Flags serve as powerful symbols that embody the culture, values, and identity of a nation, state, or organization. A national flag represents the country as whole, while state flags can hold great significance in their ability to connect to a state’s unique history. The Montana and Utah flags are no exception to this, and as a designer, born and raised in Montana I am excited to compare the two respective state flags.
In 2023, Utah became the most recent state to redesign its flag. In this comparison, we will take a look at the soon-to-be-retired Utah flag and Montana’s current, long-standing flag. Some key words to keep in mind that are commonly applied to flag design criteria include simplicity, symbolism, and readability.
Montana’s State Flag
The Montana state flag, adopted in 1905, boasts a captivating design with rich symbolism. Against a blue backdrop, the state seal centered features a plow, shovel, and pickaxe serving as a representation of Montana’s mining and agricultural industries. A sun rises from behind the rocky mountains symbolizing Montana’s bright future and offering a glimpse of its majestic landscape. The words “Oro y Plata” (Spanish for “gold and silver”) are featured in a decorative ribbon at the bottom of the seal. The flag captures Montana’s history, character, and aspirations.
Utah’s State Flag
Utah will soon be unveiling a new state flag, making it the most recent state to undergo a redesign. This new Utah flag is set to be adopted in 2024, 111 years after the original flag was adopted in 1913. Like Montana’s flag, the current Utah flag features a decorative seal against a blue background. At the center of a golden circle sits a beehive, which symbolizes the state’s history of industry and hard work, and gives rise to its nickname as the “Beehive State.” The motto “Industry” is displayed prominently, flanked by two American flags. Above it all, a soaring bald eagle represents the state’s unwavering loyalty.
Both the Montana and Utah flags have blue backgrounds, reflecting the vast skies of the western United States. One significant difference between these flags lies in how they display their state names. While “Montana” is prominently placed at the top of the flag in large, bold letters, “Utah” is embedded below the beehive within the crest, creating a more subtle effect. While this placement may make it less obvious that the flag belongs to Utah, it also has its advantages. The crest becomes the clear focal point of the design, drawing the viewer’s attention and creating a striking image. In this regard, Utah’s flag may have the edge over Montana’s.
When it comes to the crest itself, Montana’s design may be the stronger of the two. The use of bright colors does an excellent job of capturing the lush and captivating landscapes found throughout the state. Against the deep blue background, the vibrant green evokes the forests, fields, and meadows that Montana’s residents enjoy year after year.
In contrast, Utah’s flag features a beehive that represents the state’s hardworking people and the Sego lilies, its state flower. While these illustrations represent the state, a large portion of the design is taken up by the American flag and eagle, which may detract from Utah’s unique identity. While it’s important to remember that all 50 states make up the United States, and the American flag is a symbol of unity, Utah could have benefited from a more focused design that highlights what makes the state stand out.
Apparently, Utah agreed and in their new design the Utah flag features a minimalist style beehive design as its centerpiece, with the flags and eagle removed to make way for a striking new background. Utah’s flag is now composed of blocks of red, white and blue that form the shape of a mountain.
In conclusion, the Montana and Utah state flags both represent certain aspects of their history and culture. Utah’s has a strong composition and overall layout, but Montana’s crest and illustrations do a better job at capturing the essence of the state. Ultimately, both flags are testaments to the pride and identity of their respective states.
Written by Ali Reimer