Saturday, March 5, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #156

So, this week in vexillology, we're taking a slight detour. I've been devouring podcasts at a fairly healthy clip for about a year or so now. They're nice, the perfect background noise for when I'm cleaning, washing dishes, folding laundry and one of the podcasts I listen to is the always excellent 99% Invisible, which looks at aspects of design that all of us either take for granted or just straight up don't notice.  I was listening to the usual regular episode and the host, Roman Mars (what a great name- seriously) mentioned that they were posting an update to the TED Talk he gave on Vexillology the year before...

What's that? I perked up. A TED Talk on Vexillology? Yes please!


The beautiful thing about this TED Talk is that it does bring up a big problem, not only with municipal flags but by extension with state flags as well. Iowa's is actually pretty decent- but there are far, far too many 'seals on a bedsheet' as Mars calls them for my liking. He talks extensively about the five basic principles of flag design (as laid down by NAVA): Keep it simple, use meaningful symbolism, 2-3 colors, no writing and be distinctive... and then he looks at some good examples of municipal flags (Chicago, D.C., Portland, Amsterdam- they have an especially cool flag, I think) and then he looks at some very bad examples of municipal flags.

Before I get to the horrible surprise in the 'bad' examples of municipal flags, I want to detour back to NAVA (an organization I should probably join at this point) and their five principle. I have a slight and minor quibble with their 'no writing' rule. Having looked at way too many flags that include Coats of Arms I can see their point- tiny writing, tinier symbolism- I usually have to pull the Coat of Arms and find out what it means separately. It's generally easier when I don't have to deal with one. But- I've also learned an awful lot about those countries from looking at their Coat of Arms as well. So yeah, I get it- buuuuuut, a little bit of tiny writing has taught me an awful lot as well.

But, BACK TO THE BAD MUNICIPAL FLAGS! Mars talks extensively about the flag of San Francisco and how bad it is- but he also showed a bunch of other bad examples including this:


What fresh hell is this? It doesn't appear that Iowa City has a flag (thank god) but it's got this for a seal, which I'm less than crazy about as well. But seriously Cedar Rapids? Really? Even Davenport- whose flag commits any number of sins, looks better than this. Des Moines really kicks ass with their flag as well. (Seriously: I would buy a flag of Des Moines. It's pretty striking and sort of boss.)

I'm not a Cedar Rapidian, but this is a topic worthy of further investigation. Are there vexillologists up the road attempting to change this flag? Does their City Council even care? What about Iowa City- do we have a flag? If we do, does it suck? Can we do better? (City Lab has a pretty good rundown of the best and the worst out there. It's worth a look.)

These and many other questions I'm going to try and answer. Stay tuned and I'll update everyone when I can. In the meantime, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

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