The latest design for a new Minnesota flag is inspired by l’etoile du nord

During the summer, I wrote a post explaining why the state of Minnesota needs a new flag and I presented a loon focused replacement. After posting, I was looking around for places to share the design and came across a Facebook Group dedicated to a new flag for Minnesota. I joined, shared the link, received very helpful feedback and was inspired to develop a much better design.

Before I reveal my preferred alternative design for a new flag, a history lesson is necessary to understand how I got there. The Facebook group, aptly named Minnesotans for a Better Flag, was founded as a way to advocate for a change to the Minnesota North Star flag.

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The North Star flag was close to becoming the state flag in 1989 there was a bill at the Minnesota state legislature to make it the state flag, but it was voted down. Yet there remains a small remnant of survivors keeping the fight alive.

The symbolism of the flag is quite good and well intended. As the official webpage for this flag notes:

The star recalls the state motto chosen by the pioneers, “L’etoile du Nord” (“The North Star”). The blue stripe represents our lakes and rivers. The white stripe represents winter. The green stripe represents our farmland and forests. Gold represents our state’s natural wealth. The waves represent the state name, “minisota” — a Native American name which means “sky-tinted water.”

However the design of the flag is — and I’m searching for the right word here — okay. In my opinion the colors are bit bland, and that star is too large. The wave looks a bit too much like Charlie Brown’s shirt (no offense to the great Minnesotan, Mr. Shultz). Needless to say, its fine, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly it.

As much as the North Star flag is a real improvement over the current state flag, we can do better. Minnesota is much more vibrant and progressive place than this flag represents.

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A snapshot of the file in which I did the brainstorm, iterating, and improving.

Therefore, I got to work. Creating, posting to the group, iterating. I went through at least 50 or 60 concepts and or iterations. At first I started riffing off the North Star flag, different types of stars and even an ugly sweater.

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The floor of the rotunda at the Minnesota State capitol.

In sharing some of these concepts, a member of the group suggested using a variation of the star that appears within the rotunda of the State Capitol building. What makes this interesting is that the edges form to make four M’s. It also resembles a snow flake. So naturally, this was avenue worth exploring that produce some of the better concepts.

This led me to placing the capitol star in front of a directional star and I have to say it worked. While separate stars, they formed a cohesive and greater star (much like MPLS and StP are better together). Here’s a look:

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Folks, we have our winner. This flag embraces the outdoors and winter all the while coming across as progressive. I should also note that it meets all the criteria of vexillological design guidelines by remaining quite simple so it can scale and remaining distinct.

I’d be proud to call this the flag of the state of Minnesota, and I hope you would too. If given the chance by the state legislature, I will be submitting this in whatever crowdsourcing contest and process they cobble together.

But what I really want to know is would you fly it?

* I also want to formally thank the Minnesotan’s for a Better Flag Facebook group who kept the feedback and inspiration coming along.

10 Responses to The latest design for a new Minnesota flag is inspired by l’etoile du nord

  1. Danielle

    The final design is beautiful! I would be proud to have that as our state flag.

  2. I stumbled across your site as I was doing some research for a client of mine. I’ve read a couple articles and some of the comments people have wrote. And I have two comments of my own.

    First, I love how much exploration you’ve done in the flags for Minnesota and Minneapolis. Through exploration comes better and more exciting work.

    Secondly, this flag is badass. You shouldn’t wait for a contest to get it in front of some legislature. Blaze your own trail and get in some meetings. Listen to Roman Mars, find people to rally around you and change the flag to represent something better.

    I live in Phoenix, Arizona and love the simplicity of our city and state flag. It’s amazing though how many cities don’t hire a professional, they just have a contest. Luckily, in 1987 when Phoenix decided to have a competition, they also offered a $25,000 prize.

    “The Great Phoenix Bird Design Competition was launched in March 1987. The contest rules stated that the symbol must include the legendary phoenix bird and the words city of Phoenix. Most of the 277 entries, which included a total of 2,500 35mm slides, were from Valley individuals and design firms, but some applicants were from as far away as Surrey, England. The entries came in the form of bird sketches, paintings, colored market drawings and even a needlepoint…

    …Four finalists gave presentations to the Phoenix City Council – Kottler Caldera Group of Phoenix; Hubbard and Hubbard, Inc.; James Rowley of Scottsdale; and Smit Ghormley Sanft of Phoenix.

