New license plate design coming for Iowa

Iowa DOT to unveil options in August, let public vote

Iowa license plate
Iowa license plate

Say goodbye to the misty city/farm mashup on Iowa’s standard license plate since 1998.

The state’s getting a new plate design.

“We are considering a new design for the standard county plates,” said Iowa Department of Transportation spokeswoman Andrea Henry. “We’re hoping to have options for the public to consider by early to mid-August.”

The Iowa DOT will release three to five designs and let people pick their favorites. Possible ways Iowans would vote on the plate designs could be through social media, the Iowa DOT website or at the Iowa State Fair, which runs Aug. 10-20 in Des Moines, Henry said.

After considering feedback from the public and law enforcement, the Iowa DOT will choose one design later this year and start rolling it out on plates in 2018.

Drivers would get new plates in phases over 10 years, but people particularly eager to get the new design could pay $5 extra when they renew their vehicle registration and get new plates at that time, Henry said.

Plate poll

Erin Jordan / The Gazette

Henry wasn’t sure whether the new plate designs will be similar in tone to Iowa’s town-and-country design or a dramatic departure.

“Right now, we have our own internal graphic designers who are doing research and working on the designs we will be considering,” she said.

The last time Iowa had a plate redesign was in the mid-1990s, when the state switched from a solid, royal blue plate with a white outline. The 1998 version depicting a city skyline overlaid with a farm scene doesn’t stand out remarkably from other Midwest states’ plates, including Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois.


“Iowa is on the boring side,” said Daryl Bruxvoort, of Elkader, who makes art out of license plates from all 50 states. “Montana is probably the one with the most visual interest.”

Bruxvoort would like to see Iowa add more color or an iconic image. “Of course, that leads to stereotypes of Iowa, like corn,” he said.

In the mid-2000s, Iowa started converting plates from embossed letters and numbers to a reflective adhesive printed and affixed to aluminum plates. The letters and numbers changed from blue to black in 2011 to improve visibility for law enforcement.

Offenders housed at the Anamosa State Penitentiary make Iowa license plates, producing more than 10,000 pairs a day.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157;


Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.