What constitutes a catchy flag design?
March 4, 2002 4:30 PM   Subscribe

What constitutes a catchy flag design? This site has assigned a letter grade to the flags of the world, with points taken off for bad color combos, trite slogans, and other flag faux pas. Which flags do you find eye-catching, and which are more appropriate as tea towels?
posted by Oriole Adams (47 comments total)
i didn't see why s.korea and kenya were so low. i thought they looked pretty cool. i also liked libya, Did you even try? :) and rwanda!
posted by kliuless at 4:42 PM on March 4, 2002

too many stars? those bastards!
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 4:46 PM on March 4, 2002

too busy??! The Brazilian Flag does not deserve a D-. Meanwhile, Canada gets an A? Who are these guys?
posted by vacapinta at 4:48 PM on March 4, 2002

Most of the fails are excellent. I can't believe that Tuvalu is marked down for doubling as a map (with stars!) - it's so clever. I suppose they'd all get annoying if you had to see them flying on public buildings though. Sensible flags vs novelty flags?
posted by Gaz at 4:52 PM on March 4, 2002

Korea kicks ass. The Kenya flag is absolutely beautiful. The brazillian flag is wonderful and quite original.

My biggest qualm's with the flag of cyprus. That flag has such a humble, quiet beauty to it. It so honestly just shows the little island with laurel leaves under it. It's did not deserve to do so bad.

Canada is just ugly and people who haven't seen a maple leaf won't get it.

When you get down to it though, Japan's flag kicks everyone's asses.
posted by Settle at 4:52 PM on March 4, 2002

Jamaica gets B, I always thought it was pretty direct and distinctive
posted by owillis at 4:59 PM on March 4, 2002

This person clearly hates stars. Comoros, with four stars on the flag, gets a "too many stars" blurb?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2002

i actually like the "rising sun" japanese flag better! i didn't know greenland had its own flag.

i designed a flag for kyrgyztan onetime, B&W with oft neglected checkerboard pattern on vertical thirds at either end with the center field white containing a papua new guinea-like plant shape in the middle. dunno why :)
posted by kliuless at 5:02 PM on March 4, 2002

i_am_joe's_spleen posted it as a comment before, but it's a fine link.
posted by riffola at 5:03 PM on March 4, 2002

seen maple leaves, seen Canada. your point would be?
posted by Nyx at 5:03 PM on March 4, 2002

The Brazilian flag may not be D- ugly but deserves the grade for including the quasi-fascist motto, "ordem e progresso" (order & progress).
posted by liam at 5:15 PM on March 4, 2002

I think Northern Mariana Islands should swap banners with Canada. Is that the Stanley Cup I see so prominently displayed in the middle of the NMI flag?
posted by mathis23 at 5:21 PM on March 4, 2002

Sorry, I've lived in the Northern Mariana Islands and that flag deserves to be exactly where it is.
posted by ssmith at 5:41 PM on March 4, 2002

Bhutan's flag:

kicks ass, and yet they gave it a D+. punks.

They also only gave the Union Jack a B, that's by far one of the coolest flags. Along with Imperial Japan's. Why did they get rid of the sunbeams anyway?
posted by delmoi at 5:46 PM on March 4, 2002

Union jack manages to combine what, 3 flags at once and it pulls it off perfectly. Silly
AND MY POINT about Canada is that in other parts of the world, like California, someone might not be able to recognize a maple leaf right off the bat, especially if it is red. Thus, it is not recognizable and is just confusing, because although it is obvious that some naturalistically depicted symbol is on the flag, it may be hard for most to think of what it is, much less what it means.
posted by Settle at 5:53 PM on March 4, 2002

During the occasional spasms of London being swinging again we always get told that the Union Jack is iconic; now I know it's busy. Although he has a point.

He's also right that flags should have points taken away for being 'colonial nonsense.' I lived in Hong Kong for 14 years and cannot remember for the life of me what the design in the lower right of the old flag was. But - have you seen the new HK flag? The 'corporate design' category was invented for it.
posted by calico at 5:57 PM on March 4, 2002

I just ran across this page earlier this morning while doing some work research. How curious that you did, also.
posted by sixdifferentways at 6:05 PM on March 4, 2002

Flags don't get any cooler than this.
posted by kickingtheground at 6:14 PM on March 4, 2002

I like the colors of the Swedish Flag. Not a B-!
posted by smackfu at 6:30 PM on March 4, 2002

"Do not attempt to disprove the four-color theorem on your flag" is about the funniest thing I've seen all day.
posted by Vetinari at 6:45 PM on March 4, 2002

It's a cool exercise -- too bad this dude doesn't seem qualified. Perhaps a group of world-class logo designers could revisit the concept.

