NAVA’s publication Good Flag, Bad Flag provides five principles of flag design:
- Keep It Simple. The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory…
- Use Meaningful Symbolism. The flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes…
- 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…
- No Lettering or Seals. Never use writing on any kind or an organization’s seal…
- 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. 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
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:
Red Peak (aotearoaflag.tumblr.com) 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.
Here are some other resources that may be helpful, though they are more complicated than the five simple rules of Good Flag, Bad Flag:
- The New Zealand government’s Flag Design Guidelines for creating proposals in the early stage of their crowd-sourced flag change process
- Materials Jonathan Parsons created for UK primary school teachers to lead their classes in proposing flags for their local communities, part of the 2015 Flag Project of the British Parliament
- The Report on the Guiding Principles of Flag Design by the Joint Commission on Vexillographic Principles of the North American Vexillological Association/Association nord-américaine de vexillologie and The Flag Institute