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December 27, 2005 11:22 PM   Subscribe

Rule 1b: Do not write some stupid slogan on your flag. If you've ever wanted to know how all the world's flags rank in terms of aesthetic appeal, here's a handy guide with an accompanying methodology.
posted by jonson (65 comments total)

 
I flag this a double!
posted by tula at 11:34 PM on December 27, 2005


Wow! Not only a double but a three & a half year old post. I'm lame!!
posted by jonson at 11:39 PM on December 27, 2005


Saw this linked to from a friend's blog recently. Good site
posted by jimmy at 11:58 PM on December 27, 2005


Wow, I am shocked at Guam's flag. (on the failing page)
posted by parallax7d at 12:12 AM on December 28, 2005


C+ 60 / 100 - Why does he hate America?

I'd agree with his rules, but I'd add a few more such as originality. Yeah Liberia's flag is less busy, but it's a rip off of the American flag.
posted by jeblis at 12:27 AM on December 28, 2005


I can't believe that they gave Brazil's flag a failing grade!

I remember looking at the flags section of the World Almanac back when I was a child, and thinking that Brazil's was the coolest.

All the other flags had some boring primary color stripey thing going on. Brazil's had flair! I thought, "This is a country that I want to visit."
posted by Afroblanco at 12:29 AM on December 28, 2005


Oh wait he does note plagarism. And on second thought just because you ripped off the idea doesn't mean it's not better.
posted by jeblis at 12:31 AM on December 28, 2005


"Impressively eyewatering, with only two colours."
posted by jeblis at 12:35 AM on December 28, 2005


Funny how they didn't ding Malaysia for plagiarism, though the Malaysian flag is commonly known for being based off the US flag. [/is malaysian]

Also, the author seems to be missing the point re: symbolism. Pakistan's flag, for example, is not trying to denote a certain astronomical occurence.
posted by divabat at 3:53 AM on December 28, 2005


What's the beef with Wales, Scotland and England; are they too good to have their own entries?
posted by Navek Rednam at 5:06 AM on December 28, 2005


I can't believe he failed the Holy See. That's a wicked flag.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:26 AM on December 28, 2005


*yawn*

either needed to be way snarkier or way more interesting.

while some of his criteria are cute/funny, his, ahem, aesthetic sense seems to be stapled to the notion of simplicity. which kinda transforms aesthetics into reductionist fussiness. many of his low-graded flags are, for lack of a better word, cool. or interesting or eye-catching or...
posted by the sobsister at 5:58 AM on December 28, 2005


Judging by the design of his site, this guy is in no position to be making judgements about the design of anything.

Or what the sobsister said ;-)
posted by i_cola at 5:59 AM on December 28, 2005


Libya's flag is amazing.
posted by terpsichoria at 6:30 AM on December 28, 2005


"What's the beef with Wales, Scotland and England; are they too good to have their own entries?"


Not recognised as individual countries by the U.N.
posted by fullerine at 6:52 AM on December 28, 2005


I like the idea of taking points off for "depicting an astronomic impossiblity."
You wouldn't believe the number of times I've mistaken a flag for a factual reference of astronomy.
posted by mulligan at 6:55 AM on December 28, 2005


his, ahem, aesthetic sense seems to be stapled to the notion of simplicity.

As it should be, concerning flags. A flag... ah, fuck it, I'll quote myself from the older version of this post because I can't be bothered to say the same stuff again:
When you're flying something from a ship and expecting it to be recognized from a distance, you want two or three bright shapes and colors in a unique pattern, not an official seal blown up to banner proportions.

A good flag design is something simple, blocky, painted in broad strokes. No writing -- you are supposed to be identifying yourself to foreigners. No little squiggles that look like every other little squiggle from a few feet away. No careful little line art of the king's favorite animals. If you want that crap, you're designing a state seal, something typically stamped on documents, inspected from close range, and purposely overdetailed so that (in the olden days, before fancy copying technology) it was fairly hard to counterfeit.
posted by pracowity at 7:04 AM on December 28, 2005


It should go without saying that aesthetic appeal is almost always based primarily on arbitrarily held opinions. Even so, this guy has no real methodology, most of the grades are based on some trivial opinion of the author, such as "looks too much like an airline logo".

