A good case can be made for designing a new state flag for Minnesota. The main reason is that the existing state flag, adopted in 1893, is poorly designed, according to flag design experts. It lacks focus, is too complex and uses symbols that are not relevant to 21st century Minnesotans. The flag consists of a rectangular blue field with the state seal at the center. In the center of the state seal is a Minnesota pioneer plowing the prairie, with an American Indian horseman riding in the background. The flag bears three dates — 1858, when Minnesota was admitted to the union; 1819, when Fort Snelling was established; and 1893, the year the flag was adopted. In addition, there are 19 stars, since Minnesota was the 19th state admitted to the Union after the first 13.
There are more details, but those are enough to show that the flag violates the first requirement of a flag design — simplicity. Fortunately, a Rochester man, Lee Herold, has been active in offering a replacement design to a legislative committee. The committee is headed by state Sen. Ed Oliver of Deephaven, Minn. Oliver supports a bill that would appoint a task force to select a new state flag. Herold, who operates Herold Flags in Rochester, has advised the committee that the Minnesota flag design has been ranked 67th out of 72 state and provincial flags evaluated by the North American Vexillogical Association, and organization of flag design experts. It based the ranking on a poll of 400 flag experts throughout the world.
Herold says that there are a few key standards for good flag design. They include simplicity, good use of color, distinctiveness, differentiation from other flags and “flyability” — how the flag looks when flying or at rest. The design should be easy to remember and should have a distinct focus. All of those characteristics are present in a design presented to the committee by Herold. It includes a large yellow star on a field of blue, with a white stripe underneath. Herold said that he hopes the task force is appointed and that it reviews the subject and chooses a new flag — whether it is the design that he suggested or another one.
Choosing a new state flag is probably not at the top of the list of urgent needs for most Minnesotans. However, a state flag serves the same purpose as the nation’s flag — a symbol of unity and common purpose. As long as Minnesota has a state flag, it might as well have one that is recognizable and well-designed, not one that is archaic, cluttered, and mostly forgotten. We wish Lee Herold good luck in his effort to have a task force appointed to review the need for a new design.