The Flag Heritage Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to the knowledge, preservation and study of flags. For more about us, see Who We Are.
Flags have been documented as a vehicle of human expression for at least 1000 years, and there is evidence of widespread use even before that. They communicate information about nationality, locality, belief, identity, organization, rank, and much more. Although there are exceptions, the basic elements of flag communication are color and line; words are secondary and ordinarily detract from a flag’s expressive power.
The number and uses of flags have so multiplied that it has long been impossible to list them all, or to collect all the designs in a book (or even a website, although Flags of the World makes a good attempt). But this very multiplicity of design and use makes flags a mirror of culture. Knowledge of flags helps us understand the world, and enriches studies in many fields including history, art history, art and design, political science, geography, semiotics, social psychology, cultural anthropology, heraldry, textile studies, and regional studies of all regions.
The formal study of flags is called vexillology, a word invented by Dr. Whitney Smith, one of the premier students of the subject; it first appeared in print in 1959. The word comes from the Latin vexillum, originally meaning a horizontally-displayed banner of the type used by Roman legions.