July 4, 2018

What Makes a Good Flag Design

flag designAs the holiday of Independence day descends upon the eastern horizon of the United States, I thought it would be interesting to just touch upon the following topic of what makes a good design for a flag.

In essence, five primary principles have repeatedly proven to be the model to follow, and they are as follows.

  1. Simplicity
  2. Take a look at the design of the Japanese flag which consists of a single element against a benign white background. But if you see it displayed within the context of the open sky, the red circle stands as a significant and strong design element which is of cultural significance in Japanese culture (the sun represented by a circle).

  3. Color
  4. This is probably one of the most important elements in flag design. Color plays a significant part in what a culture perceives as a negative or positive color. As you can see this falls right into the essence of what a flag is to accomplish, a feeling of nationalism while on display in a civilian or military environment.

    Historical symbolism is a factor that can represent the cultural interpretation of a specific color based upon a particular geographic, political, or religious faith. Yellow, for example, is considered a color of divinity in many religions, while yellow in a western culture denotes a happy, glowing, youthful impression.

  5. The Rule of Thirds
  6. In the rule of thirds, the design area or palette is divided into thirds with two imaginary lines horizontally and two lines vertically making three rows, three columns, resulting in nine sections within the flag area. Important design elements and leading lines are placed on or near the imaginary lines and where the lines intersect.

    A clear example of the rule of thirds taken literally is the flag designs of France, Italy, Belguim, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

    To the contrary working with the intersecting points of the horizontal and vertical points, the flag design takes a different approach. You can see this clearly in the flags of Scandinavian countries, New Zealand, United States, Togo, and Slovakia.

  7. Symmetry vs Asymmetry
  8. Symmetry creates the balance and consistency that is obvious in flags such as the Canadian, or Israel flag. Asymmetry on the opposite side of the design spectrum creates tension, off-setting the focus within the flag design area. In some cases, the flag design could utilize both symmetry and asymmetry within its design. Take the flag of Norway for example.

  9. Context
  10. Just like any graphic, a national flag must be able to be recognizable whether flying outdoors or utilized in a print or digital environment. There are a number of frameworks most flags follow, these are called:

    • Border
    • Canton
    • Quarterly
    • Greek Cross
    • Symmetric Cross
    • Nordic
    • Pales
    • Fesses
    • Bends
    • Chevron
    • Pall
    • Saltire

In conclusion, the next time you pass by or visit a location such as the United Nations, an Embassy, or view a world-themed sporting event, you might just take a little longer to appreciate the design of a flag.

Gilbert Velazquez (Graphic Designer)

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