A city’s flag is a visual representation that aims to capture the municipality’s distinct characteristics and give its residents a sense of unity. Poorly designed flags fail to highlight any of a place’s unique attributes.
Vexillology is the study of flags, and the individuals who create flags are known as vexillographers. They strive to create flags with simple but memorable images while avoiding overcomplicated or generic designs.
Ted Kaye, secretary of North American Vexillological Association and author of a book on vexillology, says the five basic principles of flag design are simplicity, meaningful symbolism, few colors, no lettering or seals, and distinctiveness. The best flags are striking designs that convey a sense of place and beauty. Many draw from the natural environment, depicting local animals, plants, landforms, or attractions. (These are the most visited national parks in the US)
Bad flags have lettering, bland designs, and minimal meaningful symbolism. Several echo generic product labeling and do nothing to capture local personality. Others are over-designed and have extensive intricate patterns and images that would be nearly impossible to make sense of from more than a short distance.
Every year, among other activities, the NAVA rates city flags from around the U.S. To compile a list of the worst-designed examples, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the organization’s recently published 2022 ranking of city flags. NAVA asked its members and the public to rate the designs of 312 flags, all of which have been redesigned since NAVA did its last survey in 2004. Some 308 NAVA members and 2,544 public participants took part in the online survey between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30.
Flag designs were rated using a low-to-high scale of 0-10. The numerical ratings for each flag were averaged and the average rating was converted to a letter grade, ranging from F to A+. Only 46 flags were graded A, while 143 received an F. Our list includes the very worst city flags – those with a score of 1.50 or lower. (The states have generally done a better job. Here’s a guide to every state’s flag and what it represents.)
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