He bases many of his decisions on color choice, but neglects to take into account the different ways in which colors are represented in print and on the screen. The color choice he denounces could easily be a result of the print material he is using as reference, lighting by which he is observing it, or the screen on which it was displayed. Many time I have taken a piece of clothing home from the store only to realize that it's color has seemingly "changed" due to different lighting conditions. Once a grey hat turned out to be brown. this is all beside the point though because he doesn't really have any sense of color. Why does Qatar get a 75 while bahrain gets a 70? The flags are practically the same. Moreover, much of his supposed methodology has little to do the aesthetic qualities of an individual flag, but upon his own dogmatic sense of style.

What's the deal with deciding that no non-European countries should have tri-color flags? Silly as this methodology is, he doesn't even follow it, giving many non-Euopean tri-color flags the same or better grade than their European cousins.

He declares that good shape is a determining factor yet fails to flesh out any objective guidelines to judge the shape of a flag, only his own opinion.

What a schmuck. The title of his page should be "My opinion of the world's flags simplified by a grading system you can't argue with and which I won't use." As for the design of his own site, I think the blank home page, "http://philosophy.org.au/josh", says it all. This link is tripe, but I'll google it later when I want to show someone an example of a bigoted psuedo-methodology.
posted by BlueWolf at 7:10 AM on December 28, 2005


Awww. I think the Four-Wheeled Dragon of Bhutan is cute.
posted by Gator at 7:39 AM on December 28, 2005


Yeah, I like bhutan's flag. Although the dragon could be cooler.
posted by delmoi at 7:48 AM on December 28, 2005


Thanks to Brazil's flag, there are boxer shorts that say "Order and Progress." I give it a thumbs up.
posted by dmo at 7:51 AM on December 28, 2005


What BlueWolf said... only in a shriller, more hysterical tone.

Awful link.
posted by C.Batt at 7:59 AM on December 28, 2005


Don't let the naysayers get you down, this is a good post and I don't think I had seen it before. More fun with flags and vexillology can be found at the Flag Institute; they even have a Flag Institute flag. (Which somewhat busy but has a nice shape and good use of color; it is a little derivative of the British flag but that is to be expected as the Flag Institute is a British organization. I give it a solid A-).
posted by TedW at 8:21 AM on December 28, 2005


pracowity:

yes, yes, all well and good but we're a skosh past the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men. I no longer need to identify your standard from across the bounding main. This may have been a useful criterion and a viable aesthetic in Hanoverian England but there's no reason to retain that view. So, to extol simplicity for simplicity's sake or for the sake of some pretend utilitarianism is disingenuous. If anything, the addition of squiggles or stars or any other bit of embellishment helps distinguish one tricolor (or bicolor or monocolor) from another.

Whether one is aboard the Golden Hind or not.
posted by the sobsister at 8:28 AM on December 28, 2005


Some of his criticisms are based on the pixel-art, not the flag itself. He makes a big deal about Guam's M, for instance, when the actual flag. isn't nearly so bad (though the "UA" could use some major kerning.)

Of the failing flags, Grenada is my favorite (it's even more striking in action). That thing on the left is nutmeg. I could do without it, but
posted by rafter at 8:40 AM on December 28, 2005


the rest of the flag carries the design.
posted by rafter at 8:40 AM on December 28, 2005


I've always liked Brazil's too.

pracowity-I'm not sure I agree with you, although for the same reasons you advance. Simple isn't always better for identification if the wind is not blowing. How does the flag look when it hangs limp, and is it distinctive? Large blocky flags may not be identifiable enough. (Although I also admit that this may be a function, for me, of being color-blind, and therefore unable to use color as a reliable identifier.)
posted by OmieWise at 8:41 AM on December 28, 2005


Good Flag, Bad Flag
posted by TedW at 8:55 AM on December 28, 2005


Surprised that color entered into the picture simply subjectively, instead of using some kind of contrast standard like the heraldic color-on-metal thing, with maybe a nod to colorblindness.
posted by Foosnark at 8:57 AM on December 28, 2005


Classic:
To recieve [sic.] an F, a flag had to be so awful that its level of badness was clearly qualitatively different from that of any flag receiving a D. I had to feel that a country receiving an F had really set out to create a genuinely horrible flag, or didn't really know what a flag was.

[Oh, and wow--it's amazing how quickly MeFi can turn a basically lighthearted, clever Web site (and yes, yes, not perfect by any stretch) into an occasion for puffed-up intellectual posturing. Reminiscent of my intellectually aggressive students who sit in the back of the class and kibitz, damaging the conversation rather than contributing to it.]
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 8:59 AM on December 28, 2005


it's amazing how quickly MeFi can turn a basically lighthearted, clever Web site (and yes, yes, not perfect by any stretch) into an occasion for puffed-up intellectual posturing

Jesus, no kidding! People like BlueWolf & C.Batt, I hope you realize this guy wasn't offering a serious critique of the world's flags, but rather just a jokey personal essay. The only question should be "was it amusing or not?". To deride this as "bigoted pseudo methodology" is like ripping The Onion for not doing enough research behind their headlines.
posted by jonson at 9:14 AM on December 28, 2005


Bluewolf is right. I didn't see any really established criteria for grading the flag. A lot of flags look bad when they are small on a monitor. The Australian and American flags are great in that they convey their UK heritage (same color scheme) while the Australian flag immediately denotes itself as being from the Southern hemisphere. The US flag manages to give the 13 colony history as well as represent all 50 states.

There are obviously really bad flags, but I think there's way too much associated with country's flags to be objective without a strict set of criteria.
posted by geoff. at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2005


Quoth fullerine:
Not recognised as individual countries by the U.N.
Neither is Taiwan, but he listed it.

I, too, love the flag of Bhutan. I also think Nepal's is really cool; I think it's the only one that's officially not a rectangle.
posted by jiawen at 9:19 AM on December 28, 2005


While this is lighthearted, it obviously isn't just a farce like The Onion. National Lampoon has a site where they did all the different races and critiqued them. That was really funny. I wish I could find it.
posted by geoff. at 9:19 AM on December 28, 2005


Geoff: is this your site?
posted by TedW at 9:26 AM on December 28, 2005


Cf. Fiji: That's not a cigarette, man!
posted by alexwoods at 9:28 AM on December 28, 2005


It should also go without saying that this website does not present itself as "a jokey personal essay". Moreover, this "basically lighthearted, clever Web site" is not really that clever, just snarky and abusive. Also, "intellectually aggressive students" tend to be the only ones actually thinking critically about the issue. I was critical, but at least I stimulated a discussion. Moreover, I did not criticize his lack of research, though I could have gone on a rant about that too. I criticized his lack of thoughtfulness. My biggest gripe is that he seemingly ranked the flags first, based on his own opinion, then fabricated the methodology to fit. Doesn't anyone take any pride in the work they produce anymore? So now whenever someone creates a sub par essay for online publication they can fall back on the "jokey personal essay" crutch. Give me a break. If it was a joke, it could have been A LOT funnier, and if it wasn't a joke then the work is mostly insulting. He just didn't try. This was however a good post, I just won't be cluttering up my bookmarks with the link. I wonder how many public school students have already used this as source material for a school project, not understanding it to be a "jokey personal essay"?
posted by BlueWolf at 10:04 AM on December 28, 2005


Aesthetics aside I always felt sorry for the Brazilian children who had such a difficult flag to draw (we spent much time in school drawing flags), all those details! Oh, horror!

Also where is the flag of the Sami people? Not that I think he'll like it...
posted by mummimamma at 10:11 AM on December 28, 2005


bigoted psuedo-methodology

you, sir/madam, are a clown.

I bet this "critique":



Do not attempt to disprove the four-colour theorem on your flag!


sailed right over your pointy head.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:22 AM on December 28, 2005


I wonder how many public school students have already used this as source material for a school project, not understanding it to be a "jokey personal essay"?

