Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Even I can do better than that

If you're going to have a contest for your state's new license plate, is it really too much to ask that most of the choices don't suck?

Well, yes. It is too much to ask if you live in Nebraska, where state government -- taking political correctness and inclusiveness to new heights -- apparently had students from the (deep breath) Nebraska Center for the Education of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired (ain't THAT a name and a half?) choose the license-plate finalists.

I mean, this (at right) is a finalist. For the love of God, stuff like this is what keeps Rush Limbaugh in business railing about the evil and incompetence of government.

Come on, what state official's brother-in-law did this? If the state wants to get into the graphic-design bidness, it should start by restricting the sale of Adobe software and making owners pay a yearly license fee.

Give the money to arts in the schools.

ANYWAY, I'm not the only one dismayed. Advertising and graphics-arts types in the Great State are livid the state opened up license-plate design to legislators' brothers-in-law instead of just awarding a contract to a Nebraska design firm.

From the NE Creative blog:
Here we go again... We went down this road already so you don't want to see my vent but this pisses me off. Bland license plates that will reflect our state as we drive to other states and others drive through our state. Spend some money, help a small design business out.
NE CREATIVE'S Zach Origitano then quotes from the Archrival youth-marketing agency's Facebook page:
The State of Nebraska is missing a huge opportunity. The license plate is more than just a functional sheet of metal, it's a branding opportunity. As the state tries to grow its tourism and change the perception of being a boring piece of flat land, it should think about all its touch points. The license plate could have been a big one. Instead of creating an image that enhances Nebraska, the four designs presented as our options do us one worse: it maintains and reinforces the status quo.

It's hard to critique the amateur designers--- they did the best they could and took part. In many ways we applaud them for making the effort to get involved. Rather, we have to look at the final designs as a result of the process. With an image opportunity so big, how could the State think it's even a semi-good idea to have an open-ended design contest? This would have been worth the time, effort and money to pay for the best talent the state has to offer. Nebraska has some incredible design talent. But you won't get them through a non-paid open call for entries. Instead, you'll get the amateur works you see with our final four. You get what you pay for.
OH, I DON'T KNOW. Yes, the amateur designs selected by the state stink. Well, that's not entirely true . . . a couple are competently done, if not exactly inspired or original. But I keep thinking professionals -- high-priced professionals, no less -- came up with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution redesign.

Face it, pros can suck as bad as anyone.

So, I think the problem we have here is one of suckage and not of amateurism. I mean, I'm an amateur designer, and my first reaction
to the story today in the Omaha World-Herald was "I can do better than any of these."

So I figured I'd try. It took me about an hour or so from conception to finish. The result is at the top of this post.

I thought I'd go for a blend of simplicity, Nebraska tradition and breaking the mold.

The "NEB" on the plate is an adaptation of the state identifier on this 1933 Nebraska plate:

MEANWHILE, the whimsical artwork of the crusty old "cornhusker" is taken from the pre-1962 logo for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers:

THEN, I just brought back Nebraska's traditional license-plate slogan, "The Cornhusker State."

It was as simple as that. I don't think it sucks, and I think it injects an element of whimsy that laughs at how folks on the coasts try to stereotype Nebraskans. Of course, what do I know about "branding"?

Then again, you get what you pay for. The designers all said.


Anonymous said...

Fail. This has "I'm an amateur designer because I have a copy of photoshop on my computer" written all over it.

I can put a band-aid on my finger, does that make me an amateur doctor? I can drive my car at 80 miles an hour and slam on the brakes, does that make me an amateur movie-stunt driver?

The often-overlooked fact is that designers are professionals. We go to school for 4-5-6 or even 8 years to perfect the skill of communication. It's not about making stuff look pretty. It's about communication. Making it "look pretty" is a bi-product of the design process. You may think your design "looks good" but it fails on so many different levels of design. Not only does your design steal imagery from other sources (Yes, we designers know a lot about copyright law. It's part of our job), but it is also non-functional in so many regards (color, hierarchy, typography, etc.) For proof, visit an upper-level class of one of Nebraska's well-known design centers. You'll realize it's about a lot more than looks.

I'm not defending the designs that were proposed; they were terrible. I'm defending the title of "designer," which carries a lot more weight than you're giving it credit.

Amateur Brain surgeon-journalist-philosopher-chemist-physicist-porn star

The Mighty Favog said...

Dear Anonymous:

Did you go to school "for 4-5-6 or even 8 years to perfect the skill" of being a dick -- or is that just an idiot-savant thing you acquired at birth?

Well, at least you passed on that count. On projecting an air of confidence and in writing a decent outraged comment . . . fail.

Perhaps you should leave that to the professionals.