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Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.[1] The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum ("flag") and the Greek suffix -logia ("study"). The constitution of the International Federation of Vexillological Associations (known by its French acronym, FIAV) formally defines vexillology as "the creation and development of a body of knowledge about flags of all types, their forms and functions, and of scientific theories and principles based on that knowledge."[2]

A person who studies flags is a vexillologist, one who designs flags is a vexillographer, and the art of flag-designing is called vexillography. One who is a hobbyist or general admirer of flags is called a vexillophile.


The study of flags, or vexillology, was formalized by the U.S. scholar and student of flags Whitney Smith in 1957. During his lifetime, Smith organized various flag organizations and meetings including the first International Congress of Vexillology, the North American Vexillological Association, and International Federation of Vexillological Associations.[3] Smith, acknowledged as the inventor of the term 'vexillology' in 1957, wrote "While the use of flags goes back to the earliest days of human civilization, the study of that usage in a serious fashion is so recent that the term for it (vexillology, coined by the author of this book) did not appear in print until 1959."[4] Before this time, study of flags was generally considered a part of heraldry.

Involvement in vexillology includes academic work in fields such as sociology, history or design, professional or otherwise, contributions from the flag industry, and interest from those simply passionate about flags. ICV and local vexillological meetings often cover a wide range of interest in flags. The internet has facilitated wider discussion of vexillology. One of the earliest online flag groups, Flags of the World, has compiled a large online database of flag knowledge.


World Vexillological Research Institute (English Translation)[edit]

Formed in 1967, the Fédération internationale des associations vexillologiques (FIAV) is an international association dedicated to studying flags and promoting greater public knowledge of the importance of flags. Since 1969, an International Congress of Vexillology (ICV) has been organized every two years under the auspices of FIAV. The International Congress of Vexillology is a week long biennial conference. A Congress consists of vexillology presentations, FIAV's General Assembly and flag display tours. The 2017 ICV was held in London[5].

North American Vexillology Association[edit]

Commonly known as NAVA, the North American Vexillological Association is an american group dedicated to generating public interest in flags and flag design. NAVA was formed in 1967 after a flyer went out in the a previous issue of The Flag Bulletin calling for all "flag buffs" to join in Boston Massachusetts for a conference on flag design. At the time director of The Flag Research Center in Winchester, Massachusetts Whitney Smith took the initiative to form the conference goers into an organized program that later developed into NAVA. The organization is open to all members and hold annual meetings and semi-annual conferences around North America.[6]

Popular culture[edit]

The Big Bang Theory[edit]

In a recurring segment of the CBS show, The Big Bang Theory, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons, along with his colleague turned wife Amy Farrah Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik, produce a video series on the subject of vexillology called Fun with Flags with Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Wil Wheaton and LeVar Burton have guest-starred on the segment as themselves.[7]


Season 5, Episode 14 - The Beta Test Initiation

Season 6, Episode 7 - The Habitation Configuration

Season 6, Episode 17 - The Monster Isolation

Season 8, Episode 10 - The Champagne Reflection

Season 9, Episode 2 - The Separation Oscillation

Season 9, Episode 15 - The Valentino Submergence

Season 10, Episode 7 - The Veracity Elasticity

Season 10, Episode 21 - The Separation Agitation

Roman Mars[edit]

American podcaster and radio host Roman Mars is known to have a very recurring interest in vexillology, particularly the importance of city flags. He has dedicated episodes of his podcast, 99% Invisible, to the subject and has restated in interest on his social media. Mars' 2015 TedTalk, titled "Why City Flags May Be The Worst-designed Thing You've Never Noticed", was dedicated to the importance of good city flag designed, and contained a prerecorded interview with Ted Kaye. This talk went on to inspire a wave of interest in city flags and caused several cities to start campaigns to change their flags.


Two forums on the site popular site have been dedicated to creating content related to vexillology. The two "subreddits", r/vexillology and r/vexillologycirclejerk (the latter focusing more on adult themed flag design jokes) are dedicated to providing information on, history, jokes, discussions, and potential redesigns of flags from around the world. In recent years, especially since Mars' TedTalk, the forums have become wildly popular beyond expectation and now both have dedicated followers.

Ted Kaye[edit]

Secretary of NAVA and editor of the Portland Flag Association Ted Kaye has been a popular champion of Vexillology in the public sphere with his pamphlet "Good Flag Bad Flag: How to Design a Great Flag". The pamphlet outlines Kaye's five principles of flag design. The pamphlet, partly due to Mars' TedTalk became mildly popular and inspired wider interest in flag design and vexillology.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Whitney. Flags Through the Ages and Across the World New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975. Print.
  2. ^ International Federation of Vexillological Associations
  3. ^ Vulliamy, Elsa (December 15, 2015). "Which flag is it? Take our quiz to find out". Retrieved March 13, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Vexillology". Retrieved 2017-11-03. 
  5. ^ "ICV27 - London 2017". 27th International Congress of Vexillology. ICV. Retrieved 9 August 2017. 
  6. ^ "The Origins of the North American Vexillological Association |". Retrieved 2018-02-28. 
  7. ^ "The Big Bang Theory Site". Retrieved 2018-02-28. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Leepson, Marc. Flag: An American Biography. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005.
  • Smith, Whitney. Flags Through the Ages and Across the World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.

External links[edit]