Brazil does not deserve a D-.
posted by donkeyschlong at 6:55 PM on March 4, 2002

The Hong Kong SAR flag is a travesty. If Taiwan ever reunifies with mainland China, I hope we can keep the ROC flag. It kicks ass.

I always thought the US flag resembled something cut from a circus tent, with all of those gaudy stars and stripes.

I think the Japanese sunbeam flag symbolizes WWII-era military Japan and thus too many people had issues with it.
posted by Poagao at 7:38 PM on March 4, 2002

I dunno, I never really liked the Brazil flag much. I always thought the star map was a little too much.

But yeah, it would be interesting to see some professionals grade national flags. I personally like simple flags, like the majority of Europe, or Japan. Anything beyond 3 colours is too much for me.

Thus, it is not recognizable and is just confusing, because although it is obvious that some naturalistically depicted symbol is on the flag, it may be hard for most to think of what it is, much less what it means.

And this is different from 50 stars in what way? A flag is meant for national identification... I don't think that meaning and symbolism *outside* of the represented country is important. I have no idea what the Saudi Flag says, but I can still identify it as the Saudi flag.
posted by mkn at 7:39 PM on March 4, 2002

Yeah, I really have issues with some of these grades -- many of them are just plain wrong. Brazil is a great flag, so is the Union Jack, and Canada definitely should be closer to the top. And of course grading the US flag down for having 50 stars is evidence of seriously missing the point. (I think it's strange that the EU has fixed its own flag at 10 stars, no matter who else joins.) And of course Sweden uses blue and gold because those are the colors of the royal coat of arms, and I think it's really cool that they chose classically Scandinavian colors such as "light middle-blue" -- though I'm not sure I give these explanations full credence. That this guy failed to rate flag merits with any sense of history is rather unfair.

As for the flag of Japan, the national flag never had rays, only the naval ensign and the army "battle flag". The national flag has been unchanged "for centuries". Though the rising-sun flag was briefly banned after the war, the Japanese self-defense forces have used it since the mid-fifties.
posted by dhartung at 8:17 PM on March 4, 2002

His opinions are sophomoric and arbitrary. Oh, and I give his website design a c minus.
posted by crunchland at 8:28 PM on March 4, 2002

Brazil got busted for all the right reasons. You also have to keep in mind what the flag looks like when it's waving or from a distance.
posted by bloggboy at 8:33 PM on March 4, 2002

i grant that the isle of man flag is kick-ass, but one of the most enduring vexillological designs of all time comes from just south of the border.
posted by subpixel at 8:35 PM on March 4, 2002

All I can say is RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRwanda! Oh, and nice link!
posted by Lynsey at 8:51 PM on March 4, 2002

Scandinavian flags should all receive double A Plus plus. They are simply the best flags ever and always, forever!
posted by darkpony at 9:17 PM on March 4, 2002

The Portuguese flag gets a deserved drubbing. It was designed in 1910, after the Monarchy was overthrown and all the best designs had been taken. Our old flag, from 1143, was way cool, though. The clever Scandinavians copied it.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:30 PM on March 4, 2002

One of the many beauties of the scandinavian 'system' as I like to call it, is that the flags all look the same but are different colored!

In grade school this helped alot in remembering WHERE these countries were (all next to each other!!) cuz thier flags looked the same.

If only the rest of the world had followed suit and decided on a flag design that varied in hue or slightly in layout from the country directly to the left of it, geography would have been a cinch!
posted by darkpony at 9:37 PM on March 4, 2002

Yet, with all of the scandanavian countries having virtually the same flags, why does Finland get a better grade than Norway who gets a better grade than Sweden? Apparently there's some color favoritism going on.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:10 PM on March 4, 2002

In grade school this helped alot in remembering WHERE these countries were (all next to each other!!) cuz thier flags looked the same.

I always knew which countries were in Scan, yet, could never remember the order, until i realized, freshman year of college, that it was akin to "No Shit, Fucko" left to right. Ridiculous, but i've never forgotten it since.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:12 PM on March 4, 2002

Brazil deserves its drubbing. The diamond within the rectangle is a hellishly hard design conceit to pull off without looking amateurish, and adding a circle in the middle of it -- and saddling the lot with a honking color scheme -- makes for a design that looks like someone rather desperately collaged together whatever construction paper was lying around. And, of course, from the top of a building the star map signifies absolutely nothing.

