5 stories about vexillology and the symbolism and impact of flags

From left to right: Vexillology Flag, Rainbow Flag, True South Flag, International Planet Earth Flag

Flags are among the most important symbols of our identity. Even if you don’t consider yourself a vexillophile– or a die-hard flag fan – you might know the story behind your own nation’s flag. This is because flags are often the most obvious symbols of our home and means of assimilation. Flags can be used to unite a group of people or to oppress, depending on the design and how it is used.

Instead of telling you some of the countless hard-hitting and beautiful stories behind the flags of various nations, we break down five stories of other flags. These designs and customs show how flags can make a real difference in the world.

Read on for five great stories about flags, their design and the story behind them. These stories might even make you a certified vexillophile!

What are vexillology and vexillography?

Vexillology Flag

Vexillology Flag

Vexillology is the study of flags. Vexillologists study not only the designs of the flags, but also the history, symbolism, and how the flags were used.

The practice of designing flags is called vexillography. Although many flags look relatively simple, there are many flag design principles that well-designed flags follow. Of course, not all good flags follow the rules, but they are still good starting points for people who want to understand the basics of vexillography.

  • A simple flag may do better at becoming a recognizable icon.
  • The contrast between the colors is important to facilitate the reading of the drawing.
  • Flags should be timeless as timely details may become less relevant over time.
  • Avoid using too many colors.
  • Keep the edges of the flag easy to see so parts of the design don’t blend into the background as it flies.

Five stories about the power of flags

Tibetan prayer flags

Tibetan prayer flags

Photo: prudek/DepositPhotos

The story behind Tibetan prayer flagIt’s a little different from the other tales on this list. This is not a very nice flag design that makes a lot of sense; instead, Tibetan prayer flags flutter with many fabrics along a thread. Made up of many different designs and colors, each flag represents ideas about compassion, strength, peace and wisdom.

These flags contain a lot of symbolism. It is believed that the hanging flags will allow the wind to carry prayers to where they are needed, helping to spread peace for all. There are many traditions surrounding prayer flags, including rules about when they should be taken down and how they should be unfurled.

Rainbow Flag/Pride Flag

Rainbow Flag

Rainbow Flag by Gilbert Baker

Known as the pride flag or the rainbow flag, this design is a perfect example of how flags unite people beyond nationality. It was designed by artist and activist Gilbert Boulanger to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and movement. Although it was designed for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978, it has been immortalized as the most recognizable symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.

Baker’s original design for the Pride Flag included eight colors, but was later simplified to make the flag easier to manufacture and give it a clearer identity. The current design includes six colors which, like the original flag, each represent an important idea. The six colors symbolize:

  • Red for life
  • Orange for healing
  • Yellow for sunlight
  • Green for Nature
  • Blue for harmony
  • Purple for the spirit

Yosegaki Hinomaru (lucky flags)

Yosegaki Hinomaru

Eihachi Yamaguchi’s Yoseegaki Hinomaru Flag

This is no ordinary Japanese flag. Yosegaki Hinomaru, or the lucky flag, is a perfect example of how a nation’s flag can become a symbol used for many purposes. The term Yosegaki Hinomaru translates to a “collection of scriptures around the red sun”, as loved ones hand-wrote messages of good luck around the hinomaru, the circular sun of the Japanese flag. These flags were an important parting gift given to Japanese soldiers, especially during World War II. The OBON SOCIETY works to reconnect families of veterans with their old lucky flags.

Yosegaki hinomaru is still used today, but not as a farewell to war. They are used as farewell gifts for students going to school, colleagues retiring, or sports teams leaving for an important outing that represents the country.

true south flag

true south flag

Photo: Prudek/True South Flag

The True South flag is a great example of a flag that makes an impact. Designed by journalist Evan Townsend, this flag was produced as an apolitical project to create a symbol for Antarctic. The team behind True South hopes the flag will unite the global community and remind them that since Antarctica has no permanent human population, all humans have a responsibility to protect it.

The design for True South focuses on an icy white peak representing the mountains and icebergs of Antarctica. It is reflected on a compass arrow which together create a diamond shape in blue and white. The two horizontal stripes on the flag represent the long days and nights on the freezing continent. Overall, the design represents “the hope that Antarctica will continue to be a place of peace and discovery for generations to come”.

If you want to know more about True South and the team behind it, read My Modern Met’s exclusive interview with Townsend.

Earth flag

The international flag of planet earth

Photo: prudek/The International Flag of Planet Earth

If you are someone who cares about flags, you might have wondered if there is a flag to represent everything nations. Although there is no official flag for the whole planet Earth, there have been many proposals for a universal flag.

The international flag of planet earth is one of many personal ideas proposed for a flag representing our planet. It was designed by Oskar Pernefeldt as a symbol of unity “to be used while representing planet Earth” and “to remind the inhabitants of Earth that we share this planet, regardless of national boundaries; that we should take care of each other and the planet we live on. Although the flag is unofficial, it becomes a popular proposal for the flag of planet Earth.

Related Articles:

Learn all about Antarctica’s first flag called “True South” [Interview]

The artist embroiders the American flag on the cover of TIME magazine as a call for change [Interview]

A revealing photo highlights the enormous scale of a flag flown at the Battle of Trafalgar

The futuristic building of the “Tower of the Sun” imitates the flag of Kazakhstan with a window on the Ishim River

Bright photos of Antarctica highlight its alluring icy blue surface

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