design tips for creating the perfect vanity plate design

For some, a vanity license plate is the epitome of wasting money to show off your wealth and perceived status but for others it's simply an easy way to remember your plate numbers. Whatever your reasoning for choosing a personalized vanity plate, it's something that shouldn't be taken lightly. For better or worse, the name you pick will define both you as the driver as well as the vehicle for years to come. 

Perhaps decades ago it was easy to pick something good and simple but today most common names are already taken. This means that you need to be creative and design something unique and original that others haven't thought of yet. Here's some tips to help make that process as easy as possible. In the United States, the process to get a personalized vanity plate is typically pretty straight forward. Simply go to your state's DMV website and most will allow you to create a design, order, and pay for it without even standing in line. In the United Kingdom though, you can employ the service of a private plates company who will search through the available options for you.

Know Why You Want Personalized Plates

Virtually any reason is ok, including "just because"! However, knowing that you want it for business, for status, to express your fandom, or even just to put your name on the plates will help you narrow the choices you can explore. Years ago, I had a friend who bought an fancy new car and he put the plate "IPO Car" on it. That was both a bit of humor that most everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area would understand ... but it was also expressed his status as a tech worker who had struck it rich.

Consider Various Restrictions That Your State Might Have

Each state has various restrictions on what can and can't be included on the plates. Generally these plate design requests also go through a manual review process to ensure that there's no obscene plate designs as well. In California for instance, you can only put "69" on vehicles that are from that model year. Additionally, you can't substitute "1" where "I" is already taken. For instance, if "NICE GUY" is taken, you can't select "N1CE GUY".

mahalo plate california

Explore Different "Cause" Plates As Well

However, one fun thing to do is leverage the graphic design of the plates to create a unique design. In the case of one of my neighbors, his plate is "MAHAL" from the Hawaiian greeting "mahalo". Except that, instead of spelling it out "Mahalo", it uses the orb of the setting sun as the "O".

Use "Leetspeak" To Create Names That Aren't Available

With the exception of swapping "1" for "I" in some states, most DMV regulations will allow for made up words such as "D00D" instead of "DUDE". If you need more help understanding how to construct words like this, here's a leetspeak guide.

Consider Abbreviations, Initials, and Synonyms

Various states and vanity plate designs have differing character numbers that can be used. However, even the longest is still very few spots that you can use. As a result, it's important for you to consider synonyms, initials, and abbreviations that still convey your intent. 

For instance, if you want "PR Guy" as your plate but it is taken, then try "PR Man", "PR Dude", "PR Ninja" etc.

With a little planning, practice, and trial and error, you'll ultimately find the perfect personalized vanity plate. Just remember to relax and have fun. It can be frustrating to find out that someone else has the same ideas you have but once you find your unique solution it will make the result that much more satisfying!