National and state symbols serve as a visual representation of the ideas that a nation and in particular its polity stand for. They give the nation a perceivable form, its people something with which they can personally identify, and are also symbols that are recognised on an international level.
National and state symbols (Greek: symbolon = token, insignia, means of identification) play a role on more than just special ceremonial occasions. We also encounter them in our everyday lives – when flags are displayed at public buildings, for instance, and of course when the national anthem is played at (inter)national sporting events.
No state can dispense with symbols. First of all, they serve practical purposes: borders are marked by national emblems, official buildings are identified by official signs, and treaties, laws or documents are authenticated by official seals. In this respect, symbols are tokens of state sovereignty and authority.
But they also have a non-material significance: the choice of symbols serving as flags and coats of arms and the designation of national holidays or days of remembrance to be publicly observed say something about the state’s perception of itself, about certain ideas and basic convictions that unite the polity. The historical and political identity of the state and its citizens is concentrated in its symbols. In addition to their representative function, symbols therefore also serve an integrative function: they are a vivid outward expression of the desire for and commitment to political unity.
However, this is a multifaceted topic. It is essential that thorough research is carried out to allow you to create a consistent approach for Airbus and develop a better understanding of the significance of flags and banners, as well as what they symbolise.
The distinction between state symbol and national symbol
Due to the historical development of certain terms (e.g. the fact that we talk about national anthems, national holidays and the national flag), it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the two. Strictly speaking, however, the distinction lies in whether a symbol represents the state or the people (nation). Only in nation states are state and national symbols to be seen as almost identical and used as such.
National emblems are used as a means for the state to portray itself and show its presence, as well as for national identification. They identify and represent the state in question and the public authority it has through various laws.
National emblems usually include:
State symbolism can be seen as an overall generic concept that makes use of national emblems in its implementation.
All definitions illustrate the fundamental significance of how national flags are displayed in every country. For this reason, it is important to follow a number of basic rules.
Flag size and proportions
Flags are not standardised, which means there are a number of different formats. In particular, the side proportions of many flags differ from one to the next.
Here are some examples of quadrilateral formats with their corresponding proportions:
As it is important to ensure the sizes of flags are uniform (regardless of whether they are displayed outside or inside), all flags, including those listed above, may be used in different proportions, for example:
This is partly due to the fact that the proportions are defined by certain governments only when flags are used officially, but also because many flag manufacturers tend to only offer a few standard proportions (2:3; 1:2; 3:5) in order to save costs.
(Most of the countries recognised by the UN as sovereign states – 193 plus Vatican City – have defined proportions of 2:3, 1:2 or 3:5 for their flags.)
Front and back
There is no standard definition for what is the front (obverse) and what is the back (reverse) of a flag. In the case of most states, the front of the flag is the side that has the flagpole on the left, as seen from the perspective of the observer. However, for several Arab countries, the flagpole is on the right from the perspective of the observer, as this corresponds with the direction in which Arabic script is read.
The front of a flag is denoted by a vexillological Symbol . There’s also a certain symbol that denotes the back. However, most flags are identical on the front and the back.
Some states stress that the back of their flag may not be a mirror image of the front, while others remove asymmetrical symbols from the reverse side.
In the study of flags (vexillology), vexillological symbols (also known as FIAV symbols) are used as a standard classification system for flags. The system was developed in 1959 by American vexillologist Whitney Smith and introduced by the Fédération internationale des associations vexillologiques (FIAV) in the early 1970s.
Important: Make sure the flag is the right way around!
Flag ‘disposal’ (examples)