Radio Producer Roman Mars Gives an Amusing TED Talk on Why So Many City Flags Are Poorly Designed

Radio producer Roman Mars gave an amusing TED Talk about the design of city flags and the impact beautiful and ugly flags can have. City flags were the subject of an episode of Mars’ radio show 99% Invisible titled “Vexillionaire“–which Mars recreates a version of on the TED stage.

Roman Mars is obsessed with flags — and after you watch this talk, you might be, too. These ubiquitous symbols of civic pride are often designed, well, pretty terribly. But they don’t have to be. In this surprising and hilarious talk about vexillology — the study of flags — Mars reveals the five basic principles of flag design and shows why he believes they can be applied to just about anything.

The episode uses Chicago’s city flag as an example of great design, and his home city of San Francisco’s city flag, among others, as an example of exactly what not to do in flag design. Mars also presents the five elements of good flag design as laid out by the North American Vexillological Association. They are:

1. Keep it simple

2. Use meaningful symbolism

3. Use two to three basic colors

4. No lettering or seals of any kind.

5. Be distinctive

Chicago flag
The flag of the city of Chicago, image via Wikipedia

San Francisco flag
The flag of the city of San Francisco, image via Wikipedia

Glen Tickle
Glen Tickle

Amelia's dad. Steph's husband. Writer, comedian, gentleman. Good at juggling, bad at chess.