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How to design a good flag


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#561 King Antonio Hart

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 09:38 PM

tl;dr:
1. Keep it simple.
2. Don't be random.
3. High contrast is good.
4. NO LETTERING!
5. Be distinctive.
6. Be realistic.


This is a repost from the old forum, though I've made some modifications to relate it more to CN. Rules and imagery are originally courtesy the North American Vexillological Association.

The Six Rules of Good Flag Design:

The purpose of a flag is to be a clear, unique identifier for your nation/alliance. The following guidelines will help you design a flag that effectively accomplishes that goal.




1. Keep It Simple
A child should be able to draw your flag from memory.

Flags flap, drape and must be easily identifiable from a distance (and as very small "thumbnail" graphics). Under these circumstances, only simple designs are effective. Avoid the temptation to use photoshop effects - they are difficult to see and are unrealistic (see rule 6). Complicated flags are not only more difficult to identify, but cost more to make in the real world, which limits how widely they can be used. Most overly complicated flag designs have the elements of a great flag in them; they just need to be simplified by focusing on a single symbol and simple colors. Avoid the temptation to include a lot of different symbols for every group you're trying to represent, as that could clutter the design. Ideally the design will be reversible or at least recognizable from either side; don't put a different design on the back.

Good:
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With bold, contrasting colors, large shapes, and parallel lines, this flag is also easily recognized when reversed. (Congo)

Bad:
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Replete with stars, crescents, and the Sword of Ali, this 19th-century design's overwhelming complexity defeats its purpose. (Bey of Tunisia)



2. Use Meaningful Symbolism
The flag's images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.

Don't be random. Symbolism can be in the form of the "charge" or main graphic element, in the colors used, or sometimes even in the shapes or layout of the parts of the flag. Usually a single primary symbol is best, and try to avoid symbols that aren't unique, or aren't representative of anything. Colors often carry meanings: Red for blood or sacrifice, white for purity, blue for water or sky, etc. In cybernations team color can be an important symbol. Diagonal stripes are often used by former colonies as an alternative to the generally horizontal and vertical stripes of European countries.

Good:
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"Hiawatha's Belt", a symbol for five tribes since before 1600, appears on the traditional blue of wampum shell beads. (Iroquois Confederacy)

Bad:
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This flag depicts the flags of all the member countries. Not only is it unreadable, but it must be changed each time one joins, drops out, or changes its flag! (Organization of American States)



3. Use About 3 Solid, Contrasting Colors
To be easily identifiable, colors should be simple and highly contrasting.

The basic flag colors are Red, Blue, Green, Black, Yellow, and White. Other colors can be used (Purple, Orange, etc), but always use solid colors, never a gradient. Separate dark colors with a light color and light colors with a dark color to help create effective contrast. A good flag should also reproduce well in grayscale (black & white). More than four colors are hard to distinguish and make the flag unnecessarily complicated and expensive, so limit your palette.

Good:
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These colors contrast well, even though the red and black are not separated by a light color. (Amsterdam)

Bad:
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Too many colors! At the least, the yellow and white should be separating the dark colors so the various stripes contrast more. Also, the dragon is too complex to make out except from up close (see rules 1 and 4). (Chinese Admiral)



4. No Lettering or Seals
Never use writing or any detailed seals on a flag; they defeat the point and are hard to read.

Why not just write "U.S.A." on a flag instead of using the stars and stripes? Because flags are supposed to be graphic symbols; words defeat the purpose. Lettering is also nearly impossible to read from a distance, difficult to reduce to thumbnail image size, and hard to sew in the real world. Words are not reversible, which forces double or triple-thick fabric. Don't confuse a flag with a banner, such as what is carried in front of a marching band in a parade, draped behind a speaker's platform, or placed at the top of your alliance forum. Banners don't flap, don't have to be resized, and are seen from only one side, while flags are much more dynamic and therefore must be much simpler. Likewise, seals were designed for placement on paper to be read at close range. Most seals are very detailed, which makes then ineffective for flags. Better to use some single element from the seal rather than the seal itself. Occasionally logos, crests or shields can work, but usually they have the same problems as seals.

