SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will get a new state flag, and you can help design it.
State officials are asking people to start drawing new designs, or just contribute elements and themes that it should include.
"You can design a flag and submit it," said Jill Remington Love, the executive director of Utah's Department of Cultural & Community Engagement, which will oversee the new flag design process that kicks off in earnest in mid-January.
The Utah State Legislature passed a bill earlier this year to begin the process to redesign the current state flag, which has been criticized for being very dull and complicated.
"Our flag, the way it is now with the state seal on a blue background, it’s really not that unique," said Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who passed the bill to create the new flag. "It can be a lot more simple and a lot more distinct and share our Utah message and story a lot better."
The legislature also adopted a commemorative flag that depicts the iconic Utah beehive on an X pattern of red, white and blue. Part of the reasoning for that flag is to show people what a new flag might look like.
"We’re looking to change things a little bit with the state flag and... giving people the opportunity to have that say," Sen. McCay told FOX 13.
A task force overseeing the flag design process plans to involve schools, historical and multicultural community groups in creating a new one. The criteria includes simple designs, meaningful symbols and basic colors. Sen. McCay points to states with instantly recognizable designs like New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Arizona.
The task force commissioned a survey that found Utahns are evenly split on a new state flag. The poll of 777 Utahns by the firm Y2Analytics found that 21% said they were familiar with the current flag; 45% said "somewhat;" 21% said "not very;" and 12% were not at all familiar with it.
Asked if they believe the current flag represents Utah well? The survey said 55% said yes, 21% said no and 24% were unsure. If they believed Utah's flag represents them personally, 42% of respondents said "no," while 41% said yes and 17% said they were not sure.
The survey found that 46% currently express pride in the Utah State flag, but only 28% said they would wear the flag on clothing or an accessory.
Asked if they support or oppose redesigning the Utah State flag, 36% of those surveyed said they support changing it; 35% oppose it and another 29% were unsure. Of those results, Sen. McCay replied: "29 % said sell me on the idea and we’ll come back."
Sen. McCay said he believed that once the public engagement process kicked off, they could win over those unsure and even some opponents when they begin getting designs and ideas.
Love said they plan to travel the state to visit libraries, schools and community events to ask people to draw a new flag or submit ideas. The Department of Cultural & Community Engagement has also launched a website that will start taking submissions next month.
"We're really looking for simple ideas where all of us can see ourselves in this flag. And that’s what flags can do, is they really can unite and bring community together," she said in a recent interview with FOX 13.
By July, Sen. McCay said they want to finish collecting ideas and then involve professional artists to create finished products based on the public input. The legislature could vote on a new state flag by November. Sen. McCay said a public vote won't happen now because balloting software and paper ballots are unable to properly display a flag graphic for all voters, but he hoped the community engagement would suffice.
"Once we have that final product, we’ll take it to the legislature with the governor’s help, and ask for the legislature to adopt it," he said.
Love said the public input collected along the way will be used for other purposes as well.
"It might help inform a new state history museum. It might inform a new campaign for economic development or for tourism. It’s not just for the flag," she said.
But when it's done, Love said, she would like Utahns to have something instantly recognizable that inspires pride in the state.
"It will say, 'This is Utah,'" she said.