Roman Mars is obsessed with flags — and after you watch this talk, you might be, too. These ubiquitous symbols of civic pride are often designed, well, pretty terribly. But they don’t have to be. In this surprising and hilarious talk about vexillology — the study of flags — Mars reveals the five basic principles of flag design and shows why he believes they can be applied to just about anything.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I love flags; I enjoy thinking about the cultural, economic and geopolitical symbolism embedded in the flags and what that means for the places they represent. I share the above video for that purpose, but more importantly because it is an introduction to the audio podcast 99 Percent Invisible with a special ‘behind-the-scenes’ peek. Great geography resources rarely fall under the title “Geography” with a capital G. It takes geographic training to “see the geography” in the world around us. I’ve recently discovered the 99 Percent Invisible Podcast and while it is not explicitly (or even always) geographic, it is loaded with excellent materials about design and the details of the world around us that often go unnoticed, but deserve greater scrutiny. For example the episodes on the Port of Dallas as well as reversing of the Chicago River show how the physical and human systems intersect within urban areas. These two geo-engineering projects also were conceived on in very particular social, economic and technological contexts.
I also loved the episode Monumental Dilemma, about the uncomfortable 1800s New England memorialization of Hannah Duston for scalping Native Americans…this is incredibly awkward culturally as our society and social values have changes over the years. Do we tear it down? Ignore it? Apologize? Since the historical legacy is unsettled, so is the monument. So I’ll keep listening to the 99 Percent Invisible podcast and please recommend some especially geographic past episodes as I dig through the archives.