The Union Jack is a breathtaking bit of design, though; it deserves better than a B. Especially considering how many pompous heraldic examples might have been used instead. (Besides, certain images help boost its iconic power.)
posted by argybarg at 11:21 PM on March 4, 2002

Japan's flag screams 'used tampon'. That doesn't deserve an A.

Now, Slovakia, that's a flag. It looks all flagy and declarative. It says "Come to Slovakia, our populace is 1.5% Gypsy. Boo-ya."
It's only one notch above Botswana, however, which looks like the generic version of nyquil at CVS. That ain't right.

Togo has a sissy-ass flag.
Ha! Fuckn' Togo.
posted by dong_resin at 11:56 PM on March 4, 2002

> What constitutes a catchy flag design?

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 12:34 AM on March 5, 2002

May I point to the creator of this flag site, Josh's, personal taste in both apparel and home decor as a reason not to trush his aesthetic judgement pertaining to flag design?

He's kinda cute though, so I'll cut him some slack.


I personally think Ben Franklin's flag design, which spawned the Gadsden flag, really kicks ass. For more great flags from US history go here and here.
posted by evanizer at 12:43 AM on March 5, 2002

Automatic weapons on a flag are especially bad. (Mozambique)

Can't argue with that.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:01 AM on March 5, 2002

Thanks evanizer, the Gadsen flag was the first one I thought of when I was reading this thread, and then I scrolled down, and I was all like 'sweet'

Anyway, thanks.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:12 AM on March 5, 2002

The Chilean flag should have been dinged for plagerism. . .

posted by gjjohnson at 1:39 AM on March 5, 2002

Gambia got an A+? South Africa's a better, more exciting and powerful statement with a similar color scheme, yet it only got an 85. Ireland is almost Gambia on its side, yet it gets a 70? Chile stole their flag idea from us Texans *hmph!* And the United Kingdom only gets a B cuz it's "too busy"? Absurd!

This is just subjective aesthetics. One man's flag is another man's fart. I respect the effort this Josh guy put into this project, and I respect that he has an opinion, but I dismiss his opinion, because his criteria for what makes a good flag is irrelevant. Grading flags as if they were finger painting projects made by second grade students? It's a pointless (although mildly amusing) exercise.

The U.S. gets a C?! I'm glad I didn't have this guy for a teacher in second grade.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:21 AM on March 5, 2002

I did Chile for my school geography project when I was 13. AFAIK Texas copied Chile (actual dates not withstanding).

I like the UK flag because it doesn't look like it matters which way you hang it up, except it does. Everyone gets it wrong because the rule for which way to hang it up is wierd and no one can ever remember it. I never can. It's always wrong though. Whichever way up it is.
posted by vbfg at 4:12 AM on March 5, 2002

For those of you in the L.A. area, there's a little park-like area right next to the Civic Center downtown, where they fly about 20 different American flags from the past, every day, with plaques explaining their origins. It's pretty cool.
posted by bingo at 7:53 AM on March 5, 2002

liam: "The Brazilian flag may not be D- ugly but deserves the grade for including the quasi-fascist motto, "ordem e progresso" (order & progress)."

The motto comes from Augusto Comte, creator of the positivism theory. Even if this theory is one of the bases of the fascism (strong government, scientificism, etc), it's on our flag due to the relevancy of the positivism on our modern history.

And the colors, although they might be dreadfull to the untrained eye, also have a perfect explanation. Green for our forests, yellow for our mineral resources, blue for our sky and white for peace.

I think it deserves better than D.
posted by rexgregbr at 8:20 AM on March 5, 2002

Actually, the Chilean flag was designed by an expatriate American, and like other flags of newly-independent states in the Americas, was more than happy to take the association with the US revolution. (See also Cuba.) So both the Chilean and Texan flags draw on Old Glory.

And Chile has a blue field in the upper quarter, while Texas has it all across the left side. Close, but not identical.
posted by dhartung at 8:37 AM on March 5, 2002

the greenlandic flag rocks ass.
posted by rikabel at 9:45 AM on March 5, 2002

The second picture down on this page would make a cool flag for a kleptocracy (the guy looks like he's running off with something he's just looted).
posted by diddlegnome at 2:26 PM on March 5, 2002

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