Alberta’s License Plate Redesign

Love them or hate them, everyone and their mother has an opinion about the newly proposed Alberta license plate designs. Last week three new choices for the future design of Alberta’s license plates were released to the public in an online vote along with the announcement that the new plates will feature a new reflective coating. Albertans have been invited to vote for their favourite design and the plate with the most votes on August 19th will be available in the spring of 2015.

The three design options for the new license plates are shown below and currently the second option is in the lead with 48.91% of the vote.


It didn’t take much time after releasing the new design options before social media, online articles and radio stations exploded in a frenzy of opinions, most of them expressing their displeasure with the newly proposed license plates. There has even been a petition issued asking to keep the old design until a better option is available. This petition currently has over 3,700 signatures, so this is obviously a topic that many people feel quite strongly about. Very few people have spoken out about the new coating that will be used, so what are people so upset about?

Tagline Removed and Website Added
All of the available options have had Alberta’s tagline, “Wild Rose Country,” removed and Alberta’s web address added in its place. People seem to be split on the idea of removing the tagline. Many feel that this is a political move, one that the Wild Rose Party has been vocal about opposing. Others have put any political suggestions aside, but simply feel that a website is impersonal and does not define Alberta. Some people have voiced that in this day and age a URL for Alberta is unnecessary, as anyone looking for Alberta’s website can easily see is the first search result in Google.  Have a better idea for the tagline? The Edmonton Journal has a feature on their site where you can type in your slogan, see it on the plate and print it.

old-platesPast Plate Images 

Lack of Choice and Lack of Public Dialogue
Many people feel that the three options that the public has been given to vote on are giving people a false choice. All three options are generally featuring the same elements: the updated Alberta logo at the top, web address at the bottom, black license plate numbers, and full-colour image featuring mountains at the top and wheat or grass at the bottom. Alberta’s current plates have not been updated in some time, but at what point does a design become iconic or simply outdated? Some people have suggested there should be a fourth option where simply updating the old plates with the new logo and coating, going with the old belief that “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. This begs some questions to be asked about public dialogue. To what extent should time and money have been spent getting the public’s feedback about the plates?  Should they have conducted a poll asking if change was necessary? Or should there have been some more in depth surveys done, asking what elements such as tagline or visuals that Albertans would like included?

The Design Itself
The largest public outcry seems to be because people are finding trouble identifying with any of the proposed designs. Many Albertans have been particularly vocal about its aversion to all three of the options. Many Albertan designers have voiced their opinions about the plates and some have even taken a stab at redesigning the plates themselves, posting both serious and parody alternatives on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Designers are expressing not only the similarity of all the choices, but also that none of the options are particularly well designed. Designers, and many other members of the public, feel the imagery used is generic looking and not unique to Alberta’s identity. There is often a similar public outcry when companies redesign their logos, so much so that the Gap’s redesigned logo in 2010 it was abandoned after only one week. Considering that this is a piece that is publicly representing a province rather than a clothing company, it should not be surprising that people have strong opinions.

The Process
For local designers, this is not only an issue of disliking the look of the new plates. There has also been some outrage that the Albertan design community was bypassed in the creation of these choices. CBC has reported that Service Alberta chose to use 3M Designs, an American company who supplied the designs for free as a money saving measure. When there are so many talented designers in Alberta, it is hard to imagine that a local designer couldn’t have come up with something that Albertans feel better represents them. Deciding to go with a free option is being perceived as an insult to the design community, as it also undermines design work as a profession and as a valuable investment. Hearing the negative feedback about this issue has inspired the Wild Rose Party to announce today that they are hosting a license plate design contest, in which the winner will receive a cash donation to the charity of his or her choice. This recent advancement is igniting more discussion among the design community as it being perceived as a political strategy that is only successful in taking emphasis away from the designers, and further insulting the design community as it is yet another call for unpaid work.

Some are Just Upset that People are Upset
Some of the public don’t have an opinion on the plates themselves, but are voicing their disappointment in so many people spending time and energy what they believe to be a trivial issue in a sea of more serious problems in Alberta.

So what are your thoughts? Are people making a big deal out of nothing? Or is this a topic that you have a strong opinion about?


2 thoughts on “Alberta’s License Plate Redesign

  • Lori

    Hi Pure Vision,
    Thanks for your blog! We stand united with our fellow design community that proper process for design selection was not followed. Our biggest fear was that we’d all be driving around with a sub-standard designed license plates so we had to act! Our hope now is that Service Alberta will listen to Albertans and our design community and reconsider their selection strategy.

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