Ranking Utah’s New Flag

Yes, I’m jumping the gun; Utah’s proposed new state flag hasn’t even been officially adopted yet. However, I’m curious to know how people would compare it to other state flags.

Flags of the Four Corners StatesUtah’s current flag is badly outclassed by the flags representing the other states in the Four Corners region.

In an infamous 2001 NAVA flag survey, the Southwest rocked. New Mexico ranked #1, followed by Texas. Arizona was #5, while Colorado was a still respectable #11. (The top 11 states, including Colorado, are listed below.)

  1. New Mexico
  2. Texas
  3. Maryland
  4. Alaska
  5. Arizona
  6. South Carolina
  7. Hawaii
  8. California
  9. Tennessee
  10. Ohio
  11. Colorado

Those flags are tough acts to follow, suggesting that Utah’s new flag should rank #12 at best. Could it, however, actually rank in the top ten?

Although the design didn’t initially bowl me over, it has begun to grow on me. It’s far better than the current design, which is a piece of crap. The new flag’s colors nicely complement the flags of the other Four Corners states.

In the NAVA survey, Utah’s current flag didn’t place in the bottom ten, but it was among the bottom 20, most of which look pretty much the same. Utah’s amateurish banner was sandwiched between Pennsylvania and Michigan, both of which suck. The new flag is a remarkable improvement, but is it merely the lesser of evils?

Unfortunately, the NAVA survey was far from perfect. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Alabama’s flag, which was ranked 15th. Apparently, some people judged the flag by its symbolism, rather than its design. In fact, some vexillologists rank Alabama’s elegantly simple and distinctive flag #1. If we bump Alabama up to second place, we knock Utah’s new flag down to #13.

However, California’s flag, which includes words, does not belong in the top ten, which brings Utah back to #12. There are at least two other top-ranked flags that, in my opinion, might be ranked below Utah. I love Ohio’s distinctive swallow-tailed flag, but some people think it’s a little weird. Even weirder is Maryland’s European banner, which vexillologists rank everywhere from first place to dead last.

That would put Utah in 10th place, behind Colorado. Could it actually beat Colorado’s familiar banner, though?

  1. New Mexico
  2. Texas
  3. Alaska
  4. Arizona
  5. South Carolina
  6. Hawaii
  7. California
  8. Tennessee
  9. Colorado
  10. Utah

That’s a tough call. Both designs feature four colors. Colorado’s flag is a little simpler, which is a plus. It’s also a very clever design. That red letter “C” spells Colorado Plateau, while the white stripe suggests snow-capped mountains.

However, Utah’s flag brings the Rocky Mountains and the red rock country both into sharper focus. I was among those who argued that the beehive is a religious symbol that should be scrapped. However, it isn’t really an overt religious symbol; does the average Utahn even understand its origin? Over time, the beehive has simply come to be universally recognized as a Utah icon.

Since the honeybee was introduced from Europe, I interpret the beehive as a symbol of European culture. The other elements on the flag represent Native American culture—in my mind, at least.

For me, comparing Colorado’s flag with Utah’s proposed new flag is like comparing apples and oranges. Colorado’s flag is simpler, but Utah’s may be more exciting. I could see some vexillologists bumping Utah’s new flag up to #9, ahead of Colorado.

If we focus on aesthetics and symbolism, Utah’s flag might fare even better. The elegant simplicity of Alabama’s flag is a little too simple for me; I find it a little boring. I think Utah’s flag beats Hawaii’s colonial banner by a mile. Tennessee’s flag is a question mark. It’s a competent and fairly clever design that recalls the state’s three geographic divisions. However, the mountains on Utah’s flag really catch my attention. I would be inclined to bump the new Utah flag up to #6.

  1. New Mexico
  2. Texas
  3. Alaska
  4. Arizon
  5. South Carolina
  6. Utah
  7. Colorado
  8. Ohio
  9. Alabama
  10. Maryland

Texas’ flag is a bit of a question mark. What could be more iconic than that Lone Star flag? Ironically, the design is arguably a little boring; it’s just three rectangles with a white star. I suspect many children would find Utah’s new flag more exciting. However, I suspect most vexillologists would insist that Texas’ flag remain in the top three.

Can Utah beat Alaska, Arizona, or South Carolina? It’s hard to say how the majority would vote. The flags of Alaska and South Carolina use just two colors each, which merits a brownie point. In addition, the symbolism on Alaska’s flag is absolutely dreamy.

In summary, I predict that, in a new NAVA survey, Utah’s flag would very likely rank among the top ten state flags, though probably not in the top five. However, if a survey was taken among the general public, it’s possible Utah’s flag would rank even higher. It’s a clean, competent design, and its bold colors and diagonal lines make it more exciting than even some of the top-ranked state flags.

Ironically, Utah’s new flag could be its own worst enemy. There’s hope that its adoption will inspire other states to upgrade their flags, making the competition much fiercer. For example, a Keystone flag being promoted in Pennsylvania could give Utah’s new flag a run for the money.

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