I would love -- love -- to see some examples of possible school projects that might make use of some random guy's personal site in which he gives letter grades and snarky commentary to flags o' the world. "Bhutan's Contributions to the Industrial Revolution: Motorized Dragons in the Civilized World"?
posted by Gator at 10:31 AM on December 28, 2005


Give me a break. If it was a joke, it could have been A LOT funnier, and if it wasn't a joke then the work is mostly insulting. He just didn't try. This was however a good post, I just won't be cluttering up my bookmarks with the link.

Someone needs to get laid STAT. I can feel the tension all the way over here.
posted by letitrain at 10:43 AM on December 28, 2005


No kidding! My god, BlueWolf.... just... wow.
posted by jonson at 11:00 AM on December 28, 2005


Does anyone have a link to designs for uniform shoulder patches, military, police, fire departments etc?

I still like the FSM (Micronesia) flag and the state flags for Chuuk & Pohpei.
posted by X4ster at 11:11 AM on December 28, 2005


I think Blue Wolf designed the Flag for the Northern Marianas Islands.
posted by empath at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2005


About Brazil's flag: when I was a child, "they" (the adults) used to tell us the green represented our forests, the yellow our gold (or mineral resources in general) and the blue our sky. I think this tale is still current.

But since politicians were never quite so poetic, the truth is the green and yellow came from the House of Bragança, the royal family that ruled Brazil until 1889. The blue circle is a representation of celestial sphere as seem from Rio de Janeiro in 15th November 1889 (the day the Republic was instituted) at 8:30am. Originally each star corresponds to a state of the federation, plus one for the Federal District, which is equivalent to Washington DC (and this means some stars have been added to the flag along the years, as new states were created). The phrase "Order and Progress" is attributed to the positivist philosopher Auguste Comte, who had many followers among the Brazilian republicans.
posted by nkyad at 11:57 AM on December 28, 2005


the sobsister: yes, yes, all well and good but we're a skosh past the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men.

Sure, and we're a skosh past the age of "skosh," but we aren't past the days of ships, and we fly or paint flags on other vehicles and on buildings, and we still fly flags at the tops of big bloody poles made to be seen from a distance.

A flag is made for recognizing at a distance, not for walking up to and closely examining. If you have to walk up to a flag to differentiate it from another flag, the flag is a failure (and maybe you get shot).

That's why countries should (and why most do) stick to a simple pattern and a simple color scheme, and why they save the fancy crap for money and other things that people hold in their hands. That's why, for example, a Canadian flag has two bright colors with a large, simple leaf pattern in the middle, while a Canadian five dollar bill has iridescent maple leaves, a hidden number, a fine engraving of Sir Wilfrid Laurier on the front, and, of course, an equally fine engraving of kids playing hockey on the back.
posted by pracowity at 1:21 PM on December 28, 2005


Unclench, Blue Wolf.

Loved the ranking system. I laughed at many of the comments. A good time was had by all. Well, by most, at any rate.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:17 PM on December 28, 2005


A flag is made for recognizing at a distance

I'm really having a hard time envisioning a situation where this would come into play.

People generally know what country they're in and which border their approaching, so terrestrial flags don't apply.

Anybody actually worried at not getting shot is better advised presenting a white flag.

And we are indeed beyond WS&IM, and modern-day pirates can fly any damn flag they want.

(fabric) flags on aircraft are rather impractical.

There's no air in space so flags would be pretty dopey up there.

ah, wait, mebbe you're a dissident running from the secret police and you need to duck into a friendly embassy pronto?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:45 PM on December 28, 2005


Always thought the UnionJack rippoff's were terrible, like Australia and New Zealand.

