Vexillology – A Flag Design Activity

Vexillology Donald's English ClassroomHaving an insatiable appetite for details on many topics, I always try to inspire my students to go deeper into their own interests and discover more.  Anything from cartology, vexillology, graffiti, the lives of indigenous tribes, architecture, the LGBT community, kids learning ESL, and yes, even crop circles – I’m in for learning more!


Next to pouring over maps, I love looking at flags!  International flags display many of the best devices and some of the worst transgressions of flag protocols with some surprising genius in the mix! U.S. state flags are mostly dreary, but a few stand out with pretty stunning designs.  What makes for a quality flag design and why do some fail so badly?  How does a country’s history influence the design of its most recognizable symbol?  How does a flag mean to its people and why is changing it so problematic?


Roman Mars is obsessed with flags; a true vexillologist.  Click on the image below and enjoy his TED talk.  He clues you in to the most sublime and some of the worst crimes in flag design.




I put together a simple lesson in flag design in honor of Flag Day (June 14).  From hoist to fly, canton to saltires, the vocabulary of a vexillologist illustrates the construct and details of flag design.  See why New Zealanders are so vexed about their own flag, or which country’s flag has three flags all combined into one!  Do you know which canton is the upper hoist side? This lesson ‘splains it all!  Download the lesson for free!


Time for you to be the judge.  Does your city, state, or country have a flag worth sending up the pole or does the sight of it flapping overhead ruin your day? Take notes from this lesson in vexillology so that the next time you’re looking at a flag waving in the wind, you can decide for yourself if it’s a rockin’ design or something best forgotten.  Better yet, wake up the budding vexillologists in your classroom and have students design their own Jolly Roger worth hoisting up the pole!


Do you have a recommendation for the best (or worst) flag design?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll post them here!


If you’re interested in more flag fun, check out all the flag games and pennants in Donald’s English Classroom!



Happy Flag Day!


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