“Good design is like a refrigerator—when it works, no one notices, but when it doesn’t, it sure stinks.” –Irene Au
Good design often goes unnoticed and because of that, you’ve likely never thought about the Tennessee state license plate before. However, if you are a resident of Tennessee there is arguably not another design you see as often as you do the Tennessee license plate, and beginning in 2022 Tennessee will have a new official license plate.
Speak was honored to have been selected by the State of Tennessee for our expertise and history of success with over 20 years in business. In collaboration with state officials from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Department of Revenue, Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative for Corrections (TRICOR), and Department of Tourist Development, we worked to create design options that celebrated Tennessee and also met all necessary requirements.
The current green hills style of the Tennessee license plate was adopted in 2006 and received slight modifications in 2011, 2016, and 2017. The "green hills" design featured on the current license plate (first released in 2006) represents East Tennessee but doesn't capture the Middle and Western parts of the state. So, in the approach to the new design, the tristar mark from the Tennessee state flag was a unanimously endorsed direction by all the stakeholders.
All of the designers that contributed to the project call Tennessee home and with offices in both Memphis and Nashville, we considered it a privilege to apply our knowledge of both Tennessee and design to this special project.
“As a lifelong Tennessean and business owner, it was an honor to be selected by the State of Tennessee for this project. It was an exciting process to collaborate with our team of designers to meet the requirements laid out by the state and we hope that all residents will be as proud of their new license plate as we are.” - Jacob Savage, Speak Creative Founder and CEO
While the license plate is a relatively simple thing, there are many design constraints, considerations, and requirements due to its function. For instance, the design must include the tnvacation.com URL and the “In God We Trust” phrase. Though the “In God We Trust” is optional for drivers to put on the plate, all designs must accommodate it. Additionally, Tennessee statute requires the display of “Tennessee” and “Volunteer State” on the plate, as well as county name and expiration year decal locations. The state has also moved from a six-digit license number to seven, further limiting the real estate of the plate itself. There are also several other considerations that must be made for law enforcement.
Some of these considerations included height, width, and weight restrictions for each character of text, as well as space around each character.
“As a designer, the constraints of the project were a fun challenge. We did our best to use the constraints to make something unique and representative of the state. I was also posing many hypotheticals to myself such as: how would this look on a lime green car? What does it look like when it inevitably gets dirty? Thinking through these scenarios was important and also fun because these variables are not something that many design projects, especially web design, present. The requirements from the state and the need for versatility pushed our creative process. While creative, we believe that the final plate options are classic, well-designed, and something that everyone can love,” said designer Corinne Mizzell.
With over 20 concepts and 100 unique designs, a lot of work went into the 12 x 6-inch license plate you’ll place on the back of your car beginning in 2022.
Public voting on the new Tennessee state license plate is no longer open. Voting took place between September 20th and September 27th. The new plate, the navy Vintage with the white outline, won with 42% of the vote after more than 300,000 Tennesseans cast their ballot. The new plates will be available online and in-person beginning Jan. 3, 2022.
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