Good Flag, Bad Flag: Five Ways to Design a Good Flag

Bad Flag - State of New Hampshire
Bad Flag - State of Virginia
Good Flag - State of Arizona
Good Flag - State of Maryland

There really is no such thing as a bad flag. Any time a community reaches out to symbolize their past, their achievements, and their people is a good thing. Still, there are ways for your community to be remembered more easily when it comes to your flag design.

So, here are five basic things to remember:

1. Keep it Simple: A flag should be so simple 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.

With apologies to Ted Kaye, a fellow vexillologist, I copied these five points directly from his most useful booklet, “Good Flag, Bad Flag: How to Design a Great Flag”.

The examples of ‘good’ flags above like the flag of Maryland or of Arizona embody these five points of simple design, bright colors and memorable patterns. They can be seen from a distance and would be instantly recognizable. The other ‘bad’ flags aren’t really bad since the colors and design go well together. It is hard, though, to determine exactly which flag belongs to Virginia and which belongs to New Hampshire. They both look so much alike from a distance.

Too often, organizations, communities, neighborhoods, even nations mean well when they want to create a unifying object such as a flag, but they are encumbered by lack of direction. Well, no more. Add this booklet to your reference library and you won’t be encumbered again!

Thank you to the North American Vexillological Association at and to Ted Kaye.

So, what simple story does your flag tell?

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