Which countries have the best and worst flags?

Virginia Postrel directs us to this more-revealing-than-you-might-think question.  Look here.  But I cannot fathom their decision to rank the Gambian flag number one.  My personal favorites have long been Brazil ("Order and Progress", maybe you have to have been there) and Haiti, in part for the story of how they took out the white from the flag of France.  Japan and Switzerland are good too, iconic you might say.  The moon and star in the Turkish flag for a long time seemed cool to me.

Here are the losers, they are the most fun to look at.  The flag of Mozambique, with its AK-47, might come in last place.  The Falkland Islands flag is another lemon.

Here are the research papers of the Otago guy who evaluated the flags.  Here’s the guy’s grading system for the flags.


There is something wrong with the grading system. Some flags are very similar and grade very differently. I am from Argentina and I am surprised how high it ranked, especially when you see flags with almost identical colors and design to the Argentinean flag at the bottom of the ranking.

My personal favorite flag is that of the Marshall Islands, closely followed by Nauru, the Seychelles, and Macao... but yeah, trying to bolster personal preferences with supposedly objective methodology has a tendency to backfire...

I always thought the oldest and simplest flags were the best: the tricolors, and of course the Nordic crosses.

Chad and Romania have the same exact flag, but different grades (B- vs. B).

Check this out:

I don't like the way the site accused the Norfolk Islands flag of being a ripoff of Canada's. It shows a Norfolk Island Pine, a species that is found nowhere else in the world and symbolizes the island.

I like Greece and Brazil. Also Wales, with its dragon. Most US states have unimaginative flags.

I'm surprised Libya didn't score higher. You can't get much simpler than one natural color with nothing on it

Oh, that's too bad. I've always liked Turkmenistan's flag with a Persian carpet on it.

Also, Clay B. you should check out Virginia's awesome state flag. Some sort of Virginian yeowoman or something standing triumphant over a fallen tyrant, with state motto: Sic Semper Tyrranis.

Also, Clay B. you should check out Virginia's awesome state flag. Some sort of Virginian yeowoman or something standing triumphant over a fallen tyrant, with state motto: Sic Semper Tyrranis.

Actually it's a warrior woman, Virtue, with one boob exposed. How's that for cool? How many flags feature nudity while simultaneously promoting violence?

I give a nod to the Union Jack, Stars and Stripes, Japanese, Swiss, and Canadian flags -- distinctive, attractive, clean.

Bhutan's flag is so good that it convinced me to look up Bhutan in Wikipedia, but this guy rates it poorly. His "graven images" rule is just silly.

I think his graven images rule is spot-on: flags should be iconic, not pictures. Same reasoning for the maps rule and the writing rule.

I think the reason he railed against the tricolor yet rated many of them well is the tricolor is a pleasant design - it's just overused.

And, relatedly, I think the reason he rated Gambia highest is that it is one of those pleasing tricolors, yet the white dividing lines make it distinctive - and it is iconic, representing the map of the country without actually being a map.

And I agree that the NI flag is a Canada rip-off. :P

That guy gets most of the flags right but Israel should be higher. Also Bhutan should be in the top 5 instead of the bottom 10.

I'm in complete disagreement with this guy on almost all the criteria. Maybe it's me, but I find red, blue and green to be an awful combination. I would put Gambia and South Africa way down for that reason. I've always thought the Union Jack is the best, distinctive, symbolic, nice colors, well designed, etc. I like the Red, white and blue color combo as well so the Dutch, French and Russian flags rate high with me as well. And the simple hinomaru is kind of dull, the rising sun flag (the Japanese military flag) is much better.

John Dewey,

Have you ever been to Quebec? My impression is that on a percentage basis you see more Quebec flags per household in Quebec than Texan flags in Texas, although it would be a close fight.

Damn! Richard Campbell beat me to it!

I'd have to give top place to Botswana. Similar geometry to the Gambian flag, but with beautiful colors (yes, the Gambian symbolism is nice, but I don't think the colors work). I like Somalia's a lot too.

I agree with most of his criteria, but often in design breaking a rule produces something terrific (I like the Bhutan dragon) -- and he doesn't entirely obey his rules either. Anyway, I agree that the Rwanda and Guam flags are hilarious. I feel like one or both should have an exclamation too.

Well, quickly throwing the flag numbers into the Sala-i-Martin regressions shows a positive but statistically insignificant effect of flag quality on economic growth.


I drive from New Hampshire to Quebec City at least once a year - I'm always struck by the number of houses flying Quebec flags. At least in the Eastern Townships and around Quebec City the flag seems to be everywhere - any time of year. This may not be the case in Montreal or other parts of Western Quebec, I don't get that way often. I've always assumed the flag displays are simply driven by national pride, much as in Texas.

