Emblems panel won over by call of the loon as state bird to grace Minnesota seal
Published 5:25 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023
By Dana Ferguson
When it comes to Minnesota’s state seal, members of a state emblems commission couldn’t resist the call of the loon.
The state bird won over the State Emblems Redesign Commission and now will be centered on Minnesota’s state seal, which marks official government documents and appears across state buildings.
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Members of the commission on Tuesday voted to adopt the state seal design depicting a loon taking flight from a Minnesota lake. The design also includes strands of wild rice, representations of forests and a star.
Some changes could be yet made to the design but the core of it received commission backing.
Commissioner Aaron Wittnebel said most public comments on a seal design focused on the image and the remarks were largely positive. He left open the need for continued debate over revisions, perhaps omitting the state’s motto “L’Étoile du Nord” — French for “Star of the North.”
“Our intention is that since we have an agreement on this design and the layout, that in case for some reason we run out of clock, this seal will be adopted instead of not having one adopted,” he said, adding, “We’re ready today to eliminate the other four.”
“It’s obvious that all of us like that one,” added commission Chair Luis Fitch.
Other members wanted to defer a decision until all the modifications were made.
“I believe we have a number of things to discuss with this seal,” Vice Chair Anita Gaul said, pointing to unresolved questions about adding the state’s motto and founding year to the seal, among other concerns.
She and the others ultimately supported the motion with the understanding that more discussion would follow.
Ross Bruggink, the seal’s designer, spoke with MPR News and said he opted for the loon because he thought it could be uniting for the state. He chose a simpler design for his state flag submission, coded F1154. That remains in the running for the new flag.
“I think people in general really like when there’s an animal or some sort of mascot to represent what they believe in or who they are. And I think they really gravitate toward that,” Bruggink said in an interview last week. “There’s something just kind of elegant and timeless about using an animal, especially one that is the state bird or geographically represents a place.”
Bruggink was the only designer of a flag or seal finalist to clearly represent a loon. Commissioners raised concerns about using a loon form on the flag since some Minnesotans might not have seen the state bird in their region. Another flag design, F944, offers an abstract loon design that resembles water mirrored by the sky.
The flag will be the central topic of conversation for the panel now that it has selected a seal. Members have a deadline at the end of the year to pick a winner. The designs for the new emblems are set to replace the current ones in May barring a legislative veto.
Members reviewed various edits of the six finalists that included different colors and slights shifts to shapes central to each design.
The panel also heard public feedback Tuesday from members of the public hoping to make the case for their favorite flags and seals or frustrated by their process for selecting new state emblems. Several also voiced support for the loon-centric seal.
“I know you have a very tough and thankless job. But I think it’s great that you’re hearing public comment and really trying to make a decision that reflects all Minnesotans,” Isaac Maruyama of White Bear Lake said. He put in a pitch for flag designs F29 and F944. “I think we can all agree that everything on the table right now is an improvement on what we already have. And I think that Minnesotans will be able to rally together around on whatever the Commission decides.”
Others were more skeptical about the need for a redesign. Rick Rud told the commission the public, not the appointed panel, should decide on a new flag, if anyone.
“I know there’s a lot of graphic artists and a lot of artists with an interest in this. That’s not where the decision needs to reside,” Rud said. “It needs to be open to all Minnesota. And I ask you to really think through — do we need to make a change first and foremost?”
More than 20,000 people commented on the flag and seal designs online. Commission members are set to meet again next week.