Letters to the Editor: We asked for a less boring California license plate. Here are readers’ suggestions

six license plate designs featuring San Francisco, Griffith Observatory, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Malibu and Yosemite
Dozens of readers suggested alterations to California’s license plate design; Zarina Singh Humayun sent us several of her illustrations based on state landmarks.
(Zarina Singh Humayun)

To the editor: I couldn’t agree more with editorial writer Laurel Rosenhall about California’s dull license plate design. It’s something that I’ve never been able to understand because, as she mentions, California has so much style, so much history, so much natural beauty.

I thought it’d be such a cool job to help design new plates, so I took a shot at it myself. I’m self-taught with 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 be boiled down to one thing, so it would be great if we got some say in the matter. So I sent The Times some of my designs — what about the Hollywood sign, Napa Valley, the Santa Monica Pier, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur?


Perhaps the person who designed that boring plate was too overwhelmed by everything California has to offer and just thought, “If you know, you know.”

Zarina Singh Humayun, Los Angeles


To the editor: Since 2014, I have advocated that California’s drab license plate be replaced by a beautiful or inspiring one, like most states have.

My suggestion has been to have a group of artists, picked by the governor, select from designs submitted by anybody. The only limitation would be the designs must reflect images symbolizing our state. Residents could be given a chance to weigh in online.

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

Katherine Wolff, Los Angeles



To the editor: I would like to see the Art Deco sunset design from the 1980s brought back. I had those plates for 26 years, until I changed my personal plate to the current boring one that is now standard issue.

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

Toni Dee, Indio


To the editor: I would love to see an abstract mosaic reflecting our coast line, the agricultural Central Valley and beautiful forests.

I live in Tulare County and boast to out-of-state friends that I can enjoy the beach or the mountains in a few short hours, while the cultural offerings in both San Francisco and Los Angeles offer a comfortable and fun-filled weekend getaway.

There’s so much to enjoy here in the Golden State!

Carla D. Calhoun, Tulare, Calif.


To the editor: Any new design should be something natural (not a structure like the Golden Gate Bridge, lovely as it is). An iconic tree would work — a sequoia or coast redwood or Monterey pine, each of which has a silhouette that is easily recognized and could be representative of the state.

Also, a Sierra mountain view — Half Dome comes to mind as well as Mt. Whitney — would work. Pick something that is lasting, not something that an earthquake, landslide, fire or flood could erase.

Whatever is chosen should not incur extra expense as alternate designs do now.

Margaret Stevens, Whittier


To the editor: Every time I take an out-of-state road trip, upon my return I know that I am approaching home when I spot my first Joshua tree.

The California license plate should contain an image of an old, gnarly Joshua tree, lit by the moon, in a rocky, dusty enclave surrounded by 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 being considered for listing as a threatened species. An education campaign could turn the Joshua tree license plate into a consciousness-raising boon.

If every Californian were to see the image of a Joshua tree upon approaching a car, maybe thoughts of climate change and alternative transportation would enter the mind. Maybe we’d even see a reduction in noxious gasses in our air.

Mark Shoup, Apple Valley


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

Barbara Bell, Pasadena


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

Rachel Zenner Kane, Orinda, Calif.


To the editor: In describing the wonder of California so beautifully, Rosenhall states what the wonderful, simple white license plate communicates so well.

She sums up what I missed and loved about California after I had to leave the state for work in the 1990s. All I had to sustain my motivation to return, aside from a digital L.A. Times subscription, was that wonderful white license plate with the flowing “California” on it expressing so cleverly and succinctly the vibrancy that other states cannot advertise on their plates.

It’s been about a month since I returned to California, and I cherish each new white license plate. Now able to enjoy the vibrancy of this state for good, I can’t wait to visit the DMV and apply for my white plate with the flowing “California,” so I can broadcast that I am home.

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

Tom Dombeck, Irvine


To the editor: I enjoyed Rosenhall’s comments on our boring license plates.

But I disagree. The name “California” by itself conjures all kinds of thoughts and things this state has to offer. Leave the interpretation to the imagination of the viewer.

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

Terry Bochanty, Santa Monica