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The Real Meaning Of National Flags (10 flags explained)

We are so used to seeing our flags everywhere, that we hardly notice them. But do you know the real meaning behind your national flag design?

No? Don’t worry! This super creative ad campaign by Grande Reportagem will explain you 7 flags, and then you’ll definitely get the rest of the world’s flags.

“The idea came from an e-mail we received showing the huge differences that exist in Brazil in terms of the distribution of wealth and opportunities,” says agency creative director Luís Silva Dias. “While trying to express that idea in a journalistic way – as if it had been done by Grande Reportagem – we experimented with graphics. The most striking visual representation we came up with was the flag.

All the data was checked with the United Nations and Amnesty International, as well as other national institutions.

“The client was one hundred percent behind the campaign from the very start,” says Luís. “And when it launched, the general public was very responsive. Many people told me that it made them stop and think. I personally find that extremely rewarding, because it becomes more than ‘just advertising’.”

The Grande Reportagem campaign won the 2005 Epica d’Or for print advertising in a final vote against Swedish campaign for the Stockholm Stadsmission. It marked the first time that one of Epica’s top awards has gone to a Portuguese agency.

1.USA Flag

2. European Union Flag

3.China Flag

4. Brazil Flag

5. Somalia Flag

6. Colombia Flag

7. Burkina Flag

Agency: Foote Cone & Belding, Lisbon | Creative Directors: Luís Silva Dias, Duarte Pinheiro de Melo | Copywriter: Ãcaro DÃria | Art Director: Joãn Roque | Account Director: Andrea Valenti | Client: Grande Reportagem Magazine, “Flags” Campaign | Published: 2005

Indonesia Flag (user contribution)

When my lecturer once showed this, she said, “Too bad there are no Indonesia flag” Actually the real statistic was there are about 60% who DO NOT have birth certificate, happy independence day my country.  (source:

Vietnam Flag (user contribution)

(Bamboos for Jim, *War with France and America)

Canada (user contribution)

(Bamboos for Adam Fischer)

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What do you think?

  • Caitlin

    There’s a really important message in this campaign, however, I’m going to go ahead and miss the point completely by saying that although the statement claims that the statistics are accurate, I really highly doubt that by coincidence these flags actually represent the data.

    Well I am missing the point, but I’m still not a fan of the campaign. It’s telling us how bad the world we live in is and the scale of it. It’s not telling us that we can do anything about it.

  • GeorgeValencia

    I may find a little bit offensive. Our world is full of prejudice and ignorance nowadays and this campaign (which I respectfully don`t find “painfully true”) is more descructive than constructive. There would be for sure more than a hundred things that could be represented in these countries` flags different than the ones here represented. Look for the truth underneath instead of staying with what the media says. The media wants to sell, the truth not always does.

  • siamak foroutan

    Yes unfortunately it is true.

  • Chip

    OMG, the Burkina flag is scary.

  • Greg

    These are depressing yet cynically humorous…. the last two “user contributions” are shit though

  • Colombian

    ITS COLOMBIA! WIth an O!
    & it’s scarily true…
    But you americans stereotype us! Because I’m colombian, naturally, i have to be a drug dealer, don’t I?
    That’s so RACIST!

  • neyney

    there is maybe a bit of truth behind those ads but this is PURE RACISM.

  • Bruce Dillon

    If your countries flag has gold fringe attatched to then it’s actually not your countries flag since it’s been altered !
    Just Sayin’

  • Mark

    Very clever!

  • Carlos Ruiz

    Actually Offensive, not clever. it shows a deep lack of culture

  • AJ


    The only one I can see annoying people is the Yank flag, and that’s only because you guys take yourselves to seriously.

    Real racism is where somebody is victimised or oppressed by another race and is harmed in some way. Saying Colombia has a large cocaine trade isn’t racist. I cannot see how anyone could deem this racist.

    • Dancid

      “‘too’ seriously”… and you’re right, we’re as much a joke as the rest of the world. ‘nd you know what, with the help of the American-left, someday we’ll be just self-loathing as the rest of you. No that’s not racist.. it doesn’t really meet the definition: A trait or behavior based-on, and/or attributed to a demographic based on their race… not nationality… it’d be like saying the germanic wisconsinite settler’s were advocates of The Third Reich in the late 30′s…Or that
      the Cajun haven’t done ANYthing, just because they’re origins are french-canadian. HAH! Columbia’s drug problem is more… socio-economic-geographical…fucking anything you can think of besides:…………….. race

  • Rachel

    I agree with AJ, there not a single bit of racism in here <.< Even though the data may not be acurate, it applies to most of the countries, and not only the one presented on the campaign, cus I bet they'd probably do one even more harsh than these ones to the one of my country. And you know what? I accept it! because all of the countries have something they suck for, and any of your "racist" accusation could say otherwise. Or would you, people who are alegating that this is racism or whatever bad thing it is, that those things arent actually true in some way? Please guys, we have to be honest; it's true that not everyone who lives in those countries are like that… but mayority is mayority…

  • Carolina

    I agree with AJ and Rachel, this isn’t racism. It’s just a general view of each country, it’s not about anyone in particular. But it really makes us think: our world sucks.

  • orlysnap


  • poop

    this is wrong i live in canada , that flag is wrong red means the oceans and the maple in the middle symbols canda….canada is in the middle of two oceans. lool but its funny we play aalooot of hockkeeyy ! :)

  • Matilda

    Jesus people learn to take a bloody joke would you? Now put up the Australian flag! I wanna know what you will say about the Aussies! :D

  • yellowninjaducky

    wow that really brings life into perspective.really made me think.