William Morgan: A license plate worthy of Liberace

Photos (below)  and comment by WILLIAM MORGAN The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has blessedly not joined the rush to offer dozens of specialty and charity license plates. And not least of all, the base Rhode Island tag was designed by a noted graphic designer, Tyler Smith, and is quite handsome.

States  such as Florida have scores, even hundreds, of affinity plates available for an extra fee. Rhode Island's paltry offering is only eight, including the Patriots and the Plum Island Lighthouse.

So far, Rhode Island has avoided any of the overtly religious, political and downright dumb plates that have made a mockery of the idea that a license plate is a nothing more than a way of identifying a vehicle–and not an opportunity to raise money for athletic leagues, Pro-Choice activists, or a big despoiling industry. Or as a Montana State Police captain said recently, "I need to see your number, not know what you favorite flavor of coffee is."

While one would not wish to discourage a few good charities from trying to raise money, I wonder if crowding a license plate with too much information and appalling design is really the most appropriate way to raise funds.

The Ocean State's latest affinity plate is for  a noble  aim  – to fight breast cancer. $20 for each tag goes to the state's women's cancer-screening program. Marvelous. But is not then the next logical specialty plate one that would raise money for prostate-cancer research? What color would the ribbon be?  The image of a little walnut-sized gland gracing the plate?

Hats off to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resources Foundation. But as an example of design from the "Creative Capital," this plate is a graphic disaster. The font for Rhode Island is too bland, for starters. Worst of all is the fading horizontal pink color scheme, as if the plate had been dipped halfway into a bucket of Pepto-Bismol. It looks like something Liberace ordered over the telephone.