Minnesota panel sees crush of ideas for new flag, seal

Published 5:08 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

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By Dana Ferguson

Minnesotans are unfurling their ideas for a new flag and official seal in huge numbers, with more than 775 entries flying in since a panel put out a call for public submissions.

Members of the State Emblems Redesign Commission on Tuesday sought to lay out a clearer timeline for deciding on the new symbols that will replace long-standing ones. Applicants can submit designs through Oct. 30 that reflect Minnesota’s shared history, resources and diverse cultural communities.

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The panel of historians, marketing experts, civic leaders and others will ultimately pick the new emblems and they’ll take hold next year unless the Legislature votes to veto the designs. The commission was formed amid calls to replace emblems criticized as cluttered and culturally insensitive.

Commission leaders said they’d received 776 submissions through Tuesday morning — roughly 90 percent of those for a new flag and 10 percent for a new seal — since the state launched the online submission form earlier this month.

And the task force hoped to remain on course to pick five finalists next month.

The hundreds of design submissions are set to remain under wraps until November when the commission decides on the handful that will advance.

Members said they expect to meet in person on Nov. 21 to select the leading proposals for the flag and seal designs. The meeting is likely to be held at the Capitol or Minnesota History Center. Public input would be welcome.

Flag and seal designs that meet state requirements will likely also be available for public viewing online, said David Kelliher, an official with the Minnesota Historical Society who is working with the commission.

Commission Chair Luis Fitch said the five finalists for flag and seal designs could be tweaked by professional designers or flag experts and then produced to be seen and felt in real life.

“We will manufacture the flags and seals for the five finalists  so we can really look at them and touch them and so on, so we’re looking at the real thing,” Fitch said. “All the five seals and five flags will be the same as far as quality.”

From there, the commission will scrutinize the options and pick a winning flag and seal in mid-December.

The panel was set to firm up deadlines next week. Under state law, the commission is tasked with picking the new emblems before 2024.

“We need to all keep in mind that we are working with a very tight deadline here, a timeline that we have to keep moving rapidly in order to advance this process,” said Commission Vice Chair Anita Gaul. “We’re doing the best we can to get these things out in a timely manner.”

In keeping the entries private for now, members said they are balancing a desire to keep the public in the loop with concerns about applicants riffing from designs already submitted or copying them. In prior meetings, they also voiced concerns about people drumming up campaigns of support or opposition for submissions.

Entries that contain obscene or profane wording or imagery will be disqualified, as will designs that contain symbols, emblems or likenesses that represent only a single community or person. Submissions generated by artificial intelligence are also ineligible.

To be eligible, an applicant has to be 18 or older, or have a parent or guardian submit on their behalf. Each applicant can enter up to three designs for the flag and three for the seal. Members of the commission, along with their immediate family are ineligible to apply.

Applicants won’t be eligible for a prize or monetary compensation if their design gets picked. Submissions can be sent in online or by mail.