Good Flag, Bad Flag

NAVA’s publication Good Flag, Bad Flag provides five principles of flag design:

  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 or 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 on any kind or an organization’s seal…
  5. Be Distinctive or Be Related. Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections…

In a handy image:


Click on the cover images below for PDFs of the 14-page booklet, with explanations and examples, in the language of your choice.  Keep scrolling down for other flag design resources.

These principles of good flag design distill the wisdom of many people who have written on the subject, including Philippe Bondurand, Frederick Brownell, William Crampton, Michael Faul, Jim Ferrigan, Richard Gideon, Kevin Harrington, Lee Herold, Ralph Kelly, Rich Kenny, David Martucci, Clay Moss, Peter Orenski, Whitney Smith, Steve Tyson, Henry Untermeyer, and Alfred Znamierowski. Compiled by Ted Kaye in 2006, English revision in 2020. Booklet design by Melissa Meiner. Good Flag, Bad Flag is also available as a booklet (ISBN-13: 978–0–9747728–1–3, ISBN-10: 0–9747728–1–X); Amazon sells it for $2.99.

Other Flag Design Resources

TED Talk

Good Flag, Bad Flag formed the basis for this popular TED Talk (the first such talk on vexillology) by Roman Mars, featuring audio clips of Ted Kaye:


The project to improve the city flag of Lowell, Massachusetts has put together this handy one-page worksheet that could be modified for use in other such projects.


Social Media

Red Peak ( is example of an effective social media campaign for flag adoption. Though the design ultimately lost in the popular vote for a potential successor to the current flag of New Zealand, online organizing around the simple design and the vision behind it, nicely documented by the Tumblr site, convinced the national government to add “Red Peak” to the ballot as a fifth option, even after the four official finalists had been announced.

Other Resources

Here are some other resources that may be helpful, though they are more complicated than the five simple rules of Good Flag, Bad Flag:

28 thoughts on “Good Flag, Bad Flag”

  1. […] It’s time to admit that Milwaukee’s search for a new flag will never end. Like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Milwaukee flag and the debate surrounding it is a multi-media franchise that always is, always has been, and always will be. “You’ve always been the caretaker,” Delbert Grady tells Jack Torrance in The Shining. He may as well have been talking about the Five Principles of Good Flag Design. […]

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