Getting involved in flags isn’t always the easiest thing. I know the intense history and complex meanings in flags distress a lot of potential flag aficionados. But you know what? None of that matters at the start of your journey. Appreciating flag design doesn’t require a vast field of knowledge; it just requires the will to seek out the coolest diamonds in the rough. And I think a perfect place to start is one of the strangest national flags, the flag of Nepal.
Nepal’s Flag is just awesome. In a world of rectangular flags, Nepal dares to stand out and shock the world. I’ve been a flag geek for years, and to show people how there’s a flag that looks this strange and see them suddenly get interested has always been a great experience.
Recognizing how there isn’t really anything forcing us to have rectangular flags can make you think of all sorts of fascinating variations on the expected “rules” of flag design. The Nepal Flag’s shape has two parts to its history. It is meant to symbolize the Himalayan Mountains, a major fixture of the entire nation, as well as a Pagoda, a major form of Nepalese architecture, shown below. Can you see the shape along one side of the building?
Another aspect of the flag that intrigues people is the fact that there’s a fully described mathematical model for how to draw it. In the constitution of Nepal, there’s the description below for how to draw the flag using geometric definitions.
A) Method of Making the Shape inside the Border
(1) On the lower portion of a crimson cloth draw a line AB of the required length from left to right.
(2) From A draw a line AC perpendicular to AB making AC equal to AB plus one third AB. From AC mark off D making line AD equal to line AB. Join BD.
(3) From BD mark off E making BE equal to AB.
(4) Touching E draw a line FG, starting from the point F on line AC, parallel to AB to the right hand-side. Mark off FG equal to AB.
(5) Join CG.
(B) Method of Making the Moon
(6) From AB mark off H making AH equal to one-fourth of line AB and starting from H draw a line HI parallel to line AC touching line CG at point I.
(7) Bisect CF at J and draw a line JK parallel to AB …………………………….
And so on and so forth for another 40 or so steps….
Clearly this is insane to follow to the letter. But this means that the people of Nepal know exactly what their flag should look like. The sun and crescent moon designs are a great combination of simple and complex, and are a perfect example of what makes up one of the foundational theories of flag design: minimalism. But it wasn’t always this way. Just compare the flag to what it used to look like.
Even if you’ve never given more than a moment’s thought to art or design, I hope you can see how this is a horrible piece of design. Even when you’ve seemingly pushed the limits of what you can do with a national flag with the shape, there’s clearly a line where you’ve gone too far.