This site began one night when I couldn’t sleep. Surfing the web I saw the god-awful state flag of Michigan (where I live) and got the notion to design a better one. Then I kept going.
For the most part, state and provincial flags suck. There are a handful of great ones, several good ones, some acceptable ones in the middle, and then it’s mostly a bunch of shitty shields-on-fields (flags that consist of a field of one color – almost always dark blue – with the state seal or coat of arms dumped in the middle of it). A freshling art-school student could do better than most of these. So could I.
There are several things wrong with most of these flags, things you simply shouldn’t do on a flag. The most common are:
- Words – Flags aren’t meant to be read. (They can be red, of course.) The whole point of a flag is to serve as a non-verbal representation of a place. If you need to include the name of the place to do that, your design and your use of the flag has failed. See almost every national flag in the world, for examples.
- Stars – The use of stars itself isn’t a problem, but the way U.S. flags use them is. Borrowing a design cue (and not a very good one) from the United States flag, they often include however-many stars are needed to show what position the state holds in being admitted to the Union. But once you get past, say, seven (of anything, not just stars), they become decorative noise.
- Complexity – A child should be able to draw their state flag. From memory. A detailed copy of the state coat of arms or some other fussy illustration misses the point of a flag, as something you can see and identify at a glance, from a distance.
Beyond that there are more general design principles. Remember what the flag is for! A flag should look cool. Something people who live there are proud of. It should be something that can be put on shoulder patches, baseball caps, and bumper stickers, reflected in government agency logos, and reused in hundreds of ways as a representation of the state. Keep it simple. Everyone knows the flag of Switzerland. Nobody knows the flag of Idaho. Because Idaho’s really, really sucks.
The North American Vexillological Association did a survey a while back, which ranked pretty much this same set of flags. I disagree with a few of their assessments, but on the whole their voters and I are in agreement, which shows that I’m right about this. Obviously they have no opinion about my flags, but if they agree with me which ones suck and need to be replaced, that means the citizens of those states/provinces/territories should get on that.