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Utah leaders hope to 'catch lightning in the bottle' as state flag redesign picks up pace

The Utah state flag, top, and the new commemorative state flag, below, fly atop the Capitol in Salt Lake City on July 13. The effort to rebrand Utah's flag is gaining traction months after state leaders launched a task force to come up with a new flag design.

The Utah state flag, top, and the new commemorative state flag, below, fly atop the Capitol in Salt Lake City on July 13. The effort to rebrand Utah's flag is gaining traction months after state leaders launched a task force to come up with a new flag design. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — The effort to rebrand Utah's flag is gaining traction months after state leaders launched a task force to come up with a new flag design.

A survey will be launched in the next few weeks to gather "really high-level broad input" from residents regarding words and symbols that represent "our shared identity" as a state, said Lindsey Ferrari, co-founder of the Utah-based strategic planning firm Wilkinson Ferrari & Co., during an interview on KSL NewsRadio's "Dave & Dujanovic" show on Wednesday.

"And then we'll be going around the state and doing hands-on activities. We'll be doing educational activities in the schools to kind of build that information out and get a better idea (as to) what this might this look like, and let people design flags," she said. "We're going to give people the opportunity to design the Utah state flag."


We're going to give people the opportunity to design the Utah state flag.

–Lindsey Ferrari


Ferrari's firm was brought on by Utah's State Flag Task Force in recent months to help aid in the process of designing a new flag, according to Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, a member of the committee. The survey Ferrari referenced will be online with a new website being built and likely promoted by the state, Handy said.

The project will begin to pick up more steam by the beginning of the 2022 legislative session, according to Ferrari. Although the exact timeline is yet to be determined, it's estimated to take about six to eight months for the input process to be completed.

Handy told KSL.com Thursday it's all but a foregone conclusion that Utah will get a new state flag, but it's been a "slower, more deliberative process," meaning that residents likely won't see a question about it on their 2022 ballot as originally hoped.

Utah's State Flag Task Force, chaired by Gov. Spencer Cox, first met in June after a bill passed during the 2021 legislative session. In that first meeting, the members began looking at focus groups centered around education, design, public outreach, history, former governors, multiculturalism and tourism.

Utah's flag is the state seal on a blue background. The governor has referred to the current state flag as an "S.O.B," which is a joke from the vexillology community to describe flags that are a "seal on a bedsheet." That type of flag is often among the most forgettable of state flags.

Handy said the funds to bring on Ferrari's company came from leftover money from the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, since it had become clear early on that the task force needed outside help collecting public feedback, but the bill creating the task force didn't include money for it. According to Ferrari, there are now about 100 volunteers within different flag committees — committees based off the focus groups — in the early phases of research.

"Without exception, everyone on the committee sees the need to come up with a flag that represents a shared identity of what Utah is like now," she said. "The question we ask now is, 'Does the current flag still represent the Great State of Utah?' And, for the most part, people think 'no.' They don't have a connection to the flag and a sense of personal identity with the flag."

The feedback they've heard is, yes, the project is worth doing, but it's also important the state gets "lots of input" from residents as work continues, Ferrari added.

There still isn't a common thread as to what a new flag would look like. Ferrari explained Wednesday that the upcoming survey will try to find words and symbols to describe the current shared identity for Utahns.

Handy, who filled in as a guest on the "Dave & Dujanovic" show on Wednesday, said state symbols could include southern Utah's red rock, snow — since Utah has "The Greatest Snow on Earth" — or a beehive for the Beehive State. Utah's 125th state anniversary flag, which currently flies under the state flag at the Utah Capitol, features a beehive.

Handy said he agrees that the state has struggled to find identity with its flag. For over a century, it's something that's just in the background. He added that new flag concepts will eventually be presented to the public, likely sometime in 2022, as a part of the process.

While Handy says he knows there will likely be "some resistance" to a new flag because change is difficult, he hopes the state flag can one day be as popular as some other state's. One example is Utah's eastern neighbor, Colorado, where he said he visited the other week.

"You go over there, that Colorado flag is all over the place. People have so much pride in their state flag, and we don't have that," Handy said. "We love our state, we're proud of our state, but we don't have a symbol that really represents that. ... We're hoping to catch lightning in the bottle with this."

Contributing: Dave Noriega, KSL NewsRadio

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

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