Letter: A podunk design for new North Dakota plate

Normally this sort of thing should be the least of my concerns, but when the state spends nearly $7 million to design and distribute a new license plate that looks photoshopped by a C-student from a Podunk graphics design program, I'm compelled t...
Source: North Dakota Department of Transportation
Source: North Dakota Department of Transportation

Normally this sort of thing should be the least of my concerns, but when the state spends nearly $7 million to design and distribute a new license plate that looks photoshopped by a C-student from a Podunk graphics design program, I’m compelled to wonder if the state government bothered to find anyone who knows what they’re doing.

Of the $6.8 million appropriated for this project, there is apparently $4.8 million left for manufacturing. That’s nearly $2 million for an ugly piece of metal.

Take a close look at the super-imposed bison. It is front lit, yet the background shows a sunset. The bison looks hilariously out of place. I didn’t realize the state had a surplus of sunlight, too. Or maybe the odd lighting is supposed to represent flared natural gas.

The slab serif is outlined in black, running the letters into one another, and the letters aren’t kerned to compensate. In fact, they aren’t kerned at all, except for the “Legendary” text which is over-kerned and off-center.

Why does the plate need extra text on it anyway? It’s a license, not a billboard. Even the branding doesn’t make sense. The superfluous “Legendary” text looks nothing like the logo marks used in the state’s tourism material. Haphazard, dysfunctional, thoughtless design.

Lastly, the one constant symbol of our state, the wheat stalk, is reduced to blurry photographs. Why not use a symbol instead of a photograph that gets lost in the background? Perhaps it is a metaphor for the fading family farm. Who knows?

I get it. It’s just a license plate. But it’s an expensive and ugly one - another example of government waste and incompetence.

This isn’t just North Dakota’s problem, unfortunately.

License plates were once handsome, legible pieces of functional art. Now they increasingly look like banners designed for a recreational bowling league’s Facebook page. What does that say about us?