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Salt Lake City mayor unveils proposed design for new city flag

Sego Lily flag with blue and white backdrop represents snow, the sky, the Great Salt Lake

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After a lengthy selection process, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Thursday, Sept. 24 2020, submitted this design proposal for the new Salt Lake City flag to be considered by the Salt Lake City Council. The flag’s designers are Salt Lake City locals Arianna Meinking, 18, and Ella Kennedy-Yoon, 17.

Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY — After years of debate and months of process, Salt Lake City finally got its first look at a new proposed flag design.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Thursday made a formal recommendation to the Salt Lake City Council of a new design for the city’s flag — a design that combines the two highest-rated finalists into one new look.

The result: a Sego Lily, a flower indigenous to the area meant to symbolize resilience, against a blue and white backdrop, which could symbolize snow, the sky, the Great Salt Lake and salt.

The new flag design comes amid a year of upheaval for Salt Lake City, Utah and the world amid the global COVID-19 pandemic and a politically divisive presidential election. But it’s something Mendenhall hopes can bring unity to Utah’s capital.

“We’re in a once-in-a-generation moment of change and there’s no more perfect time for our city to unite under a new symbol that personifies and unites us all,” Mendenhall said in a news release announcing the new flag design. “I believe this is the design that can take us forward, together.”

Earlier this year, Mendenhall launched a process to revamp the city flag after Salt Lake’s current flag has endured criticism for its 2006 design. The current flag — which includes a graphic showing a shadowed silhouette of the city’s skyline in front of a backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains, labeled “SALT LAKE CITY” and slapped on top of a blue and green backdrop — has long been ridiculed by critics.

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The Salt Lake City Flag flies over the Salt Lake City-County Building on Nov. 7, 2006.

Scott Winterton, Deseret News

The city began its process of selecting a new flag this spring with an open call for submissions. After receiving over 600 entries, the Salt Lake City Flag Design Committee was tasked with narrowing the field. 

“This has been a community led initiative from the beginning. As a member of the design committee, it was clear that a lot of effort and care went into the submissions and feedback we reviewed,” said Salt Lake City Council Chairman Chris Wharton. “I’m looking forward to the council seeing the final design and hearing about the process that got us to this point.”

Without any personal or demographic information on who designed each submission, the Salt Lake City Flag Design Committee followed the key principles of good flag design, according to the North American Vexillological Association, to narrow the field to eight flags for the public to rate. The principles are: keep it simple, use meaningful symbolism, use two to three Basic Colors, no lettering or seals, and be distinctive or be related.

Using the same key principles of design, the public was asked to rate each design for symbols used, colors used, overall design, and how well each design represented Salt Lake City. 

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After a lengthy selection process, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Thursday, Sept. 24 2020, submitted a final design proposal for the new Salt Lake City flag to be considered by the Salt Lake City Council. The final design combined elements from two highest-rated finalists into one new design. This design, which included a stylized black honeybee overlaying a golden honeycomb, was designed by Salt Lake City resident Ella Kennedy-Yoon, 17.

Salt Lake City

The committee convened once again to evaluate survey data, then narrowed the field of eight down to two top designs: one, a stylized black honeybee overlaying a golden honeycomb centered on horizontal bands of sky blue and white; and the other, a white and golden-yellow Sego Lily centered on an isosceles triangle of deep blue, under sky blue triangles.

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After a lengthy selection process, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Thursday, Sept. 24 2020, submitted a final design proposal for the new Salt Lake City flag to be considered by the Salt Lake City Council. The final design combined elements from two highest-rated finalists into one new design. This finalist design, which includes a white and golden-yellow sego lily centered on an isosceles triangle of deep blue, under sky blue triangles, designed by Salt Lake City resident Arianna Meinking, 18.

Salt Lake City

The honeybee finalist flag was designed by Salt Lake City local Ella Kennedy-Yoon, 17. The Sego Lily finalist flag was designed by Salt Lake City local Arianna Meinking, 18.

Ultimately, the Salt Lake City Flag Design Committee decided the blue and white backdrop would pair best with the Sego Lily.

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After a lengthy selection process, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Thursday, Sept. 24 2020, submitted this design proposal for the new Salt Lake City flag to be considered by the Salt Lake City Council. The flag’s designers are Salt Lake City locals Arianna Meinking, 18, and Ella Kennedy-Yoon, 17.

Salt Lake City

To the young Salt Lake City students who helped design the new flag, being a part of the process was a personal honor.

“To me, this experience highlights what it means to live here,” Meinking said in a prepared statement. “If I do my best to try to change the world around me, even in little ways, I can make a difference, and grow into that role.”

Meinking grew up in Salt Lake City and recently graduated from West High School. She’s preparing to attend Harvey Mudd College in California, but expects to return to Salt Lake, which is also where her family lives. Meinking said the thing she loves most about the city is that it offers a lifelong community of people who value each other and where they live, according to city officials.

Kennedy-Yoon was also born and raised in Salt Lake City. The youngest of four children, she is a senior at West High School. To her, Salt Lake City is defined by its wonderful residents, city officials said.

“I am honored to have my design chosen to be part of what represents Salt Lake City,” Kennedy-Yoon said in a prepared statement. “This opportunity is encouraging me to make a difference. I hope this flag will grow to become a symbol of the kindness and community that Salt Lake City embodies.”

The Salt Lake City Council is slated to receive a briefing from Mendenhall about the selection process on Tuesday and is expected to vote on adopting the new design as the city’s new official flag on Oct. 6.