by Aaron Draplin
I’ve always been jealous of that incredible “Northwest Territories” polar bear-shaped plate our friends to the north get to tack on their snowmobiles and snow rigs. Not only did the thing say “Cold” but it also screamed, “Polar Bear!!!” Functional, and beautiful. So when Jonathan hit me up to tackle Oregon, I got a little freaked out.

First off, I’m from Michigan. Who am I to go after my adopted state? And then it hit me: I’ve been here longer than I was in Michigan. I’m 41, and have been “Out West” since I was 19. Warranted? Hope so. I just don’t want to let the place down, you know? So let me break my thinking down a bit:

01. SPIRIT: When I moved west with my buddies in 1993, in a lot of ways, that’s where my life began. Everything felt new. Every decision could make or break our little existence out here. And that just sort of amplified it all. I like to think we tapped into some ghostly wavelength of that “Oregon Trail” pioneer spirit: Leaving somewhere, to make a new life somewhere else. I left a beautiful place, but Michigan just can’t compete with Oregon. The thick-lined arrows represent Oregon’s migration, and, pull. I still feel it!

02. COLOR: Oregon feels very alive to me. Rain-soaked and spongelike. Breathing, almost? The place is so green…mossy and always growing, changing and regenerating. The white letters are meant to be as legible as possible off all that green.

03. CHASSIS: License plate holes are standardized. I designed around the template, respecting it.

04. STICKERS: One time I screwed up and put the stickers on my Oregon plate in the wrong spots. And then tried to peel them off and switch them back, and had to go back into the DMV with my tail between my legs and jump back in line. If my memory serves me correct, the lady took pity on me and gave me new stickers. So the thinking around the “arrow shape” versions is that you maybe it makes a little more sense what goes where? Plus, maybe the sticker could come on a little kiss-cut shape, so you can peel it off easier? My sausage fingers always fuck the edges on those Oregon month/year stickers.

05. TYPOGRAPHY: Oregon has always had a “hippie” thing going on. You see it intertwined with the civic institutions, local sensitivities and the idea that you don’t need a big house or a big car to have a nice life. The place has always felt laid back and comfortable. There’s just something about the place that doesn’t take the edge of everything. Far out, man. Far out west!

06. SHAPE: Did I break a rule here, State Plates Project representatives and co-conspirators? Here’s what I like about Oregon the most: You feel you can make the place whatever you want. So why not let the shape of the plate tell you a couple things about the state’s shape, and, it’s magnetic pull? We wanted the shape to evoke that mighty “Westward Spirit” that brought us out here, and has kept us here.

07. SHITS AND GIGGLES: The “ORE” plate with the arrows? Weirdo commemorative plates! It’s Oregon! Why not, right? Right.
State Plates Project by Jonathan Lawrence ⓒ 2014