Good:
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The palmetto tree represents "Palmetto State" far better than the state's seal could. The crescent moon is in the position of honor. (South Carolina)

Bad:
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It's impossible to make out the details of the central seal in this flag. Even worse, since this flag uses a seal AND lettering, the name of the state actually appears twice. (South Dakota)



5. Be Distinctive or Be Related
Avoid duplicating other flags outright, but use similarities to show relationships

This is perhaps the most difficult principle, but it is very important. Sometimes the good designs are already "taken". Duplicating or recalling another flag's symbols, colors, or shapes can be a powerful way to show heritage, solidarity, or connectedness. This requires knowledge of other flags. Often the best way to start the design process can be looking to one's "roots" in flags by team, alliance or national identity.

Good:
Posted Image
Using the same colors as the flags of many other African countries, this flag shows a strong connection to its neighbors. You know it's an African flag right away. (Ghana)

Bad:
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Except for its proportions, this flag is exactly the same as Monaco's (which had it first), but there is no connection between the two countries. Upside-down it is the same as Poland or as Cantabria, Spain. Simple is good, but this one takes it too far. (Indonesia)



6. Be Realistic

Shape:
A rectangle is the standard flag shape. Keep the width/length proportions between 1:1.5 and 1:2. Canadian flags are usually 1:2; U.S. flags are usually 1:1.5 or 1:1.67. Square flags are unusual, and pennants even more so. Abandon normal rectangles only when meaningful.

Placement of symbols: Your most important symbols should be located where they will be most visible. The point of honor is the "canton" area in the upper left corner. This corresponds to the part of the flag that is seen when it hangs limp from a flagpole. The center or left-of-center position is the most visible spot for a symbol when the flag is flying. Discounting wind, Americans and Europeans read top-to-bottom and left-to-right, so when we look at a graphic, we naturally look first towards the upper left. Flags that break this consideration tend to look awkward and unrealistic.

Keep in mind real-life issues: Consider the fabrication methods. Curved lines add to the cost of sewn flags. Holes or "negative space" hurt a flag's fly-ability and wear-ability. "Swallow-tail" shapes fray more easily. As with wind, these issues may not directly affect the cyberverse, but designs that don't take them into consideration won't look realistic.

Good:
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This flag's only non-stripe graphical element is located where it will be visible most often. (Namibia)

Bad:
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This flag will appear to be a blank green sheet unless the wind is blowing strongly. (Zambia)



Breaking The Rules

Only break the rules if you have a good reason:
All rules have exceptions. Colorado's "C" is a stunning graphic element even though it's technically a letter; the fact that it is used as a symbol instead of a letter makes it more effective than normal writing. Maryland's complicated heraldic quarters produce a memorable and distinctive flag. You can break the rules, but do so only with caution and purpose.

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Colorado

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Maryland



Examples from CN:

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Norden Verein's flag is clear and unmistakable at any size (rule 1). Its colors and shapes are easily distinguished (3), and its design reflects NoV's northern European focus (5).

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The map on IRON's flag is difficult to make out at this scale (1). It has lots of lettering (4). What do the stars mean? It seems like they're there just to fill up space (2).

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NpO's flag puts its most important symbol in the center (6), uses clear colors (3), and reflects Polar's Pacific heritage (5).

Posted Image
The black, maroon and deep gold stars on ONOS' flag don't contrast enough and are difficult to make out (3). Like IRON, it uses stars for no apparent reason except to fill space (2).

Posted Image Posted Image
Wolfpack's complicated, heavily-photoshopped flag (left) is totally unidentifiable at small size (1). On the other hand, STA's flag (right, and below) is unmistakable due to to its simplicity (1) and highly contrasting colors (3). Even the relatively complicated tiger graphic is identifiable at small size, partly because it's a clean design (1) and partly because with a name like Siberian Tiger Alliance, you expect to see a tiger on the flag (2). Putting the graphic in the canton also ensures maximum visibility (6), and lets us know it is an important symbol.
Posted Image



#562 darlin

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 04:54 PM

what website do you use?

