- Associated Press - Thursday, May 29, 2014

PROVO, Utah (AP) - They call it vexillology, the study of flags.

For local leaders, new flag designs for Provo 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.”

The city contacted Jason Bates, a local vexillologist, two years ago to get a handle on what a city flag should represent and look like. The current flag has a white background with the word Provo running across at an angle. A rainbow bar sits beneath the city’s name.

Bates said the take on Provo’s flag among flag enthusiasts is that it’s bad.

Flags that rank high on the popularity list for Bates and other vexillologists have no words at all. Chicago’s flag, for example, has a white background and light flue bars with four, six-point stars. Washington D.C.’s has red and white bars with three, five-point stars.

Some of the flag concepts Curtis has received are similar to Denver’s flag that features red, white and blue mountains with a yellow sun between the mountain peaks. But Curtis said the designs submitted for Provo thus far haven’t been quite right.

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 discussed between other city projects, but Deputy Mayor Corey Norman said it recently has come to the forefront.

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 former Mayor Joe Jenkins introduced the current flag.

However, many people feel the flag is ugly and that it’s time to get one that better represents Provo.

An ideal image would be one that encompasses people, innovation and quality of life, city officials 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 wrote on his blog.

The city is accepting design ideas until June 3. Curtis said a group of citizens will review them, before they are posted on his blog for feedback.

Bates has presented the administration 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 simplicity, symbols that reference the city, simple colors that contrast well, no letters or a seal and uniqueness.

“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.

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