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Take 5... Design's top national flags

One category. Every two weeks. Five of the world’s most charismatic designs.

Welcome to Take 5 where The Drum, along with jones knowles ritchie (JKR) Singapore strategy director Katie Ewer, take a bi-weekly look at some of the design industry’s best imagined packaging design where you, the reader, are in control.

Every other Friday we’ll pick a theme and ask you to submit the design you feel deserves a top spot. You’ll have one week to get your entries in, the votes will be counted and the best of lot will be published the following Friday. (Make sure you scroll down to find out the next topic winging its way).

But back to today's theme: national flags. With all the brouhaha around the public competition to redesign the New Zealand flag, it seems timely to remind ourselves what makes a well-designed flag. According to podcast legend Roman Mars, there are five golden rules: simplicity, meaningful symbolism, 2 – 3 colours only, no lettering or seals – and of course, distinctiveness.

If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that people get very hot under the collar about flags. Of course they do – they are symbols for something much bigger and much more potent. Flags are caught up in ideology, politics, nationalism and conflict. Still, let’s attempt to view them through the lens of pure, trivial design aesthetics.

Japan

Simple, understated, somehow a little mesmerising… you could argue that the Japanese flag is the epitome of Japanese aesthetics. It’s certainly a master-class in graphic design clarity and confidence.

Sri Lanka

After all that minimalism, it’s nice to consider gaze upon a flag that’s a little more on the ornate side – five flag design principles be damned! This flag has a lion. Holding a sword. Which makes it cool.

Nepal

Flags need to look just as strong when they’re being flown as they do as a flat graphic. The distinctive serrated profile of the Nepal flag does both, somehow suggesting the Buddhist prayer flags that are festooned around stupas at the base of Mount Everest, as well as the peaks of the mountain itself. Plus if you squint it looks like the flag is actually the profile of someone laughing. Fact of the day: this is the world’s only non-quadrilateral national flag.

The Isle of Man

This one’s in here because its distinctiveness is off the chart. The three-legged thing in the middle is called a triskelion and it’s an ancient symbol used by the Mycenaens (so now you know). But really it looks like three men in suits of armour doing the can-can.

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