I've always considered Libya's table cloth to be the worst flag. If you can't be bothered to find any symbol, any design, or any person able to draw or sew it, then really, what's wrong with your country?

Hawaii is another place where you'll see lots of people flying state flags, especially if you get out of tourist zones.

Also, the Falklands flag accurately signifies the Islands' strategic sheep purposes.

If so many people in Texas fly the Texas state flag, perhaps that's a sign that those people would like to be in Texas, period. Alone. Adrift. Making their own way. Keeping their own turds within their own borders. Stuff like that.

I'm all for it.

A raspberry to all you dissing the MD flag.

I'm biased of course but I've always thought it was cool.

Half of the states have seals and crests and what not along with the name of the state. They look like they were designed by a 3rd grader with a limited amount of crayolas.

My vote though for the coolest state flag is between CA and SC.

The albeit circle-less pentagram on Morocco's flag makes me think of Wicca instead of Islam.

Texas has the coolest state flag, and I'm not saying that just cuz I'm Texan. I voted for Japan's as the coolest national flag. The MD flag could induce hypnosis, especially if viewed while it's spinning.

I always liked Taiwan's flag---or any flags with a sun in them. Striking.

I meant "their" above. ughh...

Rwanda's flag is AWESOME!!! Even awesomer is their nation's motto: "Help Me, Rwanada."

Pink on flags? Not just Espírito Santo - the Native Newfoundland flag is a green white and pink tricolour. See here http://www.newfoundlandflags.com/nativenf.html

The major criterion for a flag is its ability to be distinguished from other flags (basically, its distinctiveness in battle.) This is why the Confederacy had their extremely distinctive battle flag, there's just about no way to confuse it with the Union flag (the older, official "Stars and Bars" was much more similar to the Union flag.)

I personally think the MD flag is wonderful in a way that few US state flags are in that it is a strictly defined heraldic blazon. It originates from George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore. The yellow and black section is his paternal colors (the Calverts) and the red and white comes from his maternal family (the Crosslands.) Interestingly, the Crossland part of this flag became a symbol of Southern sympathy in Maryland during the Civil War.

Maybe it's ugly in one sense, but it has a clean design you can pick it out from any other flag in the world and that's the point (especially from the vast majority of state flags, that are colored fields with crests on them. And so many old states have these lackluster flags. No excuse, really.)

Now, this may be the Brit in me looking to spread the shit out a bit more evenly, but I find it odd that any British current or former colony with a Union Jack in the corner gets smacked for "colonial nonsense", but the damn U.S. Virgin Islands just get run-of-the-mill abuse. That would be a big fuck-off eagle (see: carpet, Oval Office), with a stars-&-stripes shield - "colonial nonsense" if ever I saw it.

He seems to be working from a list of principles that are good in theory. But he clearly has poor judgment when it comes to color combinations. A flag should be elegant, evocative, immediately recognizable, relevant to its national origins, and have a good color comination. Unfortunately, some of his best selections are simply hideous.

There is no doubt England's Cross of St George should be on the list. First European flag of America and represents the English colonies on old glory by the red and white stripes

The Turkish flag is so red! Is it because of the genocides they have committed?

fuck turks i hope u all burn in hell ill take a shit on the turkish flag moon and a star can suck my dick lil fucking bitchz fuck turks

How did lybia get a B and the flag with the AK-47 get a good grade, this is really flawed

heeeey i fuck u if u say turkish flag anything youuu suck my dick in deed i want to fuck all armeniansss.

suck my dick "ando" fuck youu i ll fuck your mother if u go on insult turks

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fuck all those guys who wanna fuck turks they cant do anything against us and the most beautiful flag is the turkish in the world look at your folk kurd Pkk is an terror organization even though George Bush has accepted it and you armenian we ganna talk with you just a little bit later you suck russian dicks you lay yourself under russians because nobody wishes you in that region

Check out the KOSOVO flag, please, you must see it!

It bits every abusrdistan's designers ; )

Otherwise - great work, nice to see all these flags in close-up.

best flag is the flag of turkiye because the red comes from the blood of the soldiers who died in indephence war and you know the stars and the moon...

It is enlightening! but these things we talked has nothing to do.

Is it realistic?

fuck all
turkish flah is very fantastic,very beatifull
there dont kill to armenia
american kill to ıraq children
english kill to innocent people
russian execute by shooting Chechen
armenian rape to pregnant woman

ı am TURK
ı dont kill innocent civilian
ı am four continent command people descendant
ı learning chasteness to you

ı fuck you

thank you for this excelent article

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