As a member of ALPCA in good standing, I’m eligible to vote for the club’s annual Best New Plate award. Members nominate a new plate issue that debuted in the previous year, and this time around, there are 13 of them. After picking my top three, I considered what the runners-up might be, plus the also-rans, plus the ones that I just didn’t like.
We’re free to judge them how we like. I place legibility a little higher on the list than the appeal of the design overall. I think a plate needs to be readable from a distance, regardless of the design.
Here are my votes for the best new plate of 2018, presented in reverse order, Letterman-style, from the home office in Ottawa, Ontario.
13. Tennessee - Friends of the Smokies
This plate is illegible. How could law enforcement cope? This would be a great plate for a getaway car. By the look of the picture, it’s also a flat issue (numbers screened on by a computer, rather than being punched in a press), which means that being lit from one side wouldn’t give any clues as to the number. Black on dark purple should never have been considered as a colour combination.
12. Oklahoma - Support Education
Fair to poor legibility, on account of the white numbers clashing with the lighter colours in the background scene. Moreover, the ambiguous graphic could be a of a farmhouse or church. I guess, on closer inspection, that the building is an old-time, one-room schoolhouse. This graphic doesn't represent education as it is today. Without the word "education" printed on the plate, there'd be no way to surely know what the theme is. It could just as easily be in support of farmers. Or add a melting clock, and it could be supporting the state's Salvador Dalí gallery.
11. Colorado - Support Aviation
I find the legibility less than OK due to the mountaintop shading underneath the numbers. Also, at first glance, the ambiguous graphic resembles a native medicine wheel. On closer inspection, it’s the Colorado “C” logo that appears on the state flag, but the jagged white lines and black splotches are confusing. What are those black splotches? Oh, they look like planes. This should all be obvious at first glance.
10. Maine - Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital
The legibility is so-so due to the black numbers on a semi-dark background. I’m not a fan of the background fade from green to purple. The hospital’s logo (the outline of the child figure and five-pointed star) is actually powder blue, according to the their website, so why the use of green and purple? I say, keep the design, but re-work the colours to make it truer to the organization. A wonderful cause, though.
9. Illinois - Mid-Atlantic Plate Association / Illinois Bicentennial
The number legibility is OK, but there’s too much to read on the logo / plate face. Let’s type out all the non-serial-number verbiage right here in its own paragraph:
“Land of Lincoln 8/18/18 Expires 1818-2018 Bicentennial 200 Years Mid-America Plate Association 20 Illinois 18.”
Phew. Sounds like one of those annoying tag-filled eBay item names.
8. Minnesota - Law Enforcement Memorial Association
Good legibility, but the background looks like washed out wall graffiti from a distance. It’s tough to design a graphically interesting plate that has great legibility, and I appreciate that this one is easier to read, but I needed a second look to understand that the “graffiti” is actually a series of outlines, representing fallen officers.
7. Florida - Support Education
Good legibility, but to me, this is a totally mismatched theme. To me, a palmy beach is where kids go to get AWAY from school on spring break... at least that’s my biased association. People in Florida who buy this plate would disagree with me, but they can go ahead and write their own columns.
6. Nova Scotia - Mi'kma'ki
Highly legible, but the white background is unexciting, much like the Ontario graphic plates that I'm resigned to purchase. However, I have a Canadian bias; furthermore, I can’t let such a highly visible plate fall into the rear of this list with confused themes and Illinois's essay-on-a-plate.
5. Iowa - City / Farm Scene
Highly legible. They did a good job of keeping a light background for legibility and incorporating a self-evident theme. Not a flashy plate, but a good one.
4. Nevada - Vegas Golden Knights
I despise Gary Bettman’s NHL for crippling its existing teams in favour of an expansion formula that delivered too many good players too soon to a team that hasn’t earned anything, and yet went to the Stanley Cup finals last year. There are people across the northern US and most of Canada who play hockey in freezing weather for fun and have dreamed of their teams winning the cup, which was almost hand-delivered to… Las Vegas. Hopefully they don’t win this plate vote. It’s a good plate, but the “NEVADA” printed in Times New Roman clashes with the theme. They should have used the same font as the “VEGAS BORN” slogan. So, hah… 4th place, suckers.
3. Japan - Mount Fuji
Attractive design, and the bold number dies maintain high legibility. This is the sort of approach that might have earned Nova Scotia’s entry a higher vote. This new issue still uses the same standard Japanese format, but I'll put it on the podium nonetheless. If Ontario did something like this, I’d be over the moon.
2. Maryland - Protect the Chesapeake
Attractive, and reasonably legible. I like this one mostly because it’s a vast improvement over the previous design. Plus, I lived in Maryland for two years. In retrospect, I wish I’d spent more time day-tripping to places like Chesapeake Bay instead of clubbing each weekend in DC with my friends… not that I have regrets, but I have a soft spot for the Chesapeake.
1. Alberta - Calgary Flames
Bold, eye catching, highly legible. I so wanted them to win the cup in 2004, and I was glued to the TV when they did it in ‘89. Calgary is one of those teams where I’m always rooting for them when they make the playoffs. I think the red background is stunning on a plate, but that may be my Canadian bias showing. Strangely, the Edmonton Oilers’ plate wasn’t nominated, although I think it’s pretty cool as well.
Want to vote? You can, if you're a member of ALPCA. Want to join? Visit their site today.