    From there, the vote was taken to the public, the real client. Ballots were printed showing the four finalists symbols and were distributed to libraries, major grocery store chains, public buildings and banks. Ballot boxes were placed at the 4th of July celebration, the Great American Race and Summer Sunday events downtown. A 900 number was set up for television viewers to call to register their votes and a ballot was printed in the Sunday Arizona Republic, Phoenix water bills and the city employee newsletter.

    More than 20,000 ballots were received, with voters ranking their selection in order of preference. The Phoenix City Council made the final decision based on the public balloting results, and the winning entry was a design by the firm of Smit Ghormley Sanft (which later became Smit Ghormley Lofgreen). The city’s Law Department conducted a trademark search to make sure that no other registered trademarks were around that would be confusingly similar to the four final designs. The city then obtained a federal copyright and a federal trademark registration for the new bird design.

    Four years after the process began, Phoenix received and distributed 350 graphic standards manuals that established a unified way to implement the new phoenix bird.”

    Crazy right?! Any way thank you for the procrastination education during my research, have a great night!

    • @Ashley – Thank you very much for your thoughtful and encouraging comment! It was Roman Mars’ city flag podcast that got me going down the route to do my own redesigns for the flags for MPLS and MN. It also sounds like Phoenix ran a very successful campaign to involve the community and real designers in their contest. Phoenix ended up with a great flag.

      Here’s a post I just wrote for PRI.org about the New Zealand flag redesign process and where in my opinion has gone wrong. I thought you might enjoy it if you are into the process of redesigning flags. http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-14/lessons-new-zealand-s-disappointing-and-now-complete-flag-referendum

  3. Steve

    Love the snow flake star design! Maybe a lighter blue background though. Way to go!

  4. Andrew Eden-Balfour

    You should definitely show this to the State Legislature politicians to convince them to change the flag 😀

  5. Jon C Good

    I think these are good – particularly like the snowflake and star design. I too have a design that I shared with my state senator. He really enjoyed it as did others he showed it to.
    If you would like to see, please contact me. Thank you. Jon

  6. EF Magnuson

    I love this “Norse Star” design! As a blazon it is incredible and perfect for the great State of Minnesota.

    For a flag, though, I think you also need to consider how it would look “at rest.” Went not out the design will be largely lost in the folds of the flag, which will appear to just be a blue piece of cloth with maybe a few hints of arget and or (white and yellow) here and there. This is why, for example, the Canadian flag has the red bands on either side and also why the final CSA flag had a red portion on the end (the “Blood Stained Banner”).

    I would try something like this for the flag:

    Azure, a bend vert fimbriated or, in sinister chief the “Norse Star” argent over the third.

    I did mock this up on the computer and it looks pretty sharp. I also did a rough sketch of the flag at rest and you can see both the norse star and (depending on the folds) the green bend.

  7. Ian Langsev

    I really like this idea for the Minnesota State flag a lot! Although one thing I noticed is that it is yet very similar to the New Mexico flag. I’d still highly recommend including the Scandinavian Nordic Cross idea into our flag. It’s a great representation of the giant population of Scandinavians found in our State. And it would Also represent both the flow and meeting of our two largest rivers: Mississippi & Minnesota. The blue is good, just like our current Minnesota flag, it could even simply represent the 10,000+ lakes found in our State.

    By far though, a very good design. The Minneapolis flag idea was awesome. I’d say the Minnesota flag still needs a few tries till perfection. Good job overall though.

    P.S. Not that I’m from St. Paul, but maybe give it a shot for a better flag proposal, since you’re so creative and skilled at making very intriguing flag designs. Keep up the good work!

  8. This is so freaking good! Have you done anything with it? You should at least try to make money off it. I’ll be the first in line to buy a shirt or hat with this flag. So well done!

  9. Ben Hernandez

    i would surely fly the flag with pride to say that this is minnesota and this is are flag

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