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This popular design won’t be on Iowa’s new license plates. Here’s why.

When a Downtown Farmers’ Market customer told designer John Bosley his “Layers of Iowa” design would make for a great new Iowa license plate, Bosley agreed.

And when he took the idea to social media, many thought he nailed it.

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The Iowa Department of Transportation announced earlier this month that motorists will be getting new plates next year, per a previous Register story. They’ll be installed on 4.2 million vehicles over a 10-year cycle to replace the existing ones.

Introduced in 1997, Iowa’s current white, blue and gray-colored plates feature a town and country theme with a farmstead and two silos silhouetted by a city skyline.

Bosley, 36, of Des Moines was the lead designer at Raygun from 2009 until leaving in 2015 to start his own company, Bozz Prints. His “Layers of Iowa” is one of his most popular designs: A three-layer map that showcases the state with the downtown skyline on top, RAGBRAI riders in the middle and a farmer riding a tractor on the bottom.

Bosley said Iowa currently doesn’t have the “worst license plate in the world,” but thinks there are better ways to visually highlight the state.

“Iowa is colorful and diverse,” Bosley said. “It’d be cool to spruce it up a bit.”


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His design was turned down by the Iowa DOT, Bosley said, because of concerns of legibility for law enforcement and the amount of usable space.

“The design would have to be pulled apart to work for a license plate,” he said, adding that he’s open to modifications.

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Andrea Henry, director of strategic communications at the Iowa DOT, told the Register on Thursday there’s a lot to consider “when we look at the designs of the license plates.”

“One of the things that’s difficult for designs is to have them behind that alpha-numeric combination,” Henry said. “We have to make sure that anything behind there is very muted, doesn’t have a lot of detail.”

Henry told the Register earlier this month that there were “a large variety of draft designs” for the new plates. She acknowledged Thursday that the Iowa DOT’s internal design team had as many as 40 creations.

Now, they’ve trimmed down to three.

“We’ve had inputs from several other government agencies and the governor (Kim Reynolds),” Henry said.

The Iowa DOT plans to make an announcement revealing the three finalists in early- to mid-August, Henry said, and will seek input from the public on social media, on the DOT’s website and at the Iowa State Fair.