Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed | Roman Mars | Summary and Q&A

5.0M views
May 14, 2015
by
TED
YouTube video player
Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed | Roman Mars

TL;DR

This content explores the importance of good flag design and how it can represent and inspire a city and its people.

Install to Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Transcripts

Key Insights

  • 🎨 Design is everywhere and has the power to make our lives better and provide joy.
  • 🇨🇦 Flags have a unique ability to evoke strong emotions and connect with people.
  • 📻 The podcast "99% Invisible" explores the design of various things, including flags.
  • 🏙️ The design of city flags is important and can contribute to civic pride.
  • 🎨 The North American Vexillological Association provides five principles for good flag design: simplicity, meaningful symbolism, two to three colors, no lettering or seals, and distinctiveness.
  • 🔤 Municipal seals and writing on flags are generally considered poor design choices.
  • 🌍 Flag design extends beyond city flags and can apply to flags of countries and regions.
  • ✏️ Redesigning flags can inspire civic engagement and reflect a city's approach to design.

Transcript

I know what you're thinking: "Why does that guy get to sit down?" That's because this is radio. (Music) I tell radio stories about design, and I report on all kinds of stories: buildings and toothbrushes, mascots and wayfinding and fonts. My mission is to get people to engage with the design that they care about so they begin to pay attention to al... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does the speaker care so much about flags?

The speaker is passionate about flags because he believes that once you understand the design of flags, you can understand the design of almost anything. He sees flags as a way to decode and appreciate the design in the world around us.

Q: What are the five basic principles of flag design according to the North American Vexillological Association?

The five basic principles of flag design are: 1) keep it simple, 2) use meaningful symbolism, 3) use two to three basic colors, 4) no lettering or seals, and 5) be distinctive. These principles are important for creating effective and visually appealing flags.

Q: Why do many US city flags violate the principle of not having lettering or seals?

Many US city flags violate this principle because they often include their city name or seals on their flags. These elements may work well on paper, but they become illegible and ineffective when viewed from a distance, such as on a flag flying 100 feet away.

Q: What is the problem with the flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin?

The flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is considered one of the biggest train wrecks in vexillological history. It includes a large gear, a ship, a stalk of wheat, and even a picture of the Civil War battle flag of the Milwaukee regiment. It is a cluttered and confusing design that does not adhere to the principles of good flag design.

Q: What is the speaker's suggestion for redesigning the flag of San Francisco?

The speaker suggests simplifying the flag of San Francisco by removing the motto and the city name. He also proposes making the phoenix, which represents the city rising from the ashes, a larger and more stylized element in the middle of the flag. By following these suggestions, the flag could become a more effective and visually appealing symbol for the city.

Q: What is the significance of a well-designed city flag?

A well-designed city flag can serve as a symbol of civic pride and unity. It represents a city's design systems and can be a powerful tool for branding and connection. When a city flag is well-designed, it becomes a banner for people to rally under and can help shape the perception of a city both to its residents and to the world at large.

Q: What does the speaker hope to achieve with his discussion on flags?

The speaker hopes to raise awareness about the importance of good flag design and encourage people to take action in improving their own city flags. He wants to inspire individuals to join the effort to change bad flags and recognize that good design principles apply not just to flags, but to all forms of design.

Summary

This video features Roman Mars, who tells radio stories about design and shares his passion for well-designed flags. He explains the five basic principles of flag design according to the North American Vexillological Association: simplicity, meaningful symbolism, two to three basic colors, no lettering or seals, and distinction. He highlights the beauty and significance of the flag of Chicago, which has become a symbol of civic pride. Mars also critiques the flag of San Francisco, which he considers lacking in design principles and suggests improvements. He emphasizes the importance of good design principles for flags and encourages listeners to take action to change their city flags if necessary.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the mission of Roman Mars?

Roman Mars aims to get people to engage with the design they care about and pay attention to all forms of design.

Q: Why does Roman Mars love flags?

Roman Mars loves flags because they engage people's emotions and can be found everywhere. He believes that understanding flag design can help people understand the design of almost anything.

Q: According to Ted Kaye, what are the five basic principles of flag design?

The five basic principles of flag design are simplicity, meaningful symbolism, two to three basic colors, no lettering or seals, and distinction.

Q: How does the design of the Chicago flag reflect the principles of flag design?

The design of the Chicago flag follows the principles of flag design. The blue stripes represent the water, and the red stars represent significant events in Chicago's history. The flag design has complete buy-in from the city and is widely used.

Q: What does the design of the San Francisco flag lack?

The design of the San Francisco flag lacks simplicity and meaningful symbolism. It has a phoenix representing the city rising from the ashes, a motto, and the name of the city, which violates the principle of no lettering or seals.

Q: What does Ted Kaye suggest for improving the San Francisco flag?

Ted Kaye suggests removing the motto and the name of the city from the flag. He also recommends simplifying or stylizing the phoenix and emphasizing the flames.

Q: Why does Roman Mars believe that good design principles are rarely invoked in US city flags?

Roman Mars believes that US city flags often violate the principles of flag design, particularly the principle of no lettering or seals. Many US city flags have seals on them, which were originally designed for documents and are not readable from a distance.

Q: What kind of flags does Roman Mars call "SOBs"?

Roman Mars refers to flags with seals on them as "SOBs," which stands for "Seals on a bedsheet." These flags are often found in US cities and are considered bad flag designs.

Q: What is the flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin known for?

The flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is known for being a hot mess. It includes a phoenix, a gear, a ship, a stalk of wheat, and even a picture of the Civil War battle flag of the Milwaukee regiment.

Q: What does Steve Kodis want to do regarding the flag of Milwaukee?

Steve Kodis, a graphic designer from Milwaukee, wants to redesign the flag of Milwaukee because he considers it awful. He believes that the city deserves a great flag.

Q: According to Ted Kaye, how can one design a great flag?

Ted Kaye suggests starting with a one-by-one-and-a-half-inch rectangle on a piece of paper to design a great flag. By adhering to this limitation, a compelling and simple design can be achieved.

Takeaways

Design principles for flags, such as simplicity, meaningful symbolism, and distinctiveness, can apply to all forms of design. While good design principles are often followed for country flags, many US city flags violate these principles. Municipal seals that were designed for documents are not readable on flags from a distance. By creating well-designed flags, cities can express civic pride, create a sense of community, and control their own branding and imagery. Improving city flags can be an indicator of how a city considers design and can potentially inspire design awareness and appreciation in the populace.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker tells radio stories about design and reports on various topics related to design, including buildings, toothbrushes, mascots, wayfinding, and fonts.

  • His mission is to get people to engage with the design that they care about and pay attention to all forms of design.

  • The speaker believes that when the world is decoded with design intent in mind, it becomes magical, and people can appreciate the genius and effort put into making everyday things better.

Share This Summary 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on:

Explore More Summaries from TED 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on: