Flags & Flag Design

A flag is a piece of cloth, often flown from a pole or mast, generally used symbolically for signalling or identification. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.

The first flags were used to assist military coordination on battlefields and flags have evolved into a general tool for rudimentary signalling and identification, This was especially used in environments where communication is similarly challenging (such as the maritime environment where semaphore is used). National flags are potent patriotic symbols with varied wide-ranging interpretations, often including strong military associations due to their original and ongoing military uses. Flags are used in messaging, advertising, or for other decorative purposes. The study of flags is known as vexillology, from the Latin vexillum meaning flag or banner.

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Although flag-like symbols were used in some ancient cultures, the origin of flags in the modern sense is a matter of dispute. Some believe flags originated in China, while others hold that the Roman Empire's vexillum or the cyrus the great's standard (a hawk) were the first true flag and flags are also prominently been mentioned in the Indian epic of Mahabharata. Originally, the standards of the Roman legions were not flags, but symbols like the eagle of Augustus Caesar's Xth legion; this eagle would be placed on a staff for the standard-bearer to hold up during battle. But a military unit from Scythia had for a standard a dragon with a flexible tail which would move in the wind; the legions copied this; eventually all the legions had flexible standards our modern-day flag.

Flags are usually rectangular in shape (often in the ratio 2:3 or 3:5), but may be of any shape or size that is practical for flying, including square, triangular, or swallow tailed. A more unusual flag shape is that of the flag of Nepal, which is in the shape of two stacked triangles.

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Some complex flag designs are not intended for through and through implementation, requiring separate obverse and reverse sides if made correctly. In these cases there is a design element (usually text) which is not symmetric and should be read in the same direction, regardless of whether the hoist is to the viewer's left or right.

Common designs on flags include crosses, stripes, and divisions of the surface, or field, into bands or quarters patterns and principles mainly derived from heraldry. A heraldic coat of arms may also be flown as a banner of arms, as is done on both the state flag of Maryland and the flag of Kiribati.

Flags can play many different roles in religion. In Buddhism, prayer flags are used, usually in sets of five differently colored flags. Many national flags and other flags include religious symbols such as the cross, the crescent, or a reference to a patron saint. Flags are also adopted by religious groups and flags such as the Jain flag and the Christian flag are used to represent a whole religion.