This post originally appeared on Cartophilia: Maps and Map Memorabilia.
Josh Parsons is not happy with the poor design of some of the world's nation flags. "Some are good, some are bad. Some countries have clearly taken care in the choice of colours, layout, and design. Others have been lazy, stolen the flags of their neighbours, or just designed flags that are clearly supposed to cause pain to those who look at them." Rather than stew in silence, he did something about it. He ranked all of the flags of the world and gave them a score based on their overall aesthetic value.
In his Flags of the World Given Letter Grades he gives high marks for simple design with a pleasant choice of colors. Ugly flags, with garish colors are sent to the corner with a dunce cap.
What does any of this have to do with maps? Parson's Rule 2: Do not put a map of your country on your flag. "When someone is travelling around your country, where do you think they will look if they need a map? Bzzt! No, they won't look at the flag." The worst offender is Cyprus. "Quite apart from the total uselessness of having a map on your flag, it really shows that a country hasn't gone to any effort if that's the best they can think of." While Cyprus has a distinctive shape, so do many other countries... but they can do better. Flags should be iconic, not literal. Grade D
He gives kudos to the nation of Gambia. "Great design and colour choice. Also represents the geography of the country (without being a map)." Grade A+
Gambia is a tiny nation hugging either side of the Gambia River, but surrouned by the nation of Senegal. The map design suggests this, without being too obvious. Clever map design.
Thanks to Gadling for bringing this to my attention, here and here.