What Makes a Well Designed Flag?
- Keep it Simple: Flags are normally seen from far away. This means that any small detailing will get lost. A well designed flag will have simple shapes and little amounts of intricate details.
A bad example of this is the current flag of Pennsylvania. On the flag is the state coat of arms. It has lots of details, including two horses holding up a shield in which an eagle sits on. For my redesign, I focused on the shape of the keystone and simple colors.
2. Use Meaningful Symbolism: A flag should be a symbol for what it is representing. Symbolism can come from shapes, colors, and many other features of the flag.
An example of bad symbolism is found in the Idaho state flag. The state seal that is on it, has so many elements that are symbolic (and literal) that it becomes less and less meaningful. In my redesign, I narrowed down what would be most meaningful to the state. In doing this, I was able to create a flag that had meaningful symbolism. The white field is symbolic of liberty, justice, and equality. The gem is symbolic of the state’s early start as miners and the state nickname. The green mountains are symbolic of the state’s natural features and agriculture.
3. Use 2-3 Basic Colors: This design principle relates back to the first. Simple design is the best design. A good flag is not overwhelmed with colors. This is the design principle with the most exceptions, but most exceptions will keep to four colors.
A bad example of this rule is the Montana flag. In the current Montana flag, there are fourteen colors that are used. In my design, I evaluated which colors would mean the most to the state and included a dark blue, light blue, and green.
4. No Lettering or Seals: There are three main reasons for this principle. The first relates back to symbolism. A flag shouldn’t have to tell you what it represents. The second reason is that flags are double sided. If there is text on a flag, it is only readable from one side. The third reason relates back to being simple. Seals and coats of arms have lots of details to that that are meant to be admired close up.
My favorite bad example for this guide is South Dakota. The state not only has the seal on it, it says “South Dakota” on it twice. In my redesign, I found a way to represent the state without the seal or lettering.
5. Be Distinct: A flag should be its own design. There should be something to every flag that makes it unique. Flags can borrow elements from other flags to show relationship, but it must still be distinct.
A lot of states are bad at this. There are thirty states with their coat of arms or state seal on a blue field. One state flag that isn’t a seal-on-a-bed-sheet that is still a bad example of being distinct is North Carolina. This flag was designed 22 years after the Texas flag. The resemblance is too close, it’s not a distinct flag. In my redesign, I kept the colors which relate it to the American flag, but changed the design so it would be unique.