovered.

“The only thing I can think is because they call it ‘Red Peak,’ somebody must’ve typed in ‘Red Peak logo’ and my company would’ve popped up,” Jeff Roach said Monday. The firm works with residential and commercial developers.

Beth Roach wouldn’t comment on whether there might still be some sort of legal challenge. But both she and her husband – who aren’t New Zealand citizens and have never visited the island country – said they would vote for Red Peak if they could.

“I would choose ours, of course,” Beth Roach said.

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran