Welcome to Friday Flagging, where I turn my interest in vexillology (the study of flags) loose to talk about flags.
A good flag can make a world of difference. In its best form, it acts as a unifying symbol, capable of being used on everything from bumper stickers to clothing. In its worst form, it’s just a banner you fly on a flag pole. Luckily, the North American Vexillogical Association (NAVA) has 5 Basic Principles of Flag Design:
- Keep it simple
- Use meaningful symbolism
- Use 2-3 basic colors
- No lettering or seals
- Be distinctive or related
Unfortunately, Rhode Island’s cities and towns that do have flags that are easy to find don’t follow these rules at all. How bad are our flags? Well, Flags of the World has a few examples.
Here’s the one I consider the best: Little Compton
Now, it is pretty much Little Compton’s municipal arms emblazoned on a field of white. There was definite room for improvement. But it’s simple, it uses two colors, it has no lettering, its both distinctive among flags and yet through the white field it shows relation to Rhode Island, and has some decent symbolism going on.
Compare that with Providence’s travesty of a flag:
You can see this flag in real life, completely failing at being a flag. Why does it fail so badly? Well, a 2004 NAVA survey of American City Flags ranked it 129th out of 150. If you scroll down, and see some of the flags around it, you’ll understand why. A seal on a blue field for a flag looks like every other seal on a blue flag. I’m pretty sure that for many people, it will be a surprise that Providence even has a flag.
A couple more bad RI flags before I go. Here’s the central part of Narragansett’s, which was adopted in 2006:
In fairness to the designer (Amy Hoxsie-Quinn), she did design what sounds like it would’ve been a much better flag, but the Chamber of Commerce went with this one instead. Chambers of Commerce obviously can’t be trusted with selecting symbols for the communities, because this thing is pretty dull.
The worst flag I can find is Pawtucket’s. Hopefully, this isn’t actually their real flag:
One of the better rules of thumb for a flag is that a 6-year-old can draw it accurately from memory. Perhaps the 6-year-olds of Pawtucket are experienced lithographers, but personally, this flag drives me nuts. This should be a postcard. It shouldn’t be a flag. From a distance, someone would wonder what that ugly stained sheet was doing on a flagpole.
Keep an eye out Fridays for some flag redesigns – I may take a crack at providing alternatives.