Good design” is about making our lives easier without our noticing. How we interact with a thing or with a space, or even a person, has a lot to do with how they look and how those looks make us interact with them. Can flags teach us about the design of anything?

Before you scoff or think “design doesn’t matter in my life,” stick with us, because there is a lot more to this!

Image: State flags blowing in the breeze


I will put this out here as a disclaimer, I’m a bit of a design nerd. I love good design, good designers, and the way design makes the world work better for us all! And I am always looking for converts to this way of thinking.

We rarely recognize good design, because good design is usually so subtle, and so well done that we don’t have to notice it because it just “works” for us.

So, what can flags teach us about good design and recognizing the power design has on our lives?

Here is Roman Mars, host of my favorite podcast, 99% Invisible (we love them – check out our other articles about some of their content!), on the TED stage explaining to us how flag design can have a bigger impact on our lives than we think…

Via: TED 1

Time to understand the design of anything…

So, let’s review those rules:

  • keep it simple
  • use meaningful symbolism
  • use 2-3 basic colors
  • no lettering or seals
  • be distinctive (or be related)

Let me let you in on a secret, now that you know these principles you will be able to walk through the world feeling not just a little smarter but feeling like you can see the secret code of design all around you.

You will notice how the tiles on the floor in well-designed airports surreptitiously lead you from check-in to security to your gate. Maybe you will notice that good signage rarely has many words, or that beautiful business logos or branding will have 2-3 colors. You will notice how your favorite potato peeler has a design everybody from a child to an arthritic hand can use.

Design is about making our lives easier without our noticing. How we interact with a thing or with a space or even a person has a lot to do with how they look and how those looks make us interact with them.

Here’s a little challenge for you all. Take today to acknowledge the things you reach for first. Perhaps your favorite kitchen knife, or your favorite sweater, or your favorite place to eat lunch. Why do you like these things? More often than not, they will fit most, if not all, of the basic principles of good flag design, or really, good design!

If you want to hear the full podcast on flag design, check it out on the 99% Invisible website. If I you have a little more time, check out this awesome 99% Invisible episode about a phone booth that became a worldwide phenomenon (it’s a super cool story).

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge


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Did this article pique your interest? EWC has plenty of other amazing TED talks, check it out!

EWC’s TED Talk Archive

Or scroll down to the bottom of this page where you’ll find a few more incredible articles like this one!



  1. “Why City Flags May Be the Worst-Designed Thing You’ve Never Noticed.” TED, Roman Mars, Accessed 19 Dec. 2018.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV