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Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson points to one of 5,703 Utah state flag designs displayed Thursday on the walls of the Utah office building in Millcreek. The state will narrow the field to about 20 by August as it searches for a new state flag. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Estimated reading time: 7-8 minutes

MILLCREEK — Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson strolled down a hallway filled up and down with drawings of Utah flags on Thursday when one caught her eye, forcing her to squat down to get a better view.

It was a blue outline of the famous delicate arch in Arches National Park, depicted under an orange sun with three orange lines in the space below the famous rock which was shaped like a beehive. Minutes later, when Hendersen found Utah Department of Heritage and Arts Executive Director Jill Love, she drew Love’s attention to this design.

“Have you seen the one here? It has a beehive and an ark,” she said, gesturing at him.

This design is one of 5,703 designs that members of the Utah State Flag Task Force have collected over the past few months as the state seeks to redesign its state flag. Members of the task force got their first glimpse of the thousands of drawings in a unique way on Thursday, as each of the thousands of drawings was taped to the wall of the temporary offices of the Department of Heritage and Arts in Millcreek.

This is the start of a long process to narrow down the designs to approximately 20 finalists over the next few weeks. David Wicai, director of strategic initiatives for the Utah Department of Culture and Community Engagement, says everything is still on track for the public to get a first look at the top designs in August.

A vote to adopt a new national flag is expected by the end of the year.

Thousands of flag designs

The Utah State Flag Task Force formed last year as the state began searching for a new, unique flag that stands out. The current flag has remained intact for over a century, but it is also one of two dozen across the country that is a state seal on a blue background.

The task force began the process of collecting flag designs in January, launching a website where people could submit flag designs. The 5,703 designs collected between that date and April came from a mix of Utah students, locals, and even flag design fans from around the world.

Fifty of the designs were made by five state professional firms that were hired; their work has been mixed in the amateur designs to allow for equal competition as the field reduction process begins, Wicai said.

“When you see them on the wall, it’s really humbling and incredible to see all the involvement of the state in the project and the number of people who showed up to participate,” he added. “It’s almost like looking at 5,703 individual portraits. Each flag tells an individual story but it also tells, I hope, a story of what they see could represent us all.”

It’s clear from the walls that the Utahns were on the same page on certain themes. Mountains and red rocks are a common theme, as are bee-related objects. Many designs feature beehives or honeycombs, some even included designs of bees.

One of the designs intrigued Henderson because she thought it looked like a shelf before realizing it was a modern square beehive. The domed hive, or skep, with which Utah is traditionally associated has not been used for more than a century by beekeepers and is in fact illegal in the United States.

Several drawings contain Utah’s state flower, the sego lily, while others note the state’s prehistoric dinosaurs and its place in railroad history. Others highlight seagulls, elk, and cherries, which are the bird, animal, and fruit, respectively.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson crouches down to view one of 5,703 designs of the Utah state flag displayed Thursday on the walls of the Utah office building in Millcreek.  The state will narrow the field to about 20 designs by August as it searches for a new state flag.
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson crouches down to view one of 5,703 designs of the Utah state flag displayed Thursday on the walls of the Utah office building in Millcreek. The state will narrow the field to about 20 designs by August as it searches for a new state flag. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

But there are many unique designs in the group. A pair of designs feature an onion, which also baffled Henderson, Love and everyone else who was visiting the designs until someone in the room, searching online, blurted out that the Spanish sweet onion is the vegetable. of state.

A few even submitted the Utah 125th Anniversary Flag that flew over the Utah Capitol last year.

Then there was the direct absurdity. A flag depicting a dinosaur racing down a mountain next to a fish holding a gun got a lot of laughs. There were other joke flags too, but most of the designs offered a true view of the state from different lenses. That’s what Wicai noticed when he saw the flags coming.

As for colors, various shades of blue and orange seem to dominate the palette, along with white. However, every color shade imaginable ended up on the wall. A few flags even took over a Utah Jazz page, either with purple or the Southern Utah-themed City Edition jersey color scheme.

On Thursday, some of Utah's 5,703 state flag designs were displayed on the walls of the Utah office building in Millcreek.  The state will narrow the field to about 20 designed by August as it searches for a new state flag.
On Thursday, some of Utah’s 5,703 state flag designs were displayed on the walls of the Utah office building in Millcreek. The state will narrow the field to about 20 designed by August as it searches for a new state flag. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Henderson admits she didn’t know what to expect when the design submission process began. However, after seeing the end result – including the large number of designs – she is excited about the next task of trying to find the perfect state flag for Utah.

“We have a lot of beautiful options, a lot of unique designs,” she said. “Creativity is in the spotlight here. … It was really fun for me to see how many different symbols there are when people think about what Utah means to them.”

Many of the designs received by the state reflect the 1,500 text submissions of values, symbols and colors that Wicai presented to the task force last month. Much like these designs, mountains, Delicate Arch, red rocks, snow, the Great Salt Lake, and national parks were all popular ideas for the state flag. Red and orange, blue and white rose to the top of the main flag colors in this process.

Collapse field

While a few designs caught Henderson’s eye on Thursday, she’s not quite sure she’s seen the winning design yet.

A design review board will review all 5,703 flags on Friday, where they will begin the process of selecting designs they deem worthy of further consideration. They will meet again next month to narrow the field further until there are around 20 models left.

“I think the cream will rise to the top,” Henderson said, adding that it’s even possible the winning design won’t even be exhibited yet because there’s a chance that two or more ideas will get mixed up in the future, like Salt Lake City did this during its flag redesign process two years ago.


We may or may not have a (new) state flag. I think we will. I think it’s going to be something that everyone can be excited about.

– Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson


Utahns will be able to see these nearly 20 finalist designs not only online in August, but in physical flag form. Wicai said the plan is to fabricate the designs of the semi-finalists into the actual flags that people can see flying in person.

“Because it’s an important part of what makes a good flag a good flag,” he said. “We want to simulate that real-world scenario and allow them (people) to see them (the flags) in person if possible, see what they look like when waving, see what they look like when there’s no of wind, (and) seeing what the flag looks like upside down. There are a lot of factors that go into a flag, that make it a good flag, because you can see things in a lot of different factors that you just can’t see on a piece of paper.

The Utah State Flag Task Force and review committee members will consider public feedback on the 20 finalists to narrow the number of nominees to three. Then the task force will choose a model for the Utah Legislature to vote on in a special session by the end of the year.

The legislature will have the final say, so it’s also possible that none of the designs on display will end up on the flagpole of the Utah Capitol.

“We may or may not have a (new) state flag. I think we will. I think it’s going to be something everyone can be excited about,” Henderson said. “I think there’s an opportunity for tourism, for people to (present out of state), for something that people can be proud of and help identify them as Utahns.”

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Carter Williams is an award-winning journalist who covers general news, the outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a transplant from Utah via Rochester, New York.

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