PROVO -- They call it vexillology, the study of flags.

For local leaders, new flag designs for the city have just been vexing.

The city has been studying a design for a new flag for several years now, and there is still no consensus on just what colors, shapes and symbols represent Provo.

"Who knew that a flag would cause so much discussion?" said Mayor John Curtis on the mayor's blog. "This reminds me a little bit of branding -- the more that’s suggested, the more snarky remarks a potential design receives. I suppose that’s why I should be grateful for thick skin."

It's not like city leaders haven't been giving the flag design due diligence; they have. In fact, more than two years ago the city contacted Jason Bates, a local vexillologist, to get a handle on what a city flag should represent and look like.

"It's kind of like historical shorthand," Bates said. "The current (Provo) flag is notoriously bad among flag enthusiasts."

Bates is referring to the flag with a white background with the word Provo in an old logo font running at an angle with a rainbow bar beneath the name.

As city flags go, Bates said the top three include no words at all. According to vexillologists, the No. 1 city flag is Washington, D.C.'s red and white bars with three five-point stars. Chicago comes in second, with a white background and light blue bars with four six-point stars. Denver comes in third with red, white and blue mountains with a yellow sun between the mountain peaks.

Denver's is close to some of the concepts Curtis has received, but the submitted designs haven't been right where they should be.

"Provo has gone through tough vetting," Bates said. "They need to get their eyes and arms around it. Not everyone can design a flag, and Provo should not be trying to please everyone."

The new flag has been one of the projects that has been been bandied back and forth while working on other important projects in the city.  According to Corey Norman, deputy mayor, Curtis came to him at the beginning of the year and said the time had arrived to get it done.

The first Provo flag was produced in 1965. It was red and blue with a large white P for Provo taking up a good portion of the flag, with '1849' in white in the lower right-hand corner. That flag was used until 1985, when Mayor Joe Jenkins introduced the current flag.

The rainbow on the flag represents the eclectic and diverse nature of the city, Norman said.

"We have more people speaking more languages in a small area," Norman said. "There are different walks of life coming together."

Provo was seen as a little United Nations.

However, many people feel the flag is ugly, and according to the experts it's time to get a flag that represents Provo.

According to Norman, a representative flag would encompass people, innovation and quality of life.

"I don't think the current flag represents Provo," Norman said.

"With so many people moving here it should be a symbol that helps unite," Bates said. "When they learn to love their city, the flag of their city reminds them why they love it and why they want it prominently in their lives."

So the mayor has thrown down the gauntlet:

"Here’s the deal ... I’d like to see your ideas (don’t worry, I’ll be much nicer about what you produce than what’s been shared with me)," Curtis said on his blog. "Over the next two weeks -- until June 3 -- I want you to mail your flag ideas to the City’s Deputy Mayor, Corey Norman, at cnorman@provo.org. He’ll compile your designs and share them with a small group of citizens to come up with a few recommendations. Those that are chosen will then be shared here (on the blog) for your feedback and then sent to council for potential adoption."

Bates has already given the administration a presentation with some criteria for what makes a good flag. Those recommendations are part of the criteria Curtis said the flag must meet if it is to be considered. They include:

  • It has to be simple. This means a child could draw it.
  • It should be symbolically rich with references to the city.
  • It can’t have more than a few simple colors that contrast well.
  • It can’t have letters or a seal.
  • It needs to be unique and not look like every other flag.
  • The flag can’t be trendy, meaning the city needs to stay away from things that say, “That was designed in 2014.”

"So put your pencil to paper and get us what you think would be a good flag that can be around for years to come," Curtis said.

Three recommendations will be forwarded to the municipal council for a final approval of their No. 1 choice.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801)344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

A 32-year veteran of covering news in Utah County, Genelle covers Provo, Orem, Faith/Religion, including the LDS Church and general assignments.

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