Friday, April 23, 2010

The Flag Friday Index

The Flag Friday project has become interesting enough -- by which, of course, I mean interesting enough to ME -- that I figure it needs a better index and a place to summarize the collected ideas, opinions, and what-not that it has generated. This will be the new "home page" for the project.

The Flag Friday project is an ongoing critique of the Flags of the world. It was inspired by New Zealand philosopher Josh Parsons' reviews of the world’s flags from some years back, possibly the only comprehensive critique of the world’s flags on record. Each flag review cites Parson's assessment before explaining why I agree or disagree with him; then you, the reader, have a chance to agree or disagree with me.

As I mention every post: These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.

I: Grades
II: Glossary
III: The Flag Index
IV: Other Flag Posts of Yore
V: Flaggy Links from the L&TM5K Readers

I: Grades

For ease of comparison, I use Parson’s system of letter grades, which runs basically like so:

A = Excellent; Inspired
B = High Quality Flag with only minor concerns
C = Satisfactory Flag
D = Problematic Flag
F = National Embarassment

II: Glossary

The Betsy Ross Principle: At anything but the broadest level of abstraction, pictures are too detailed to be immediately recognizable at any distance and thus run counter to good flag design. Too, one feels that a flag ought to be something that could be put together by the local
Betsy Ross figure out of, literally, whole cloth. A fussy image that requires custom-printed fabric is vaguely undemocratic, and sacrifices the clean, bold aesthetic of solid blocks of color.

Civil Flags: The ordinary flag of a country, as opposed to the fancy State Flags that are often used to mark especially important national locations or people. Flag Fridays focuses on Civil Flags.

The Kid With Crayons Tests: The Kid With Crayons Test was originally suggested by Aviatrix and subsequently refined by points raised by The Unwise Owl.

  • The Kid With Crayons Simplicity Test is, like The Betty Ross Principle, a measure of a flag's relative simplicity. It suggests that an ideal flag should have a simple enough design that a child can reproduce it accurately with crayons.
  • The Experiential Kid With Crayons Test is a necessarily subjective assessment of a flag's immediate visual impact. It implies that certain flags -- eg. that of Bhutan -- have a design that might inspire a child to want to draw it in crayon, regardless of the design's complexity.
Maps on Flags: Parsons considers the presence of a map on a flag a grave cartographic error. I see no problem with cartographic flags in principle, but will also concede that maps are often a dodgy design element in practice.

State Flags: Special versions of a countries flag used to mark special occasions or locations. See "Civil Flags."

Tricolors: Flags that are comprised of three fields or "stripes" of color, running either horizontally or diagonally. Parsons posits "do not use a tricolour unless you are in Europe" as a rule of flag design, but I disagree wholeheartedly with him on this point. Tricolors are the very epitome of classic flag design, simple, bold, and immediately identifiable. European countries use them for the reason that they have strong use value, and triumphed over all other possible national signifiers through a historical process of evolution. To tell the younger countries of the world that they can’t use this design because it’s already been done is essentially to tell them that their flags shouldn’t look like flags.

Words and Names on Flags. Both Parsons and I am generally hostile to the idea of names on flags. The whole purpose of a flag is to present a graphic representation for a political entity, and if you have to (to take an example from the gallery of horrors that is the U.S. State flags) actually write “Oregon” on your banner, you have clearly committed a vexology fail.

III: The Flag Index

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda

Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas

Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize

Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia

Bosnia, Botswana, Brazil

Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi

IV: Other Flag Posts of Yore

The L&TM5K Awards for Flag Merit

Thoughts on the Flag(s) of Angola

Flag Colors of the World

Thoughts on U.S. State Flags

The Wednesday Quiz II:1

Canadian and Australian Flags Quiz

The Monday Quiz IL

V: Flaggy Links from the L&TM5K Readers

What is Written on the National Flags (Cartophiliac)

The intersection of Flag and Food (Elizabeth)

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