Our competition to find an official flag to represent Aberdeenshire has reached its next stage, with a vast number of designs narrowed down to a shortlist.
Around 820 entries were sent in through email or post, making this the most successful flag design competition ever held in the UK in terms of submissions.
But the quality of the designs, which came from as far afield as New Zealand and Canada, also remained high.
That made it a tough few hours for our panel of judges, who met at Finzean Hall to pore over the entries.
Watch our video of the process:
They included Provost Judy Whyte, Deputy Lieutenant Miranda McHardy and Joseph Morrow, the Lord Lyon King of Arms for Scotland.
Process to pick flag shortlist
I was recruited as the go-between, driving from the P&J offices in Aberdeen to Royal Deeside with a precious cargo of brown packages piled high on the passenger seat.
Once there, I had the slightly surreal task of holding up each of the hundreds of entries as the nine-strong panel stared back and scrutinised them.
It felt like a particularly intimidating job interview.
After reducing all the submissions down to a few dozen or so, we moved on to the really hard bit.
The panel was forced to throw out some truly exceptional work in order to find a shortlist of around a half dozen.
But in the end, Scotland’s top flag expert and Lyon Court Vexillologist Philip Tibbetts had a set number of designs to work with.
He adapted some and combined others to create a dazzling shortlist, which will now be reviewed against centuries of records to ensure they are different enough from existing standards.
The final flags will be revealed next month ahead of a public vote on the P&J website, with the winner expected to be flown for the first time early next year.
‘Aberdeenshire takes the crown’
An impressed Philip praised the scale of response, which was “far in excess of” similar competitions elsewhere in the UK.
He said: “Aberdeenshire has taken the crown by a fairly significant margin.
“Not just by one or two, by 100 or more.
“It’s amazing that this has captured the imagination of so many people, and especially so many pupils across the county.”
Have a look at some more images from the judging process here: