What Makes a Flag Good?

Vector illustration

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Vector illustration

Judah Stockdale, Staff Writer

Many flags are ineffective at what they’re intended to do and some don’t even accomplish the purpose of a flag. According to vexillologists (people who study flags), a flag should be simple. In fact, according to the book Good Flag Bad Flag there are five basic principles of flag design. First and most important, keep it simple. A flag should be simple enough that a child can draw it with a crayon. Second, use meaningful symbolism. The flag’s shapes and colors should have a meaning related to what it represents. Third, use 2-3 basic colors. Limit the amount of colors to 3 as any more can make it too complex. Fourth, no lettering, seals, or numbers. Don’t ever use writing or seals on a flag, this makes it too complex and hard to remember, and it also can’t be read at a distance. Fifth, be distinctive or related. A flag should be distinctive so as to not get confused for another.

An example of a bad flag would be the Minnesota state flag. The dark blue background is too similar to many other state’s flags and the seal in the middle is too complicated and cannot be recognized at a distance. The lettering on it also defeats the purpose of the flag. Having the name on the flag is redundant. It also uses too many colors and the seal doesn’t represent anything except for what it explicitly depicts. The Minnesota flag violates every principle of flag design. An example of a good flag would be the flag of New Mexico, with its red and yellow colors representing its Spanish heritage and the sun in the middle representing the Zia Indians. This flag was even voted the best U.S. state flag by NAVA members. We should aim to have better flags with more designs and unique meaning, both to represent the country and the people who live there.