“Here’s a trick: if you want to design a kickass flag, start by drawing a one-by-one-and-a half inch rectangle on a piece of paper.” – Roman Mars, 11 Nov 2014

Design permeates everything. You care about the design of almost everything in your world. Sadly, you don’t appreciate it

When I write an article, I spend a lot of time thinking about its design. What words should I use? How do I start? How do I keep people’s attention? How much time should I spend improving the design? You know the drill, if you’ve written anything, even an email.


99% Invisible is A Tiny Radio Show About Design. Roman Mars praises the 99% invisible design in the world. Listen to his TED Talk. Now.

For the lazy or super busy, Roman summarizes 5 simple rules from the North American Vexillogical Association’s (NAVA) Guiding Principles on Flag Design:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Use meaningful symbolism
  3. Use two to three basic colors
  4. No lettering or seals of any kind.
  5. Be distinctive

Rules vs Results

NAVA understands good design, and their website sucks:

NAVA Login Page For comparison, Roman’s website is well-designed and user-friendly:

99% Invisible There’s more to design than knowing the rules.


As I’ve written before, our psychology is not feedback-oriented.We praise perfectionism, and laugh at fails. We are hard on ourselves when we fail. Success is much less celebrated.

The paradox is that good design requires feedback.

The hardest part of my job is listening to users and translating their feedback into good design. You can’t just do what they say so you have to listen carefully and interpret selectively. It’s so much easier to listen selectively.

Knowing when to stop designing and to request feedback is extremely difficult. What prevents me from improving my designs? I identify with my work, and I see criticism of my creations as personal rejection.

Perfectionism is not about being perfect. It’s about trying to mask anxiety through hard work. I’m laughing at myself, because how did I feel as I was rewriting that sentence 10 times? I’m not perfect; I panic.

As I said, knowing the rules is not enough. You need to know when to stop and listen.

I’m listening. What do you have to say? Thanks.