Date: November 15, 2021 (Season 3, Episode 13; 32 minutes long). Click here for the BuzzSprout version of this episode. Are you interested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click here for more episodes. Above image caption: Are we experiencing “flag envy”? Some the most beloved state flags, from across the United States, are from left to right, the flags of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Alaska and Maryland.
Podcast Content: What is a vexillologist? It’s a flag expert, a person who deeply understands both the art and the near-scientific aspects of flag design, the symbolism used, along with the history and the usage of flags (from personal, to national, to international organization flags). Vexillologist, or flag expert, Ted Kaye, speaks with SYP host Brad Weswood, for the second time, to lay out, as simply as possible, the essential aspects of good flag design. Kaye served on the committee which selected Salt Lake City’s new flag in 2020. He also advised some years ago the unsuccessful Salt Lake Tribune’s campaign for a new flag for Utah.
The Utah Legislature, Governor Spencer Cox and Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson, are all exploring the idea of a new flag for Utah. Earlier this year we produced the episode, “Run It Up the Flagpole…” Utah Considers a New State Flag in which the two legislators who sponsored the bill(s), Stephen Handy and Daniel McCay, along with local political historian Ron Fox, talked about the origin of this idea, and the history of Utah’s current flag. To further explore this proposal, Kaye speaks on the purpose of flags, and the importance of an efficient and “easy to identify” flag design.
Kaye speaks on the five basic principles of a good flag design, as mentioned in his pamphlet Good Flag Bad Flag. Kaye discusses why some flags score low on the NAVA (North American Vexillological Association) ranking and the reasoning behind the redesigning of so many city and state flags. Kaye believes that a great flag design takes on a timeless quality and is appreciated and embraced by a prospective citizenry. The process for Utah’s new flag has been extended for another year, giving all Utahns the opportunity to get involved and to “speak their peace” about this proposal. As of March 2022, over a thousand individuals have “thrown their hat into the ring,” offering their own designs regarding a new flag for Utah.
Bio: Ted Kaye has consulted on the adoption of new flags at the city, state, and national level. In the past, Kaye has worked as a chief financial officer for the company Wygant and was employed by the Oregon Historical Society. Kaye has edited and translated many journals, newsletters, books, and over 2,000 articles on flags. Kaye has researched and presented papers at national and international flag-studies conferences. He is currently the secretary of the North American Vexillological Association.
Topics Discussed in Time:
- Minute: 00:00 – 04:14 Host Brad Westwood introduces Vexillologist Ted Kaye, Kaye is an expert who understands the art of flag design. He published the very popular booklet Good Flag Bad Flag (2006) and has consulted with numerous cities and states, interested in exploring a new flag design. Governor Spencer Cox and Lieutenant Governor Diedre Henderson are exploring the idea of a new flag for Utah. Governor Cox has indicated that he wants to give every citizen the opportunity to shape the principles and symbols for a new flag.
- Minute: 04:14 – 06:23 The proposal for a new flag is not a new idea. Twenty years ago the Salt Lake Tribune published a NAVA survey for Utah’s state flag and it ranked poorly against other state flags. The Tribune received over a thousand proposed new flag entries; however, the independent effort lacked political support, thus putting an end to the initiative.
- Minute: 06:23 – 11:33 What is the value and the purpose of a flag? Kaye explains that a flag is the ultimate symbol of a person, place or institution to represent an entity uniquely, instantly, and memorably, to all who interact with it. Kaye also describes the five basic principles of a good flag design: (1) simplicity, (2) meaningfulness, (3) 2 -3 basic colors, (4) no lettering or seals, and (5) be distinctive or have it relatable.
- Minute: 11:33 – 14:35 “An effective flag is judged on its effectiveness at accomplishing its purpose and its purpose is identifying a place as seen on a piece of cloth”, Kaye further explains why two colors and meaningful symbolism are important in a flag design. Kaye also describes the reasons why countless states and cities are undergoing flag redesigns.
- Minute: 15:42 – 18:35 Kaye talks about the high ranking flags according to the North American Vexillological Association. The highest ranking flags were New Mexico, Texas, Maryland, Alaska and Arizona.
- Minute: 18:35 – 24:15 In contrast to a well designed flag, Kaye speaks on the topic of flags that do not have the best design, among poorly executed flags is the flag of Montreal. Kaye also explains why a flag should not have letting or various symbols that represent various groups of people.
- Minute: 24:15 – 26:37 Kaye speaks on the recent process that Salt Lake City underwent to obtain their new flag and how he served in that committee.
- Minute: 26:37 – 31:44 Kaye believes that for Utah the best way forward is by avoiding exclusive designs with the focus of representing everyone in the state as opposed to a political, geographical or religious group. He details how New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado have timeless flags that are embraced by their state. The governor and lieutenant governor want to make sure that this process is inclusive and that everyone has an opportunity to be involved.
Do you have a question or comment, or a proposed guest for “Speak Your Piece?” Write us at “ask a historian” – askahistorian@Utah.gov