Monday, May 2, 2016

Vexillology and Helmets

I was interested to find this TED talk on vexillology (the study of flags), not only because I find flags interest -- although I can't imagine making a career of studying them -- but also because it made many of the same points that I made in my blog posts on college and professional football helmets.  The speaker recounted some general rules for flag design created by the North American Vexillological Association, almost all of which I would agree with:
  1. Keep it simple
  2. Use Meaningful Symbolism
  3. Use Two to Three Basic Colours
  4. No Lettering or Seals
  5. Be Distinctive or Be Related
I harped particularly on the first one of these.  The vexillological principle is that a flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.  Flags apparently appear about 1" x 1.5" when viewed from a normal distance, so excessive detail gets lost (in addition to being distracting).  I would say that football helmets have at least the same problem with detail when viewed from a distance.

The other rules for flags are less of a problem for football helmets.  Almost all of them depict the team mascot in some form or other (meaningful symbolism), and teams almost universally have two main colours.  I complained about excessive lettering on some helmets, but I am more lenient about the idea that one to three letters (which serve as initials) make sense on a helmet more than on a flag.

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