The Art of World Flags

I’ve been watching a little bit of the World Cup, and what I find myself enjoying the most, besides some memories of playing soccer in my youth, is the colors. Mostly in the team uniforms and the world flags.

If you are an artist or fan of color then maybe you too have appreciated the variety of colors and designs of world flags. I recently started studying them through an app on my phone which quizzes you all the flags around the world. It’s been fun but mostly a self–indulgence, until I noticed for the first time, from watching the World Cup, that it does have some practical application. For one, I can recognize more easily the country of origin of the teams playing from their flags and team colors.

World Cup Flags

Interestingly, not all teams have uniform colors that are in their country’s flag. I saw the Netherlands, for example, wearing orange uniforms but their country flag is red, white, and blue. Mexico’s flag is green, white and red but their uniforms are maroon and black. I wonder how it was decided they would wear a color not even in their flag or national colors? Maybe I can look it up.

Also interesting is that the colors of the team uniforms are easily distinguishable when you are watching the game. You don’t get confused because two teams are wearing similar shades of blue, for example. By contrast, I feel that American football uniforms have too many blues; actually, too many red, white and blue teams. But soccer uniforms do seem to draw from a wider color pallet because they can choose from the whole range of colors that are represented in world flags.

World Cup soccer is not what I really wanted to discuss however. I have more to say about the world flags. I’d like to share some observations I have made about them after having been studying them.  First I must say that, because I abhor competitions for the best, and that feature of our society that incessantly judges everything, I feel it necessary to clarify that the preferences I am about to share are based entirely on my subjective taste of their artistic design and are not meant to be any kind of objective evaluation. It’s for fun.

I’d like to start with a few interesting flag observations.

1. Did you know that two sets of countries have identical flags? Indonesia and Monaco, and Romania and Chad. I didn’t expect that. I thought naturally everyone would want an original design. How they differentiate themselves officially, I don’t know, but it may be that Romania and Chad differ on the shade of one of the colors; and most likely the only defining difference between Indonesia and Monaco is the size of the flag, but artistically they appear identical. (Note: in the flags of Indonesia and Monaco there is a white stripe located below the red one, of equal size to the red stripe, not visible)

Romania

Romania

Chad

Chad

 

 

 

 

Indonesia

Indonesia

Monaco

Monaco

 

 

 

 

 

2. It appears red, white and blue is the most common color combination for world flags. Also popular is white, green and red.

Cambodia

Cambodia

Iceland

Iceland

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba

Cuba

Netherlands

Netherlands

 

 

 

 

Iran

Iran

Italy

Italy

 

 

 

 

 

3. Ireland and Ivory Coast (cote d’Ivorie) are the same flag but reversed colors; Belgium and Germany are the same colors but vary the order and direction of the stripes; several countries are like this. Check out Thailand and Costa Rica, they just switched the red and the blue. Many Middle Eastern flags use the colors black, white and red, and often green.

Ireland

Ireland

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

 

 

 

 

Belgium

Belgium

Germany

Germany

 

 

 

 

 

Thailand

Thailand

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

Egypt

Egypt

Iraq

Iraq

 

 

 

 

 

4. The only nation to have a flag which was one solid color, without even a design element, was Libya. But in 2011 they changed it.

Libya then

Libya then

Libya now

Libya now

 

 

 

 

5. Nepal – the only nation to have a flag that is not a square or rectangle.

Nepal

Nepal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, on to some ‘rankings.’

Time for some favorites. I have tried to create a top group of five world flags that represent to me the ones that stand out the most. If I was pressed to name just one I would probably say South Africa, but consider them equal in that they are in my group of favorites.

Favorites:

South Africa – the color combinations and the creative line use make this flag stand out. It’s got a lot of colors but they all blend nicely and balance well – think of all the different ways you could combine these six different colors in this design! If you want to know a little more about the design history of this flag, try this article about it’s designer, Fred Brownell: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27155475

South Africa

South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

Namibia – Namibia’s flag uses nice saturations of three colors, which complement well. Add everybody’s favorite icon, the sun, and you have a top flag in my book.

Namibia

Namibia

 

 

 

 

 

Seychelles – this is one of few flags with lines extending from the diagonal. It must be the sun rising over the waters of this island country. Because it inspires me and its unique, not to mention the colors, it’s one of my tops.

Seychelles

Seychelles

 

 

 

 

Eritrea – the colors complement well, and a unique triangle design combine to earn high points.

Eritrea

Eritrea

 

 

 

 

Libya then – plain and simple. That’s why I like it. The only flag of a single solid color, not actually Libya’s flag anymore but was up until 2011. I still want to include it on my list.

Libya then

Libya then

 

 

 

 

 Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):

Azerbijan – nice color scheme, and intensity of the colors as well.

Azerbijan

Azerbijan

 

 

 

 

Bhutan – you gotta love the dragon icon. It compensates a lot for the mustard and orange.

Bhutan

Bhutan

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Verde -love the shade of blue, but also that it represents the sky and the sea, as Cape Verde is an island nation. The overall design is bold and balanced.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde

 

 

 

 

Central African Republic -close to being in my top group, this one is symmetrical and interesting for that red stripe slicing the flag in half. A star is always a nice touch.

Central African Republic

Central African Republic

 

 

 

 

 

The Gambia -red, blue and green are some of the best complementing colors for a flag in my opinion. These saturations too.

Gambia

Gambia

 

 

 

 

 

Kiribati – clearly the flag of an island nation. Nice saturation to the red and blue – not too bright, but warm and inviting. The design includes water, air, light and natural life.

Kiribati

Kiribati

 

 

 

 

Marshall Islands – Cool. That blue, the star, and those rising, inspiring rays of light.

Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands

 

 

 

 

Mauritius – simple yet bold.

Mauritius

Mauritius

 

 

 

 

 

Uzbekistan – a relatively unique color scheme, with thin redish stripes that add a nice, subtle touch.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

 

 

 

 

Now on to the ugliest, or most boring:

Not every flag is a stand-out piece of art however. There are some that function perfectly fine and have great meaning, but in purely aesthetic terms might make one ask some questions.

Federated States of Micronesia – this one says – blah.

Federated States of Micronesia

Federated States of Micronesia

 

 

 

 

Gabon – that blue is just too powdery. It throws the emotional message of the whole flag off.

Gabon

Gabon

 

 

 

 

 

Kazakhstan – the icons are nice, but minty-teal? No thanks.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

 

 

 

 

 

Maldives – a green rectangle within a maroon one. Hmmm.

Maldives

Maldives

 

 

 

 

 

Morocco – green on red? It’s hard to see.

Morocco

Morocco

 

 

 

 

 

Bahamas – teal and yellow is already iffy, but with black, it makes it seem like they are warning us about something. Like the Bermuda Triangle.

Bahamas

Bahamas

 

 

 

 

Mozambique – those colors. And that quill pen notebook thing. (actually, it’s a rifle crossed with a hoe superimposed over an open book)

Mozambique

Mozambique

 

 

 

 

 

Niger – hello orange-yellow blob, hello bright green.

Niger

Niger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rwanda – there’s that powdery blue again, and a powdery green. But nice sun.

Rwanda

Rwanda

 

 

 

 

 

Tanzania – that bright blue, and green. Plus yellow and black? It doesn’t work for me.

Tanzania

Tanzania

 

 

 

 

 

 So concludes my tour of the world of world flags.

If you wanted to share one of your favorite flags based on your artistic preference, and what you like about it, we would enjoy hearing from you in the comments.

(Note: actual colors may vary)

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