Ohio's New License Plate Is "Unique," "Different," Ugly

The state's once-scrapped new plate is outselling its current model 3 to 1.

Ohio license plate

You can't make this stuff up: In the summer of 2008, the Ohio BMV unveiled the state's new license plate, a "bucolic, pastel-hued" landscape designed partly by the governor's wife (the windmill was her idea, she says). It's "Beautiful Ohio"--the sun rising in the east over a cartoon barn and the Wright Brothers' plane--can't you just smell the amber waves of grain? Then in May, they decided the plates would be too expensive (too beautiful?), at $2.50 each, to require all drivers to buy. So they put the 1.5 million plates they printed (which cost the state $2.3 million) up for sale as specialty plates that drivers can choose if they want. Well, the people have spoken: The new plates are outselling the old ones by 3 to 1. It's, somehow, a "Cinderella success story," according to the Dayton Daily News:

Like Cinderella, word of the new plate’s beauty reached the public, along with the fact that 1.5 million of them were lingering unused in a Columbus warehouse. ... The rest is a license plate’s dream come true. After decades of plain two- and three-colored Ohio plates, Beautiful Ohio burst on the scene like a fairy tale rainbow. "Ohioans just like having a completely unique and different option that they have never had before," [Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom] Hunter said.

ohio

Seriously, Ohio? The last two plates have been bad enough (beige gradient, anyone?) but this new plate takes the ugly cake. The aesthetically inconsistent illustrations, the faux-grass border, the script motto, the utter absence of non-gradiented colors: It's so '90s, it might as well have the state's Web site on it. If we learned anything from Josh Parsons's brilliant world flag ranking system, it's that simple is good, cartoony clip art is Northern-Mariana-Islands bad. License-plate designers--first ladies included--would do well to remember this.

Some have. Montana's new plate goes back to the classic 1970s version: A simple outline and subtle cow skull are the only references to the state. New York's latest goes simple too, scrapping the old plate's panorama but keeping its state-map hyphen. Get with the program, Ohio, or you'll wind up like every Buckeye's nightmare: Kentucky.

[Via UnBeige]

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7 Comments

  • Randy Hall

    I would  like to have a choice to have art-deco placed on my car! I prefer the plain monochromatic look on a monochromatic car. Just give me numbers please!!!   

  • Bob Jacobson

    I think the new design is actually pretty neat. I'm so tired of bland "cool." Over the top is much more interesting. Hell, I might just start hoping for more "edge" in my video fare. It's gotten so gentle and loving of late. And when I see the Vietnamese flag, unless it has a caption, I'm not even sure it's a national flag. It could easily be one of those annoying flags they attach to street light stanchions these days. Not arguing for its high quality, but for the fact that people are tired of design, design thinking, and designers who made entirely too much of themselves over the last 20 years. Like they could really make life a lot easier, when it's gone exactly the other way. More realism, please.

  • Bob Jacobson

    I think the new design is actually pretty neat. I'm so tired of bland "cool." Over the top is much more interesting. Hell, I might just start hoping for more "edge" in my video fare. It's gotten so gentle and loving of late.

  • dustin garrett

    I don't understand if the new plate is so ugly then why is it outselling the old ones 3 to 1? Plus i don't think it looks that bad. but there is too much going on. Still looks better then the crappy brown or the old printer type gray. maybe the author just isn't a creative person.

  • Todd Singleton

    Funny that Ohio keeps touting itself as the "Birthplace of Aviation" when many, many people were designing "flying machines" all over the world at the time. Orville and Wilbur may have hailed from Ohio but they traveled to Kittyhawk, NC every time they tested a glider or plane (several trips). That's where Orville first flew 120 ft. over 12 seconds. So NC was really the first place a plane actually flew. Ohio is where they worked on the designs in a bike shop.