View Full Version : Flags, why do so many countries choose boring ones?

07-02-2012, 03:41 PM
I have been trying to design a flag for my fictional country. For inspiration I've been looking for real life flags. I would like to design a unique flag. But I've noticed that most countries don't really seem to care about their flag being unique and seem pretty content with their flag being a boring tricolor or duocolor, with just horizontal or vertical stripes. I wonder why this is? I am wondering whether it is more realistic for my country's inhabitants to want one of these boring, simple and common flags. Note, with tricolors and duocolors I mean flags that are made almost solely out of 2 or 3 bars/stripes of differering colors.

I'll attach what I have so far, it's not finished yet.

The symbolism:

The inner circle represents the state that exists to serve the people, symbolized by what it is surrounded by.
The red and green stripes represent the people that entirely make up the nation. The equality of the stripes represents equality of all citizens, no matter their status, that every citizen is subject to the same treatment under the law and most importantly in spirit.
The outer circle represents unity. That the Yaemaugh are the strongest when they are united and act as one and support each other, competing with others in the world instead of each other.

What do you guys think? Am I putting too much symbolism into a flag? Or do you hate its design?

07-02-2012, 09:19 PM
Historically, a flag needed to have a few important attributes:
Be instantly recognizable on the battlefield
Be able to fly from a pole (it's why flags pretty much universally have at least one flat edge)
Be able to produce relatively cheaply (simple designs with a few colors are much easier to produce than flags with lots of parts and fancy embroidery).

A somewhat less important attribute is recognizable by various types of color blindness.

Flags also tend to inherit features from their progenitor flags (the British flag, for example, is a couple of flags mashed together). http://quizwithderan.blogspot.com/2010/11/flags-of-world.html has an interesting map that shows flags attached to their countries. Similar areas may have similar flags, and former colonies may have flags very similar to their parent empire.

If the black field is part of the flag then I don't think it's a bad design. It's similar in some respects to the Japanese rising sun flag, except red and green on a black field instead of red on a white field. If the black field isn't part of the design, then I'm not sure hot to attach that flag to a standard...

07-02-2012, 10:20 PM
Thanks for the comment.

Yup, the black part is part of the design.

I have looked through existing flags and also noticed that black is pretty rare, I wonder why?

Red is on almost every flag though.

I tried some other colors for this flag as background though, and black seems to work best.

07-03-2012, 01:48 AM
Red is the color of life (blood) and is usually perceived as being energizing. White is often associated with purity and innocence in Western cultures. A quick search on the psychology of color can be instructive.

From my own experience, I know that black cloth gets dusty and dirty pretty easily. White can get soiled, but it has to get really dirty before it start being perceived as something other than white (my car, for example, hasn't been washed for a few years but it's still undeniably white; my neighbor's black car has been washed more recently but looks decidedly grayish-brown from the crud). Solid primary colors also don't show dirt as much as black, either. That might be one explanation for the lack of black fields on flags that get handled and dragged through the mud.

07-03-2012, 04:10 AM
And, of course, black is associated with death in Western cultures whence the modern tradition of flags (rather than various other standards and devices for identificiation on a battle field) originate - thus black is not generally something many would consider as representing the basic ethos and aspirations of their state.

But if you focus just on heraldic devices, black is certainly more common.

07-03-2012, 03:27 PM
I'd imagine a flag flown on eg. a ship would be difficult to identify at nighttime/lowlight conditions if it had lots of black or other dark shades to it. Bright colors would be easier to recognize.

07-03-2012, 06:40 PM
The Jamaican flag has black in it, (black, white, green and yellow). Most flag colors have represented meanings, so based on the color ideology (white pure, red life, etc.), but some nations apply different specific meanings to the colors used on their flag. The commonality of tri-color flags really begin at the growth of nations - which is a very late concept in the structure of society. Most controlled regions of the world before the rise of nations, were kingdoms and empires, which are generally represented in heraldry. Heraldric devices precede the concept of the flag. IMO, war banners and heraldric devices even printed to cloth is not the same thing as a flag. Flags were created in the Age of Enlightenment, post Renaissance - as a predecessor to the modern world.

If you're like many (most) RPG gamers, the world setting more or less reflects the middle ages and earlier on the timeline - a period before the existence of flags (by my definition above). If you want to show a nation via a symbol on a medieval map, then you will be posting heraldric devices, not flags.

Otherwise compared to modern flags, your design seems quite apropo - nothing wrong with the design at all. It looks like a flag design to me.

07-04-2012, 03:52 AM
Thanks for all the comments, many good points. I think I'll keep the black, as symbolizing fighting spirit (not necessarily militarily), ie as the opposite of a white flag.

I have designed 2 other flags as well. The 3 stripes one as a secondary flag and the cross as the flag of the armed forces. I experimented with many other styles of flags too, like diagonal stripes. I'm thinking of giving those specific functions in society or military.

Note that the nation is a modern one. In fact it is part of my alternate history "universe", on Earth.

07-04-2012, 04:05 AM
I rather like the "wheel" design of your flag but I would advice to make the red is little bit lightier.

These flag colours reminds me of Afghanistan.

07-04-2012, 06:58 PM
Wow i feel like doing Flaggs and heraldics fir my Maps. Thanks for the many explanations.

07-05-2012, 01:37 AM
I'd also advise you to lighten up the colours somewhat - your shades are a little bit dull. Here is an example of red and green as complementary (these shades are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, and therefore look a little more vibrant).

EDIT: not suggesting you actually go with something this brash - just saying.


07-05-2012, 02:53 AM
Some aspects have been already mentioned. Flags need to be produced cheap in numbers and be easily recognized over a distance. The colors in heraldy were traditionally limited:
██black ██red ██blue ██green and ██purple
██silver and ██gold

The combination should be color to metal. So heraldic correct there are 7 singlecolor flags, 20 twocolor flags and 70 threecolor flags (+70 if turned 90)
some colors are rare. Purple and black were hard to manufacture in the past, so they are not too widespread.

I just found the flag design principles published by the North American Vexillological Association (http://www.nava.org/Flag%20Design/GFBF/index.html)

07-05-2012, 04:50 AM
Great find, Eric! I will repost the link in the resources section - have some rep!