California License Plate Redesign: Suggestions From Readers

For the editor: I couldn’t agree more with columnist Laurel Rosenhall about California’s lackluster license plate design. It’s something I’ve never been able to fathom because, as she mentions, California has so much style, so much history, so much natural beauty.

I thought it would be such a cool job to help design some new plates, so I gave it a try myself. I’m self-taught in graphic design and had so much fun playing around with ideas based on a few of my favorite places in California.

I agree that California is too beautiful and too varied to boil down to one thing, so it would be nice if we had a say in it. So I sent the Times some of my designs – what about the Hollywood sign, Napa Valley, Santa Monica Pier, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur?

Maybe whoever designed this boring plate was too overwhelmed with all that California has to offer and just thought, “If you know, you know.”

Zarina Singh Humayun, Los Angeles

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For the editor: Since 2014, I’ve advocated that California’s drab license plate be replaced with a beautiful or inspiring one, as most states have done.

My suggestion was to have a group of artists, chosen by the governor, choose from designs submitted by anyone. The only limitation would be that the designs should reflect images symbolizing our state. Residents could have the option to weigh in online.

This process of selecting and implementing the new plates could be, I think, a unifying factor for Californians as well as an exciting project for artists.

Katherine Wolff, Los Angeles

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For the editor: I would love to see the 1980s Art Deco sunset design brought back. I had these plates for 26 years, until I changed my personal plate to the current boring one which is now standard issue.

The special plaques are just too expensive, especially the breast cancer awareness one.

Toni Dee, Indian

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For the editor: I would like to see an abstract mosaic reflecting our coast line, agricultural central valley and beautiful forests.

I live in Tulare County and brag to foreign friends that I can enjoy the beach or the mountains in hours, while the cultural offerings of San Francisco and Los Angeles provide a comfortable weekend getaway and fun.

There is so much to enjoy here in the Golden State!

Carla D. Calhoun, Tulare, Calif.

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For the editor: Any new design should be something natural (not a structure like the Golden Gate Bridge, no matter how beautiful). An iconic tree would work – a redwood or coast redwood or a Monterey pine, each of which has an easily recognizable silhouette and could be representative of the state.

Also, a view of Sierra Mountain – Half Dome comes to mind as well as Mt. Whitney – would work. Choose something that lasts, not something that an earthquake, landslide, fire or flood could erase.

Whatever is chosen should not incur additional expense as alternative designs currently do.

Margaret Stevens, Whittier

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For the editor: Every time I take a road trip out of state, when I return, I know I’m nearing home when I spot my first Joshua tree.

The California license plate is expected to contain an image of a gnarled, moonlit old Joshua tree in a rocky, dusty enclave shrouded in creosote and starlight. I know most of America thinks of California as a land of sunshine, movie stars, and beaches, but nothing says “California” like a Joshua tree.

There is an added benefit to placing the Joshua tree on our license plates. Due to climate change, the legendary Joshua tree is considered an endangered species. An education campaign could turn the Joshua tree license plate into an awareness boon.

If every Californian were to see the image of a Joshua tree as they approached a car, perhaps thoughts of climate change and alternative transportation would enter their minds. Perhaps we would even see a reduction in harmful gases in our air.

Mark Shoup, Apple Valley

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For the editor: A California poppy should brighten up our license plates, of course.

Barbara Bell, Pasadena

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For the editor: We talk about it a lot in the Bay Area. How about a bear in the background, like the bear flag?

Rachel Zenner Kane, Orinda, CA.

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For the editor: In describing the wonders of California so beautifully, Rosenhall declares what the wonderful, simple white license plate communicates so well.

It sums up what I missed and loved about California after having to leave the state to work in the 1990s. It was that wonderful white license plate with the flowing “California” on it so cleverly and succinctly expressing the vibrancy that other states can’t advertise on their plates.

It’s been about a month since I moved back to California and I treasure every new white license plate. Now able to enjoy the vibrancy of this state for good, I can’t wait to visit the DMV and ask for my white plate with the “California” flowing, so I can broadcast that I’m home.

Our white plate says it all. California is for lovers – lovers of California’s natural beauty and its people’s cool, vibrant outlook on life.

Tom Dombeck, Irvine

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For the editor: I appreciated Rosenhall’s comments about our boring license plates.

But I do not agree. The name “California” alone conjures up all sorts of thoughts and things this state has to offer. Leave the interpretation to the viewer’s imagination.

I think the old gold on black design is classic and should be the standard issue. Another option is the classic “other” that replaced it in 1969 – gold on blue.

Terry Bochanty, Santa Monica

Milton S. Rodgers