When the new Minnesota state flag begins flying next year, it will almost certainly incorporate hues of blue and white and the North Star symbol.
Those images came to a head Tuesday when the State Emblem Redesign Commission sorted a list of more than two thousand public submissions for a new flag down to six finalists. They also focused on more than a half-dozen favorites for a new state seal, gravitating around depictions of snow, the North Star and Minnesota’s state bird, the loon .
From those finalists, the commission plans to choose a final design each early next month, which will serve as the basis for Minnesota’s new flag and seal.
“We have a wealth of excellent ideas,” said Luis Fitch, chairman of the commission, at the start of a public hearing that lasted well into the evening. “We are in the process of creating – not just choosing – a new flag and seal.”
The commission was created by the Legislature last session to take on the daunting task of redesigning both the flag and seal in a matter of months to meet the Jan. 1 deadline. Neither has been significantly redesigned since its inception over 100 years ago.
A similar commission in Utah had more than a year and millions of dollars to help redesign its state flag.
“It’s a big job, it’s a heavy lift,” said commission member Denise Mazone. “I want to do things right.”
The commission was inundated last month with submissions from the public, which included drawings with winter imagery, pine trees and depictions of the state’s streams and 10,000 lakes. A few people submitted the current state flag, signaling they did not want the design to change.
But that will change. The finalists favored by commission members signal a dramatic shift in imagery from Minnesota’s state flag and seal, which have been criticized for decades as offensive to the state’s tribal communities.
The seal, which is also in the center of the state flag, shows a white settler plowing a field in the foreground while a Native American rides a horse into the sunset. Others have criticized the flag as unremarkable, lacking basic design principles that distinguish it from other state flags.
The commission favored submissions that adhered to key design principles, including the use of a few distinctive colors and images that could be recognized from a distance and drawn from memory. Blue, white, green and yellow were the colors used in the final designs of the flags.
“A good flag is used often,” said Lee Herold, who owns Herold Flags in Rochester and knows which designs are popular with his customers. “When they come in, you can see in their eyes if it means something to them and if they’re buying something special.”
The final design must also reflect the state’s history while representing “Minnesota’s enduring values and aspirations,” according to a commission design brief.
Members of the Commission considered the North Star to be the most unifying symbol of the state. Many flag submissions also included loons or other state symbols, such as the lady’s slipper flower or the pine tree. But they weren’t finalists for the flag, in part because those symbols have less meaning in some parts of the state.
“Even though loons and slippers may be beautiful and pine trees may be beautiful, they don’t represent us here,” said Anita Gaul, a commission member and history professor at a community college in southwest Minnesota. . “People in rural Minnesota in the southern tier might prefer a different design than the loons.”
The members of the Commission are not obliged to take a conception as is. They can change the final design of the flag and seal, potentially incorporating an idea from another design that is not part of the final cut.
As they narrowed the field, several members said whatever they chose had to be relevant for years to come. They warned against choosing too modern a design.
“In 100 years, will it still look good?” asked Secretary of State Steve Simon, a member of the commission. “If it screams 2023, do we want to do it?”
The new flag will begin flying on May 11, 2024 – Statehood Day – unless the Legislature chooses to veto its design.