They are omnipresent: symbols
of patriotism, signs of warning, or a banner to rally under. Flags transcend life
across the world, such the pledge of allegiance in the US, the 1990’s phase of ‘Cool
Britannia’ or in protests and demonstrations, such as the LGBT Rainbow flag or the
US Tea Party’s Gadsden flag. However, have you ever stopped to wonder how a
particular country’s flag came to be? What its original purpose was? Or
possibly what makes a particularly appealing flag design?
The North American
Vexillological Association (NAVA), an organization entirely devoted to the
study of vexillology, the study of flags, believes it has found the answer to
what makes a flag visually appealing. In the Guiding Principles of Flag Design, the following principles are
considered a checklist for an appealing flag:
1. Simplicity: simple designs make for effective and appealing flags (and often
cost less to make than complicated flags). Ideally, the design should be
reversible and easily drawn from memory.
Symbolism: colours, seals and symbols
are used in all flags as means of identification, and are required to make
flags unique and patriotic. However, using red for blood or blue for water is
often commonplace and risks the flag losing its meaning.
3. Colours: use only 2 or 3, separate light colours using dark colours.
Not only can including many colours also help to increase the cost of the flag
(this is also why purple is rarely found on flags, as it was the most expensive
dye to use many years ago), but it can also make the flag confusing and
and Seals: never use either. Lettering
can be hard to sew, difficult to distinguish from a distance and almost
impossible to read when shrunk to badge-size. Seals can also be very complicated,
difficult to sew and read from a distance, and were initially designed to be
read at close range on paper as opposed to long-range on a flag.
are 195 countries, not to mention regional flags, city flags, or movement
flags. For that reason, a flag should be distinctive in order to stand out from
the rest. However, it is not necessarily bad for countries’ flags to reference
others, so long as they remain distinguishable and unique.