When you consider graphic design, do you ever think about flag design? I know for me personally the thought never crossed my mind. Recently I watched a Ted Talk featuring Roman Mars. He's the host and producer of 99% invisible, a podcast the focuses on design and architecture. He is known for his creativity and insight in design and his Ted Talk opens up a lot of important questions and ideas.
Seriously take the time to watch it; HERE
Roman Mars really opens up a new perspective on design; flag design. Mars explains the term, "vexillology" or the "scientific study of flags and related emblems with a creation of a body of practice for flag design, usage, and development." This was a new term and study that I never knew existed. Mars made the claim that understanding good flag design and the factors that make a good flag could potentially be all you need to understand the entirety of good design. Hearing this, I was skeptical, considering all that went into design, but upon further watching, Mars revealed the rules of good flag design, and this can really lend itself to almost any area in design.
His five rules for flag design are;
- Keep it simple, simple enough that a five year old could re-create it.
- Use symbolism that is meaningful. Simple and meaningful can and should coexist.
- Use only 2-3 colors from the standard color wheel
- Absolutely no lettering or seals. How can the viewer properly see a flapping flag's Latin crest when the flag is 20 ft above them? It's impossible. Additionally, if you have to write out the name of what you're representing on the flag then your symbolism has failed.
- Be distinctive and be relatable. Stand out, but don't distract.
All of these elements are crucial in good flag design and I can understand how these rules are really the backbone and essential to the entire spectrum of design. The marriage of "good design and civic pride" is so necessary according to Mars and I couldn't agree more.
Overall this video was really eye-opening and even comedic at times, as we see the value of our flags and we especially begin to see the value of good design. It is so easy to overlook our flags and dismiss them because they lack in design what most other civic designs have, yet we miss out on representing more of who we are. We have the ability as designers to create something that is “mixable, adaptable, and powerful.”
I just researched my hometown Sacramento’s flag and I am deeply disappointed. The text rule, overuse of color, and lack of symbolic importance (or any symbols really) is quite depressing. I’d love to do a redesign.
Please someone help me petition to do a Sacramento re-design. Or at least help me pluck my eyes out. Flags are important people, please don't overlook them.