Vexillology – The Study of Flags

Aug 5th, 2016

Vexillology is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the study of flags”. According to the United Kingdom National Flag Charity, Flag Institute, vexillology is the “scientific study of flags and related emblems. It is concerned with research into flags of all kinds, both modern and historical, the creation of a body of practice for flag design and usage, and of a body of theory of flag development. Vexillology seeks to understand and explain the important part played by flags in the modern world.” The word itself, vexillology, is a variation of the Latin word “vexillum”, the word used to describe a fabric standard hung from a pole on a crossbar by the Romans.


Vexillum Standard

Courtesy of Wolfgang Sauber, Wikimedia Commons


The word vexillology was coined by Whitney Smith in 1958, a scholar who was deeply involved in the study of flags. Since that time, many vexillology associations have been created. One such organization is the North American Vexillogical Association, NAVA. It is a Canadian/United States organization that is among the largest associations of its kind in the world. Its main function is the study of flags and flag design in culture, history, politics and social significance.  


One of the interesting things that the association has done is to complete the 2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey. NAVA conducted a survey on its website to rate 72 flag designs based on their quality. It received over 29,000 responses from members and from the general public. The survey responses consistently gave low ratings to state flags that featured the state seal because, at a distance, they could not tell them apart. The Georgia flag received the worst rating of all of the flag designs. According to the Summary published by NAVA, it was felt that the flag ugly and its design violated all flag design principles.


Georgia Flag

2001 Flag Photo


The survey results gave the highest state flag rating to New Mexico, followed by Texas, Quebec, Maryland and Alaska. The worse five flags were, as stated above, Georgia. The following states rated at the bottom of the list, but above Georgia, in the following order: Nebraska, Montana, Kansas and South Dakota.


In 2004, NAVA conducted a another survey to rate 150 American city flags. The ten best were, in the following order: Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, St. Louis, Wichita, Portland, Indianapolis, Louisville and Corpus Christi. The ten worst were: Montpelier, Cedar Rapids, Provo, Lubbock, Hialeah, Mesa, Milwaukee, Rapid City, Huntington and Pocatello.


Some of the states and cities listed above have changed their flag designs since the surveys were completed. For example, Milwaukee held a contest a few months ago to choose a new flag design. The winner was Robert Lenz with a design that features a white sun rising over Lake Michigan with three blue stripes on the bottom of the sun to signify the three rivers that run through the city and the founding towns. Even though a winner was chosen in June, 2016, it has not been officially adopted as the Milwaukee city flag.


Milwaukee Flag


There are many associations nationwide for those who are interested in the study of flags. An internet search will reveal websites that can be visited to learn more about the occupation.


Flagpoles Etc.


We are a family owned business that has spent over 25 years in our chosen trade. All of our products are made in America. Please feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have regarding flags, flagpoles, and flag and flagpole accessories. Visit our Website to purchase yours today!


To keep up-to-date on our latest news and informative blog posts, Like us on Facebook, and  Follow us on Twitter (@FlagPoleEtc) and Google Plus