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With the Summer Olympics taking place, there will be a lot of people waving their country’s colours proudly in the next several weeks. This prompted me to think about flag design and how one represents an entire nation in a graphically simplified form. I turn to someone who has a few answers, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver:

All joking aside, when asked to brand a country or community there are many things to consider. Colours can have a variety of meanings to different cultures and are often used to evoke emotion. Iconography is also a popular tool used to represent nations. One only needs to see a red maple leaf to know that means Canada.

As with most successful design strategies, less is more. A well designed flag should be so graphically simplified that a child can draw it from memory. It has been suggested that the best way to design a flag is to sketch ideas in a 1 by 1.5 inch rectangle. This is because a 3 by 5 foot flag on a pole 100 feet away, will look approximately the same as the 1 by 1.5 inch rectangle 15 inches from your eye. Placing a small size limitation on design ensures that only the most necessary elements are included, which is often the foundation of good design.

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