Last modified: 2017-11-11 by rob raeside
Keywords: design | vexillology |
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What makes a good flag design? This question was posed by Jorge Candeias (27 January 1998). Some responses below:
From my Vexillography! page
Good design for flags is a matter of combining the basic shapes, proportions and design elements into a pleasing, usually simple, striking pattern that contains the necessary symbolism. Each design element -- shape, colors, emblem -- can have any of a number of symbolic interpretations, many of which are purely of a personal type. Although there are "standard" symbolic meanings, many other "non-standard" symbolisms are possible.
There are a few basic tenants of "good vexillography":
I think that this is a very good question. So good that I decided to include my answer as a new web page on my site. I will amend it if someone adds something that convinces me from this answer. Before I answer I must insist on the fact that my opinion is just the reflect of my own taste. I would defend it very rashly, but I can very well understand that others do not agree.
I offer seven guide rules for vexillography. Each one has to be followed so long as it is not contrary to the preceding ones; for example the six last rules may not forbid one to adopt the flag he likes most! In my opinion, the order is very important.
When giving in-services on flag lore and history I am often
asked what makes an effective flag design. I usually point out that what makes a
good flag or an attractive flag design is strongly influenced by individual
tastes, color preferences, and their sense of proportion and balance. Not all
people will like the same thing.
However, when pressed, I usually say that I feel a good flag design should be practical and make the flag easily recognizable no matter how displayed. By this I mean it should be recognizable from a distance, hopefully not easily confused with other flags, and have the ability to be displayed either horizontally or vertically while retaining its same visual identity.
Many flags fail to be easily recognizable because their design are too complex and try to incorporate too many elements in the design. American state and governmental flags, or those displaying a state or organizational shield or coat-of-arms would be examples of this. Quite frankly, they all look alike and it is hard to determine which one you are viewing without close observation. Also common horizontal and vertical striped flags that simply change the colors of their stripes become easily confused with others using the same design element. Flags need to be unique to stand out.
I also believe the necessity of putting text on a flag means one of two things: the designers are not confident that their flag's design is recognizable by itself, or that the flag looks like other similar flags. This screams bad design to me. Also to be considered is that the text will not be as effective when the flag is hung vertically.
These would be examples of what I feel are good flag designs:
1. The National Flag of Japan. This would be a perfect example of a good flag to me. Simple and elegant design, bright recognizable colors, easy to recognize from a distance and can be displayed either horizontally or vertically.
2. The flag of New Mexico, United States of America. A simple two color design that is recognizable at a glance, and can be can be displayed either horizontally or vertically without changing the insignia.
3. Flag of the Republic of South Africa. Although this flag breaks some of the rules (6 colors) it certainly is distinctive and easily recognizable. It can be can be displayed either horizontally or vertically without changing its impact, and is unique.
4. The national flag of Barbados. An attractive flag, with its simple vertical stripes, and distinctive shape of the trident centered on the gold stripe makes it easily recognizable. It's only weakness is when displayed vertically the trident doesn't face upward.
5. The state flag of Colorado, United States of America. A bold design and easily recognizable. Although one can say this flag has text, it is cleverly incorporated into it's design. The "C" for Colorado with the sun inserted makes this one of the better designs of the state flags. It also adds a unique and distinctive look when hung vertically.
6. The Flag of the United States of America. One of the most recognizable flags in the world today, its design is bold, colorful, distinctive, and based on a simple concept. However, horizontally hung it waves flawlessly, but hung vertically, the placement of the canton become a bit problematical.
When choosing these flags to use as examples of effective designs, I was tempted to use the Union Jack for one of my examples. It is recognizable from a distance, colorful and bold, but it has one very serious flaw. Its design lends itself too easily being hung upside-down unless one is very knowledgeable and careful.
Lee Herold, 12 February 2016
The very best flags are incredibly simple, and any good flag
design should start there. The beauty of vexillography is that we can actually
non-debatably determine what constitutes good flag design. It will almost always
come down to colors, bars, and how they are aligned in accordance with one
another. Now, it stands to reason that not all flags are going to simply be
colored bars or stripes. But those are naturally the best designs. When
defacements become a part of vexillography, they too should be very simple if
they are to be truly functional.
Our school’s science department put together a flag design study when I was in Malaysia maybe 10 years ago or so. Our hypothesis starting out was that the very best flag design would be the flag most recognizable under the most natural and artificial circumstances. We knew going in based on research in human optometry that the final flag product would probably have an inordinate amount of red and yellow in it, as red and yellow are the colors most clearly seen by the human eye. We chose the worlds international flags and ensigns as our experiment pieces.
Sure enough, when all was said and done, the Spanish merchant flag/ensign ended up being the most identifiable flag/ensign. Horizontally, red, yellow, red. So, from our scientific standpoint, the Spanish merchant ensign is the best designed national flag or ensign.
Obviously, not everyone’s flag can be red and yellow, but everyone’s flag can be simple and straight forward.
Clay Moss, 13 February 2016