#563 New Carnoly

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 04:58 PM

most use photoshop or paint

#564 darlin

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:07 PM

most use photoshop or paint

thx, but how do I transfer tpaint to the forum?

#565 OrangeBeard

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:40 PM

thx, but how do I transfer tpaint to the forum?

Are you asking how to get a created image in here? Either upload it to Imageshack or Photobucket. Then paste the url here in image tags [ img ] [ /img ]

#566 Raptor1752

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 02:02 AM

Hi, I'm a bit new to these forums (or, more rather, that I don't visit this place often), and I would just like to know if my semi-fictional Majapahit flag is a good enough flag:

Posted Image

It is based upon the supposed Majapahit flag and the current Indonesian Naval Jack and the Surya Majapahit (The symbol of Majapahit). Yes, I know that the black does not distinguish well with the red, but what of the other things about the flag?

#567 dy Cazaril

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 06:02 PM

Hi, I'm a bit new to these forums (or, more rather, that I don't visit this place often), and I would just like to know if my semi-fictional Majapahit flag is a good enough flag:

It is based upon the supposed Majapahit flag and the current Indonesian Naval Jack and the Surya Majapahit (The symbol of Majapahit). Yes, I know that the black does not distinguish well with the red, but what of the other things about the flag?


It's certainly a damned sight better than most of the crap that people use as flags around here. :P

#568 scrontch

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 01:47 PM

Hi, I'm a bit new to these forums (or, more rather, that I don't visit this place often), and I would just like to know if my semi-fictional Majapahit flag is a good enough flag:
[...]


It's certainly not bad.

Let's see...
1. Keep it simple. Passed!
2. Don't be random. Passed!
3. High contrast is good. Hmm, some issues here, see below.
4. NO LETTERING! Passed!
5. Be distinctive. Passed!
6. Be realistic. Passed!

As you mentioned already, the black and red is not so good.
Especially since the diagonal line elements (the spikes of the sun) conflict with the stripes.
That makes it hard to distinguish and makes it feel crowded although from a symbolism point of view it is not.
Putting the sun on a white circle background would probably help.
Something like http://flag-designer...6&c4=1&s=3&c5=0

#569 New Frontier

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 03:28 PM

Step One: Take any existing alliance flag.
Step Two: Add T-Rex.

Best flag, every time.

#570 KingJamie

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 05:55 AM

Does anyone have any suggestions on a good program to create a flag or banner.

#571 Leerjet

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 01:15 AM

Anyone know someone who is good at making flags? if so, I'd like input! :)

#572 The Great Big Worm

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:01 PM

How do I submit a flag?

#573 sellintech77

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Posted 07 June 2012 - 12:07 PM

How do i put my flag that i made on the game?

#574 vandelsand

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Posted 07 June 2012 - 02:15 PM

How do i put my flag that i made on the game?


You can only get a flag into the game if it is part of a sanctioned alliance. Sanctioned alliances are currently the top 12 alliances in the score category.

#575 Rotavele

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 09:01 AM

I followed this guide while making the Sovrana Flag, I think it did pretty well :P


Posted Image

#576 Isaac MatthewII

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 01:08 AM

Posted Image

Hows about this one?

Edited by Isaac MatthewII, 09 July 2012 - 01:08 AM.


#577 scrontch

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 01:02 PM

Hows about this one?


Test it yourself: Scale the flag down to 5% if its current size.
What do you still distinguish?
Sorry, but FAIL!

#578 Isaac MatthewII

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:39 AM

I will excuse that rudeness by the fact that you have only said something here 7 times. But yeah it is distinguishable.

#579 scrontch

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 01:08 PM

Never mind, venerable Isaac, I'll excuse your impairment in ability to see by the fact that you have said something here 1515 times!
*bows down in respect*

#580 Isaac MatthewII

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 04:50 PM

Thats alright, but you didn't grovel.




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