I wonder how NZ would do with the best suggestion for a new flag (imho).


posted by lundman at 4:45 PM on December 28, 2005


libya has always been my favourite. what are flags for apart from wars? and what would look cooler on a tank than plain green?
posted by andrew cooke at 4:53 PM on December 28, 2005


MetaFilter Flag:
posted by Eekacat at 5:00 PM on December 28, 2005


This guy is a stupid asshole. I lived in the Northern Marianas, and the flag is trying to represent the two primary cultures that call the island home (Chamorros and Carolinians.) I suppose he'd be happier if they just stuck one star on a plain background? (No, wait, that would be plagiarism.)
posted by drstrangelove at 5:05 PM on December 28, 2005


Well, it is a fairly hideous flag, drstrangelove. You having been there doesn't change that, sadly.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:19 PM on December 28, 2005


Have you seen it in person, Hildegard? It looks much better when it's not a crappy computerized rendition.
posted by drstrangelove at 5:25 PM on December 28, 2005


dear drstrangelove - it is just a flag.
love, andrew
posted by andrew cooke at 5:27 PM on December 28, 2005


lundman's flag is fantastic.

Remember kids, whatever you do, don't be critical, people are having fun here!
posted by hototogisu at 5:29 PM on December 28, 2005


This is very interesting and very funny. I love the criticism icons--they're allow to be garish?

"Not Web or Computer Friendly" is not a criteria; the US flag doesn't look bad rendered in cloth.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:40 PM on December 28, 2005


I can't believe I'm agreeing with PP; that's the point I've tried to make about the CNMI flag. The rendition they displayed isn't anything like the real thing. The mwar-mwar represents the Carolinian people and the Latte stone is the symbol of the Chamorros. But, I forget- the USS Constitution wouldn't be able to easily recognize it, so therefore it sucks.

Andrew- I know it's a flag, but remember, this is metafilter. We're supposed to be indignant here.
posted by drstrangelove at 5:46 PM on December 28, 2005


Okay, why don't you email the guy a link to a photo of the flag in an attempt to change it's grade. This is web 2.0, after all. Participate!
posted by Hildegarde at 5:53 PM on December 28, 2005


Heywood Mogroot: I'm really having a hard time envisioning a situation where this ["A flag is made for recognizing at a distance"] would come into play.

Then I'll give you a little help. Try envisioning a flag on a flag pole. I know, I know, that's a wacky idea, but people do put them there.

Heywood Mogroot: (fabric) flags on aircraft are rather impractical.

Paint, Heywood, paint, not fabric.

From a page on Vexillography:
There are a few basic tenants of "good vexillography":
* A design should be simple and striking (a rule of thumb is that a child ought to be able to draw it and know what it represents);
* The design should be symetrical to a degree;
* The elements of the design should not be overly complicated or impossible to recognize when displayed on the reverse of the flag (for this reason lettering is considered in bad taste);
* Traditional or avant garde symbols should be recognizable.
And from NAVA:
A flag’s purpose is to represent a place, organization, or person, generally on a rectangular piece of cloth, to be seen at a distance, often moving, and reproduced in quantity and in many sizes.
and
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…
posted by pracowity at 6:18 PM on December 28, 2005


It's funny, just last week during the NYC transit strike I found myself being carpooled past the U.N. building, with all its flags and such, and was telling a fellow carpoolee about this (vaguely remembered) site. But didn't have the energy to dig up the link. So, thanks!
posted by staggernation at 8:04 PM on December 28, 2005


Is it just me or has anyone noticed that all of these sites about flag design seem to have pretty bad web design?
posted by TedW at 5:04 AM on December 29, 2005


all of these sites about flag design seem to have pretty bad web design?

Yeah, but they look great from a distance.
posted by pracowity at 12:28 PM on December 29, 2005


This site best viewed from the deck of the USS Constitution.
posted by Gator at 12:35 PM on December 29, 2005


It's a fundamental truth that a good flag has to be simple. Why are so many people trotting out the "no more need to recognize at a distance" line? There absolutely is! Ever seen a flag on a website shrunk so small that the features are indistinguishable? Ever tried to identify an aircraft by its tail insignia? A trooper by the flag on their uniform? Another reason why a flag should be simple is for ease of accurate reproduction. Also, there really shouldn't be more than 3 colors, for the same reason.

So I'm in agreement with some of this person's aesthetic criteria. That said, he should really work on consistency and design, as well as obtain color-calibrated versions of his flags.

I wonder how many truly garish colors can be explained by the fact that countries closer to the equator need more intense colors because they get washed out by the sun (both to the eye and over time).
posted by azazello at 8:30 PM on December 31, 2005


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