Man, did Roman Mars nail it in his Ted talk: Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed. He manages to teach fundamental principles of design and inspire us to care about City Flags, all through humor and well delivered radio effects. It's a must watch.
To recap, here are the 5 principles of good flag design:
- Keep it simple (so simple that a child can draw it from memory)
- Use meaningful symbolism
- Use two to three basic colors from the standard color set: red, white, blue, green, yellow and black
- Use no lettering or seals. Never use writing of any kind.
- Be distinctive
And how does the Virginia and Arlington flags stack up? Let's here's the Virginia state flag:
Yikes, pretty awful.
The Virginia one is: (a) too complicated, (b) contains text and (c) has too many colors. On the plus side, it's distinctive alright. For example, it contains the only nudity on any state flag or seal and has the joke: "'Sic semper tyrannis' actually means 'Get your foot off my neck.' which has been repeated since the Civil War.
And the Arlington one?
Oy. Too much writing and too much detail. Not loving the yellow, but I could probably be persuaded to keep it.
As Roman Mars mentioned, DC's flag is actually quite solid:
And now that he mentions it, I have seen that flag all over DC and I could definitely see feeling a jolt of civil pride from it. It works equally well flying high on a flag pole, or pasted as a sticker on someone's bike.
No surprise, some folks have attempted redesigns of especially bad flags. I'd love to see a take on Virginia's and Arlington's flag. Especially Arlington, c'mon folks, we can do better than this.
The TED talk is below, watch it and be amazed how much you care about this stuff: