Do you think you can help design a better Utah state flag? Deadline for submissions is April 30

Illustrative photo of someone using their fingers to make an outline of a rectangular, flag-like shape. | Image courtesy of Utah's "More Than A Flag" Initiative, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utahns of all ages have until the end of April to submit their suggestions for new state flag designs as part of the “More than a Flag” initiative announced by Gov. Spencer Cox earlier this year.

Illustrative photo of someone using their fingers to make an outline of a rectangular, flag-like shape over Delicate Arch in the background. | Image courtesy of Utah’s “More Than A Flag” Initiative, St. George News

During the campaign’s official kickoff on Jan. 19, Cox called it “an opportunity to think about what unites us as Utahns.” 

“A new flag can help us reframe our ideas of what’s important and to remind us that our state’s greatest days are still ahead,” the governor added.

As previously reported in St. George News, the Utah Legislature in recent years has been considering changing the design of Utah’s official state flag, which consists of the state seal against a blue background, similar to those of approximately two dozen other states.

In 2021, a special commemorative flag was approved to mark the 125th anniversary of Utah’s statehood; however, the designation did not change the status of the official state flag. That same year, the Legislature created a state flag task force to explore whether Utah’s traditional state flag should be updated. During a special legislative session in November 2021, the relevant deadlines were extended by another year, giving the committee more time to solicit public input.

Since the launch of the “More than a Flag” initiative in January, some 3,600 submissions have been sent in to date, according to flag task force members.

Graphic showing all 50 U.S. state flags, with the bottom three rows featuring similar designs consisting of the state seal on a blue background. Utah’s flag is outlined in red. | Image courtesy of Utah State Flag Task Force, St. George News

“There are definitely some rural Utah counties that are under-represented,” said task force member Jill Love, who is the executive director of the state’s Department of Cultural and Community Engagement.

Love told St. George News that both Iron and Washington counties are among the particular areas from which the committee hopes to receive more submissions.

Love noted that even those who are not artistically inclined are also welcome to submit ideas.

“If you are not an artist, we have a tool where you can present ideas and concepts and themes, just through words,” she said. “And then, we will be asking some professional artists to take all of those text submissions and come up with some designs based on them.”

“We’d love for everyone, from schoolchildren to seniors, to give some thought about what are the symbols that really represent Utah and what’s important to us,” she added. “We hope to be able, at the end of this process, to come up with a flag that people really see themselves in and say, ‘Yeah, that is Utah and that’s what’s important to us as Utahns.’”

Another task force member, Stephen Lee, who is the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Dixie State University, said that approximately 300 of the submissions received to date are from the St. George area.

“If we could increase the number of contributions from Southwest Utah, that would be fabulous,” Lee told St. George News by telephone.

Utah’s commemorative state flag that was approved in 2021, the 125th anniversary of statehood. | Image courtesy of The Organization for a New Utah Flag, St. George News

Lee likened the process of designing a flag to that of making sausage, “because you’ve got a lot of stuff that’s going into it.”

“People are trying to invest a bunch of attributes in what the state flag should look like, ” Lee said. “I think what drew me to the project was this idea that they were going to be seeking representation from across the state, from a bunch of different folks like cultural groups, schools, tribes and government officials.”

“We’re trying to build a flag for the 21st century,” Lee said, noting that Utah has changed much since its original state flag design was adopted more than a century ago in 1913.

“It’s growing rapidly and it’s becoming a different place than it was when it entered into the Union as a state or even as a territory,” he said.

Lee cited the easily recognizable flag of Texas as a prime example of a simple design that captures a state’s identity.

“Red, white, and blue, with one star … the Lone Star State,” he said. “And people are able to essentially read into that, or place onto that, what they consider to be the values of Texas as represented in the flag.”

Utah’s state flag not only incorporates the state symbol of the beehive to represent industry, but it also has the word “industry” in capital letters right above the beehive, Lee noted. 

“The presence of the word ‘industry’ on a flag, is an unusual thing to my mind that you would drop in, but it is indeed part of the state motto,” Lee said. 

Stock royalty-free graphic image of the flag of Ukraine, via Pixabay, St. George News

“We could end up with a flag that looks similar to what we have now,” he added. “Or we could decide that what we want to do is go with a flag that is more abstractly representational of the values of Utah, similar to what Texas has done.” 

“I don’t know,” he added. “I’m not there to make the choice. My role on this design task force is to try to raise questions and to offer some insights about what are we trying to do with this flag?”

Adding to the difficulty, Lee said, are the challenges of resolving the underlying ideological tensions between abstract vs. more concrete, the past vs. the present and dominant cultural or historical groups vs. newcomers to the state.

“There’s a lot to weigh here,” he said. “I really applaud the state of Utah that they’re willing to take this on. It’s pretty ambitious.”

Just as Lee had talked about the Texas state flag, Love cited the blue-and-yellow flag of Ukraine as being another simple yet impactful design.

Utah’s official state flag since 2011, which is slightly modified from the original 1913 version. | Image courtesy of Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, St. George News

“It’s really just two colors, but it represents wheat and the sky,” she said. “And it’s something that has been incredibly important to their people and to the rest of the world.”

“I think it’s a great example of how flags can even be about the colors that are important,” she said. “Really simple symbols can resonate.”

“I think what we’ve learned in this process is that good flag design is sometimes about simplicity, so that the youngest of children could tell you what’s on the flag,” Love added. 

Love said Utahns of any age and from all areas of the state are invited to submit their ideas or designs online by clicking on the following link: The deadline for submissions is April 30. Submission forms may also be printed out and mailed, along with designs on 3×5 inch cards or paper to the following address: More Than A Flag, 3760 S. Highland Drive, Millcreek, UT 84106.

Love said that once the submission deadline has passed, the design task force will look through them and make some recommendations to the flag commission, which is made up of multiple state legislators, the governor, the lieutenant governor and the director of state history. 

From the narrowed-down list of choices, Love said at least one design is likely to be recommended to the Utah Legislature by this fall. At that point, it could either be considered during a special session or lawmakers may choose to wait until the next regularly scheduled legislative session in January, she said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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