Updated: 1:45 p.m.
Run it up the flagpole: Minnesota will have a new flag with a shape that resembles — well, itself — along with an eight-point North Star and a single, light blue block to the other side.
The State Emblems Redesign Commission on Tuesday finalized a flag design for Minnesota after months of work and more than 2,000 designs were submitted for their consideration.
A pair of designers recommended that the panel keep a symmetrical Minnesota shape and limit colors to shades of white and blue, eliminating multi-color bars on the flag’s right side. Members accepted those suggestions and said the final product would better represent Minnesota than the state’s current design.
Flag design experts say the change could propel Minnesota from one of the worst-designed flags in the state to the top 10.
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“On state flags, the best simplest designs pop to the top: South Carolina, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Alaska, Washington, D.C.,” said Ted Kaye of the North American Vexillological Association, who has written extensively about flag design. “That’s the club that Minnesota’s flag will be joining.”
He said the design is distinctive and meaningful. “Minnesotans will come to love it,” he predicted.
Commission Chair Luis Fitch’s appeal to the panel helped cement the simpler design without stripes. He said the shades of blue evoked a river beneath the North Star.
“We can put so many stories behind it but I think we’re forgetting that the most important river in United States – and one of the best ones around the world and the biggest one – starts here,” Fitch said. “And I see the Mississippi River right there.”
While most members of the panel lined up in support of the new design, some said they wished it would include green hues. And at least two said they would seek to put the design and the newly redone state seal up for a public vote.
“We’re creating something that represents Minnesotans,” said Rep. Bjorn Olson, R-Fairmont. Olson is a non-voting member of the commission. “This is an identity of who we are as people. And as a result of that, we should have the ability to vote to accept this flag, to buy into this flag.”
It’s not clear that a path exists to put the flag up for a public vote but the Legislature could vote to override the new emblems. That would be a heavy lift in the DFL-led Legislature.
The eight-point star isn’t unique to Minnesota and appears in settings across the globe. But the group redesigning the flag hopes it becomes known as the “Minnesota Star.”
It’ll be oriented so one point is facing due north.
That shape of star already has a prominent place in Minnesota’s home to state government.
In the middle of the state Capitol rotunda, a marble star punctuated by a brass-and-glass interior shines with light from below.
“Minnesota is the North Star state, that’s why we have that star there,” tour guide Susan Armstrong told a group of visitors this month as she pointed out the intricate floor design from above. “That has eight points because it’s made of four M’s for Minnesota.”
Going into the meeting Tuesday, the panel had a sense that the star would be a key feature on the flag.
While the flag won’t spell out Minnesota, panel members said the symbols will clearly signal it.
“Here’s the beauty: It still says Minnesota in two ways — in the shape and in the star,” said Fitch, a brand marketer heavily involved in the quest for a new banner to represent Minnesota. “Minnesota is water, Minnesota is rivers. Minnesota is this star. Here’s the shape of Minnesota. We don’t have to write ‘Minnesota’ anymore. This is Minnesota.”
The Legislature set up the panel and tasked it with selecting a new state flag and seal before the end of the year. DFL lawmakers raised concerns about the existing flag being too cluttered and insensitive to some groups because the way it portrays a Native American man riding off into the sunset as a white farmer tills the land.
The current royal blue design has the state seal in the middle. That’s set to change too with a seal concentrated around a red-eyed loon (no laser beams in this one). But it won’t appear on the flag.
The design will replace Minnesota’s existing state flag on Statehood Day — May 11 — unless the Legislature intervenes. Commission Vice Chair Anita Gaul said she was confident that they wouldn’t choose that option.
“Change is hard. Initially, it’s hard. But then you get used to it,” Gaul said. “And I’m sure you know, by the time my kids are adults, they’ll embrace this flag. They’ll hardly remember we had one before and everyone will get on board.”
Luverne designer Andrew Prekker submitted the winning entry and said the North Star was most important to his design. He then applied a green line to symbolize nature, white for snow and blue for the water Minnesota is known for.
“Among the many emotions I’m feeling, the strongest are a sense of honor, privilege, excitement and gratitude. It’s such a rare privilege to be able to contribute to our state’s history and sauce in such a special way like this and I’m so proud to be able to say I helped design the new Minnesota state flag,” Prekker said in an email read aloud to the commission by Gaul.
Prekker said he hoped his design could help unify Minnesotans and make more people feel included in the state’s flag.
The finished flag will wind up as a compilation of ideas from multiple submissions. The star was swapped in from other entries..
The design has attracted praise along with some blowback. Commission members said they were trying to keep it simple rather than load it up with symbols.
“What I’ve struggled with is the stripes, the stars and stripes, it feels predictable, it doesn’t necessarily feel different,” said commission member Kate Beane about the original concept as she advocated for the simpler design. “I understand the nod to agriculture. I think having the outline of the state is a nod to the land base and is a nod to agriculture.”
Denise Mazone was appointed to the panel by the Council on Minnesotans of African Heritage. She raised concerns about some designs representing groups more than others, and mentioned that the star design resembled flags flown elsewhere.
“I think we really need to take our time and think it through and make sure that we’re being inclusive of everyone,” Mazone said. “We have so many walks of life in our great state of Minnesota and everybody needs to feel included, everyone.”
The panel is set to reconvene next week to consider returning the intellectual property rights of more than two thousand other designs to the people who submitted them. The move would allow those people to sell those designs on T-shirts, hats or other goods, or pitch them for other flag purposes.