Proudly Fly the Flag

canada flagHave you spent any time recently on vexillology? That apparently is the study of flags. I must admit it was a new word for me but I became quite enthusiastic about it after seeing a TED talk today. It was given by Roman Mars for whom it seems to be somewhat of a passion.

If you have never encountered this gentleman before, he has a podcast and radio show 99% Invisible, which has accumulated a massive following so that he is now viewed as a broadcast and Internet phenomena. The title of his presentation was “Why city flags may be the worst design thing you ever noticed“. Here is what he presented. It is 18 minutes long but you will not regret spending the time. He is an amusing and provocative speaker.

The essence of his argument is that we all have a very primitive connection with flags. We delight in proudly flying them to confirm our enthusiastic support for whatever the flag represents. Given this, it is important that flags are well designed so that they deserve our involvement with them. Here are the simple design rules which he feels flags should follow:

5 basic rules of flag design

In general flags of countries are well designed by these rules and he seems comfortable with how well they are presented. The flags of cities are another matter entirely.

Mars is particularly enthusiastic about the city flags for Chicago and Amsterdam.

chicago flag amsterdam flag

Here in Canada, he might well find the city of Ottawa flag appealing but the flag for Vancouver is clearly below par.

ottawa flag vancouver flag

Moving closer to home, the flag for the Township of Langley seems to represent the right stuff. Unfortunately that cannot be said for the City of Langley which does not have a flag but only has a somewhat complex coat of arms.

township of langley flag city of langley coat of arms

If then you wish to proudly fly a flag for your city, and the city flag is like some of the pathetic examples shown by Roman Mars, then your only hope is to start a movement to adopt a flag for your city that you all can be proud of. You can undoubtedly be assured of the enthusiastic support of all the other students of vexillology.