State flags ranked

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This is a fun post for me to celebrate the launch of this website. It doesn’t have many flag facts (I’ll save them for individual state flag posts) but it will give you an insight to my opinions of flag design. My father is a graphic designer and I have done a fair amount of professional graphic design work myself (check out that sweet logo!), so I have spent my whole life looking through the world with a graphic designer’s lens. Therefore, I have some pretty strong opinions on what makes a good flag, most of which are hinged on two simple rules.

  • They should be simple in both color selection (3 colors max) and design.
  • They should be easily legible/recognizable at a distance (this means that state seals are a no-no).

However, as with art and design, there are always exceptions to the rules.

This post was harder to do than I expected. Choosing my favorites wasn’t the issue, there are just so many bad state flags that it was difficult to decide which was worse. Nearly half of the state flags are the states seal on a blue field so your going to have to do some scrolling before you reach the good ones…

50. Montana

50_Flag_of_Montana

State seals just don’t work on flags. They are too detailed and often too similar to easily distinguish from one another. This is especially true on a piece of fabric waving in the air, seen from a distance. That’s not to put down all state seals as some are very beautiful. Montana’s seal is not one of those. It looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint. The text, reminiscent of a high school sports banner, is the icing on the cake of terrible.

49. Kansas

49_Flag_of_Kansas

The only reason that Kansas beat out Montana is that it has a sunflower on top of it’s terrible seal.

48. Wisconsin

48_Flag_of_Wisconsin

While Wisconsin has a somewhat decent seal, the font makes it look more at home in a high school gymnasium than atop a state capitol.

47. South Dakota

47_Flag_of_South_Dakota

At least the text placement is somewhat interesting. The colors combined with the monochrome seal are terrible though.

46. Vermont

46_Flag_of_Vermont

Here’s the point in the list where most of the flags are virtually indistinguishable to a vast majority of people. Vermont’s state seal is centered by a very uninteresting tree.

45. Maine

45_Flag_of_Maine

Hey look, another tree! At least this one has people in the seal that reflect Maine’s history. Also, the “Maine” font in the ribbon is one of the better presentations of a states name. However, it is of my opinion that state names, or text in general, shouldn’t be on flags.

44. New York

44_Flag_of_New_York

More seals on more blue backgrounds. At least this is more of a landscape than a single tree.

43. Virginia

43_Flag_of_Virginia.svg

Virginia’s flag is pretty boring, but at least it has murder.

42. Kentucky

42_Flag_of_Kentucky

I give Kentucky credit for trying something different with the font. Too bad it’s a terrible font.

41. Utah

41_Flag_of_Utah

Utah’s seal is nice, but its too similar to any number of generic U.S. government seals.

40. Idaho

40_Flag_of_Idaho

Here’s where the seals start to get a little bit better, even if they are still on a blue field. It’s too bad that Idaho’s colorful seal is so small on the flag.

39. Nevada

36_Flag_of_Nevada

I also give Nevada credit for trying something different. While it’s extremely boring, at least this is recognizable for the seal’s placement… And its dullness.

38. Nebraska

36_Flag of Nebraska

Nebraska’s flag features a large seal making it easier to distinguish. And it has a train in it which is always a plus in my book.

37. New Hampshire

39_Flag_of_New_Hampshire

New Hampshire’s flag features another large seal with some added color, stars, and ornamental leaves. Unfortunately, it’s still a seal.

36. Michigan

37_Flag_of_Michigan

Now we start seeing some rampant animals, one of my favorite elements of European family coats of arms. Unfortunately, the elk and moose make it look silly.

35. Pennsylvania

35_Flag_of_Pennsylvania

The only other rampant animals featured in state flags. This time it’s horses which are much better than the elk and moose. However, I think rampant animals should be left in Europe.

34. Connecticut

34_Flag_of_Connecticut

While not my favorite state seal, the Connecticut seal’s simple color palate and large size translate well to this flag and makes it my favorite of the flags with state seals on a navy blue field.

33. North Dakota

33_Flag_of_North_Dakota

While the iconography isn’t very original, it works decently on the navy blue field. Also, it’s not a state seal which is a plus.

32. Minnesota

32_Flag_of_Minnesota

Finally something other than navy blue! Unfortunately just a lighter shade of blue. While some of the colors do pop, it’s a bit of a strange color palate to me.

31. New Jersey

31_Flag_of_New_Jersey

Having been born and raised in New Jersey, I am very familiar with this flag and it’s hideous pale yellow field. As a child, I always thought it was the one of the worst flag designs. Now, I appreciate it a bit more, simply for the fact that it’s not on a blue field.

30. Washington

30_Flag_of_Washington

Washington’s seal is so on the nose that I find it goofy and endearing. However, it’s still just a state seal.

29. Massachusetts

29_Flag_of_Massachusetts

While still just a state seal, this design really works well with the white field.

28. West Virginia

28_Flag_of_West_Virginia

The West Virginia flag wouldn’t work as well if it didn’t have the blue border.

27. Arkansas

27_Flag_of_Arkansas

Here is where the flags truly become distinguishable from one another. Arkansas’s flag looks like a retro gas or oil brand. To me, it isn’t bad but it doesn’t necessarily work as a flag.

26. Missouri

26_Flag_of_Missouri

The first in the list to employ stars and stripes. Unfortunately the seal isn’t much to write home about.

25. Delaware

25_Flag_of_Delaware

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was a resident of Delaware for 7 years and grew to like its flag. It’s pale blue combined with the seal inset within the yellow diamond works pretty well for a state seal on a flag.

24. Iowa

15_Flag_of_Iowa

Iowa’s flag, while visually boring, honors both its French and American heritage pretty well.

23. Florida

24_Flag_of_Florida

Florida’s flag incorporate’s the state’s Spanish heritage well, even with the state seal.

22. Louisiana

23_Flag_of_Louisiana

I give a lot of credit to Louisiana for having such a unique state seal and not feeling the need to enclose it in a circle on its state flag.

21. Illinois

22_Flag_of_Illinois

Another state seal that works well on a white field.

20. Oklahoma

21_Flag_of_Oklahoma

While I tend not to like flags with such bold text (as shown in the beginning of this list) I enjoy Oklahoma’s unique iconography a lot.

19. Oregon
20_Flag_of_Oregon

You may be wondering how a flag that looks like this got so high on my list. It’s because of this:

20_Flag_of_Oregon_(reverse)

Our country’s only two-sided state flag! There were some former two-sided state flags in the past but Oregon’s is the only one at the moment.

18. Mississippi

19_Flag_of_Mississippi

Say what you will about the Mississippi flag’s canton, but the flag itself is a clean design without any unneeded text.

17. Tennessee

18_Flag_of_Tennessee

Another simple and clean design. Almost a little too clean and a little boring.

16. Ohio

17_Flag_of_Ohio

Ohio gets a lot of credit for going out on a limb and designing a non-rectangular flag. However, the stars look a bit haphazardly placed, like they were struggling to fit them into the design.

15. Alabama

16_Flag_of_Alabama.svg

Like Florida’s flag, Alabama’s pays tribute to early Spanish influence. The flag is very similar to Northern Ireland’s flag. However, it is written that Alabama’s flag features St. Andrew’s cross (the same as Scotland’s flag) while Northern Ireland’s flag has St. Patrick’s cross.

14. North Carolina

14_Flag_of_North_Carolina

North Carolina’s flag is another one that ranks highly despite having text. It’s a classic design that just works.

13. Georgia

13_Flag_of_Georgia_(U.S._state)

Similar to North Carolina’s flag, this is another solid flag design that breaks rules for the better featuring it’s state seal in the canton.

12. Hawaii

Flag_of_Hawaii.svg

Hawaii’s flag is a striking design that recognizes its British colonial past while honoring its geography with eight stripes for the state’s eight main islands.

11. Rhode Island

11_Flag_of_Rhode_Island

My inner prep loves the classic nautical design and unique shape of Rhode Island’s flag.

10. Indiana

10_Flag_of_Indiana

Honestly, I gained an appreciation for this flag from watching Parks and Recreation. It has a good color palate and easily recognizable design.

9. Wyoming

09_Flag_of_Wyoming

It may be that I have a soft spot in my heart for the American Bison (Genus: Bison, Species: Bison Bison), but I am willing to forgive the state seal for this memorable design.

8. Colorado

08_Flag_of_Colorado

Here’s where we get into the flags that are so good that they have become cultural symbols in their own right. This may look like a 70s Chicago Cubs logo, but this bold design is full of Colorado symbolism, giving it top marks in my book.

7. California

07_Flag_of_California

The highest ranking for any flag with text. The California flag’s bear straddles the line of being just the right blend of realistic and artistic depiction.

6. Arizona

06_Flag_of_Arizona.svg

Arizona’s flag seems to capture the best parts of a desert sunset in one of the simplest ways possible.

5. Texas

04_Flag_of_Texas

There are several reasons that Texan’s proudly fly their flag, it’s design being one of them. It is a “bigger is better” classic that lovingly embodies Texas’ spirit.

4. Alaska

04_Flag_of_Alaska

The Alaskan flag’s simple beauty is enhanced by it’s connection to Alaska’s state song.

3. New Mexico

03_Flag_of_New_Mexico

A North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) poll ranked New Mexico’s flag first among all U.S. state and territory flags. While I appreciate the simple and clean design, it’s connection to New Mexico state history isn’t as strong as it is in the top two finalists.

2. Maryland

02_Flag_of_Maryland

My current home state’s flag. I feel like Maryland’s flag is either a “love it” or “hate it” kind of flag. While the NAVA poll I just mentioned ranked it fourth, I’ve seen at least one state flag ranking that placed Maryland’s flag dead last. The first time I saw Maryland’s flag, I was immediately in love. The more I learned about it’s connection to Lord Baltimore, the more my love grew. It’s another one of the flags that “just works” for reasons I can’t really say. However, it is not my favorite flag. (See an in depth post on the Maryland flag here).

1. South Carolina

01_Flag_of_South_Carolina

If you know someone from South Carolina, or even someone who vacations there, you’ve probably seen this design on everything from shirts to beer koozies. While I have lamented over the use of trees on previous flags, this design is different. I don’t want to get too much into the iconography of this flag as I will probably do a separate post on it, but the palmetto tree played a huge roll in the survival of South Carolina (and even the U.S.) during the Revolutionary War. To me, it is a beautifully designed flag with plenty of historical significance that S.C. should be extremely proud of. (See an in depth post on the South Carolina flag here).

What do you think of my ranking? Leave a comment to let me know!

 

 

 

 

3 Comments on State flags ranked

  1. So I must admit I never paid much attention to state flags before reading this. I don’t know what my favorite is but I like Rhode Island, Colorado, Arizona, and Alaska best. You’re mentioning of the train gives you something else to have in common with Sheldon!

  2. While a bit biased favoring Alabama’s flag for it’s clean, simple and uncomplicated design; I do agree with most of your choices and observations. When I was a kid, politics (the left lol) tried telling us that the Alabama flag was based on the Confederate Battle Flag. So I started looking into it and contrary to what you said, we actually are not sure why this design was chosen.

    What we do know is that it wasn’t based on the Confederate Battle Flag as the design we’re all familiar with on that flag is not what people think… it’s actually the Confederate Naval Jack and was never flown on land making all the art and movies you’ve seen with the red field, blue cross and white stars all wrong. The flag flown on land was only a small square banner on a white field and people in the South did not actually want to secede so that the first few Confederate flags were variations of a red, white and blue flag.

    As to it’s association with racism, the Confederate Battle Flag was used by Strom Thurmond for his 1948 run for the White House and not one instance of it being used for racism or by racist groups has been found prior to this.

    As to why Southern whites cling to it claiming heritage. Over 33% of all whites in the South at the onset of the US Civil War were of Scottish descent. They were poor and there was a supply of the CSA Naval Jacks available to remind them of their Scottish heritage.

    Look into it as it’s quite interesting in regard to US history as like Fort Douglass in Illinois, the Union tried to erase all traces of Scottish heritage in the South and succeeded so well that it was only in recent decades that the number of Scot’s in the South were rediscovered.

    Now, back to the Alabama Flag. When they erased the history of the Scot’s in the South, they also erased the history of the Scot-Irish who traveled to the South along the Appalachian Mountains. They came from immigrants of Scotch Irish who had allied with Spain in the many wars of Europe and lost out. They used the St Patricks Cross and were even the first to bring the holiday of St Patricks Day to America rather than Irish Catholics as was supposed http://forgedinulster.blogspot.com/2012/03/ulster-scots-held-first-st-patricks-day.html

    There’s a lot you can learn about history by researching it’s flags. Thus, it is quite possible the Scotch Irish St Andrews Flag is the true origin of the Alabama state flag rather than Florida but the Spanish would still be involved. You will find a lot of information about this out there if someone makes you aware of it so it would be interesting to add this to your information here after doing your own research http://coursesite.uhcl.edu/HSH/Whitec/xhist/ScotsIrishImm.htm

6 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why your city/state flag is probably terrible and why you should care | Fun Flag Facts
  2. Maryland: A patchwork of reconciliation | Fun Flag Facts
  3. South Carolina | Fun Flag Facts
  4. Native American flags: The good and the bad | Fun Flag Facts
  5. World’s Weirdest Flags (Part 4) – Fun Flag Facts
  6. Big U.S. city flags ranked – Fun Flag Facts

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