When a business or organization starts developing its brand, things like logos and websites get a lot of attention.
It follows that businesses focus on those because they’re customer-facing elements of the business. Something a lot of organizations overlook is a flag.
Custom flags draw attention, distinguish you from competitors, and reinforce your brand.
Some business owners might find the idea of designing their custom flag intimidating. Other’s might worry they can’t afford a designer for it. Flag design isn’t always easy, but it’s something you can do for yourself.
Let’s jump in and look at some of the things that will help you design great custom flags.
Keep Custom Flags Simple
When you first go to design your custom flag, it’s very easy to end up cramming the design full of extras.
You want the flag to represent you or your organization to the world. You want it to fully communicate your beliefs. Here’s the problem.
That’s asking way too much from a simple piece of cloth. A flag isn’t a manifesto about principles or beliefs. It’s a symbol and the best symbols are simple.
Consider the skull and crossbones flag or Jolly Roger associated with pirates. There’s nothing specific about looting at sea in that symbol. It doesn’t say anything about rejecting civilization.
What it does do is communicate a threat. With that simple symbol, the flag tells anyone who sees it that something bad is coming.
Rather than trying to cram everything onto your flag, look for a single image that conveys the right feeling. A lion standing on a field of black, for example, conveys pride and power. A flower on a blue background suggests peace and tranquility.
Just as important, simple images are easier to understand at a distance. Since most flags get viewed from a distance, you don’t want people wondering what the picture is supposed to be.
Here’s an easy test for how easy your flag is to understand.
Open the image file on your computer and then shrink by 50% or 75%. Ask someone who hasn’t seen it before to take a look. If they know what they’re looking at on sight, your design is simple enough.
Have you ever found yourself squinting at road signs until you’re right on top of them? Odds are good that you have at some point.
Most text isn’t easy to read at any distance unless it’s very big. It’s even harder to read unless it’s a sharp contrast to the background color.
In fact, the eyes like dark text on a light background better than any other combo. That’s probably why it’s the default for most written communication.
There are a very small number of exceptions to the advice to avoid text on custom flags. A high profile organization, like the United Nations, could probably get away with putting U.N. on their flag. The acronym is so recognizable that it gets automatic recognition.
If a business uses a letter or acronym as a major part of its branding effort, you can probably get away with using that letter or acronym. In the vast majority of cases, it’s just a bad idea.
If you do decide to use text, you can test at ground level. Find some banner stands for your flags and have people look at them from 25 feet, 50 feet, and 75 feet away. If they struggle to read it at any of those distances, you probably need to adjust the text size or get a bigger version of the flag.
Color is tricky, but it can be a powerful tool when designing custom flags.
People associate certain colors with certain feelings or ideas. Green gets associated with nature for obvious reasons. Purple gets associated with royalty or luxury because it was the color of kings in western culture.
You can use these associations to your advantage when designing your custom flags.
Say you’re working on one for a very exclusive club. Purple might be a good background color choice, but so would black. The creation of black credit cards has earned the color an association with exclusivity.
A daycare, by contrast, would probably want to stick with a background color like yellow. It evokes a sense of cheer or happiness, which is what parents want for their kids.
Consider the competition of the organization when making your color selections. You want to make sure, as much as you can, that you keep the colors distinct from similar businesses or clubs.
Of course, there is a big caveat on working with color.
You’ll want to stick with colors your organization or business already uses in its marketing. This limits your design options, but color plays a big role in brand consistency. If people already associate those colors with the organization, there’s little benefit to using other colors.
Take a Course
If you’ve never designed custom flags before, you might find the idea daunting. What do you know about design?
Fortunately, the Internet makes information about art easy to access. There are many outstanding articles and videos out there that cover the essential design principles.
Not everyone likes that sort of unstructured learning. If you prefer structured learning, you can always take a course about design principles. The courses range from short and free to in-depth and paid.
Take some time to think about what you’re looking to get from the course. If you just want a basic grounding to design one flag, you’re probably better off taking a free course at first. If that’s not enough or you’re planning to design a lot of custom flags, a paid course might serve you better.
You can design great custom flags.
Keep the flag design simple. Remember, it’s a symbol. It should create a feeling or set a tone, not communicate a worldview.
Unless you’re designing for a well-known organization, avoid using text. It’s hard to read at a distance.
Use color to support the feeling you’re want to create with the flag.
If you feel out of your depth, consider taking a course on design fundamentals. You can find free ones that’ll get you started and you can always take a paid course later.