The other day, while riding with a friend, I pointed out a car carrying one of the new Illinois license plate designs.
“Why does it have a gray rock in the corner?” was the unenthusiastic reply.
Good question. That’s not a rock, it’s the left upper corner of Abraham Lincoln’s suit, but it points out flaws of the new plates. They are too busy, and from any distance you can’t really tell what is on them.
The state is to be commended for phasing the new plates in over the next few years and saving some money. But they also tried to skimp and had the design done in-office.
I don’t remember seeing a word about a new design until it was revealed last fall. Maybe I missed it. But I remember the last plates had a design that was the favorite from among a number of choices presented to the public.
Although spokespeople for the Secretary of State’s Office say the new design has done well in newspaper polls, critics have pretty much lambasted it.
Blair Kaiman, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, called it “boring and banal” in a column last fall, but checked back in recently to revise his opinion way downward since seeing it on cars.
With a normal two letters and five numbers on a plate, since Lincoln (or at least the left half of him), was moved to the left side of the plate, it appears as if his left eye is peeking out from behind a letter. He seems as if he is trying to hide or at least get as far away as he can from the state capitol dome which is on the right side of the plate.
On the left side of the plate also is the skyline of Chicago, but it is obscured by the letters, particularly the Willis Tower. The most obvious feature on some plates is a windmill, which for some reason is in the center of the plate. Apparently it is supposed to represent farm country, but you would be hard-pressed to find a real windmill anywhere in the state.
The plates were revealed last year and are just showing up on cars in large numbers now. If your original plate was issued in 2000 or 2001 you will be getting a new plate this year. Next year, they move on to another two years.
The bright blue on top of the plate, maybe intended to duplicate the sky, missed by a few shades. The red lettering does not go well with the bright shade of blue, which is unfortunate because those two elements are all you really see of the plates.
It’s an ugly plate, and we are going to be stuck with some 9 million of them for a lot of years.