Principles of Flag Design

Principles of Flag Design
Flag designs exhibit a number of regularities, arising from a variety of practical concerns, historical circumstances, and cultural prescriptions that have shaped and continue to shape their evolution.

First among the practical issues confronting a vexillographer is the necessity for the design to be manufactured (and often mass produced) into or onto a piece of cloth, which will subsequently be hoisted aloft in the outdoors to represent an organization, individual or idea. In this respect, flag design departs considerably from logo design: logos are predominantly still images to be read off a page, screen, or billboard, while flags are alternately draped and fluttering images to be seen from a variety of distances and angles. The prevalence of simple bold colors and shapes in flag design attests to these practical issues.

Flag design is also a historical process in which current designs often refer back to previous designs, effectively quoting, elaborating, or commenting upon them. Families of current flags may derive from a few common ancestors as in the cases of the Pan-African colours, the Pan-Arab colors, the Pan-Slavic colours, the Nordic Cross and the Ottoman flag.

Certain cultures prescribe the proper design of flags, through heraldic or other authoritative systems. Prescription may be based on religious principles: see, for example, Islamic flags. As a discipline, vexillology is beginning to promote design principles based on a body of research on flag history and design. Prominent examples are Ted Kaye's five Good Flag, Bad Flag principles published and endorsed by the North American Vexillological Association:

1. Keep It Simple: the flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
2. Use Meaningful Symbolism: the flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
3. Use 2–3 Basic Colors: limit the number of colors on the flag to three, which contrast well and come from the standard color set.
4. No Lettering or Seals: never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal.
5. Be Distinctive or Be Related: avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.

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  • Abdul Rehman