Mackinac Bridge license plate wins annual ‘world’s best’ award
LANSING – The state of Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge license plate was voted the world’s best new plate by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association today.
First issued last August, the plate features the bridge against a sunrise sky and gives residents the opportunity to celebrate one of the Great Lakes State’s greatest assets — an engineering marvel that connects the upper and lower peninsulas.
“We’re delighted that ALPCA has honored Michigan with its plate of the year award,” Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said in a statement. “The Mackinac Bridge is a spectacular example of the many things that make our state such a special place.
“It represents what we call ‘Pure Michigan,’ and when people see it on our vehicles, we hope they will consider it an invitation to come and explore the Great Lakes State.”
The plate was among 12 finalists and is the second Michigan plate to win the annual award. Michigan’s red, white, and blue bicentennial plate won the honor in 1976.
“I knew it had an excellent chance of winning the moment I first saw it,” said Gus Oliver, ALPCA’s Best Plate Award coordinator.
The plate was designed by Lansing native Brian Whitfield, a graphic artist with the Michigan Department of Transportation.
“It was a surprise,” said Whitfield, who has been with MDOT since 1995. “It’s exciting to see the plate out on the road and every month I see more and more cars with it. That, in and of itself, is kind of thrilling.
“Then when they say it’s won some kind of national and international recognition, it heightens that even more.”
Whitfield said that he had been working with the Mackinac Bridge Authority in coming up with designs. Since the Mackinac Bridge plate debuted last summer, more than 112,000 have been sold.
“One of the layouts was a colorful sunrise,” he said. “So I started developing various plates using that type of scene and we picked one and developed the idea of using bright colors instead of the kind of muted ones of the past.”
Whitfield grew up on the city’s west side and graduated from Sexton High School before attending the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids. He eventually received his Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
“I’ve always done art since I was a little kid,” he said. “My mother said I used to play with my food and make things out of it. It’s kind of natural for me.”
Whitfield has previously won awards for his design of the state map for MDOT and for designing a kid’s coloring book for the Mackinac Bridge’s 50th Anniversary. He said that people have asked him to draw things for them for years and he became interested in graphic design at a time when things were still drawn largely by hand.
“I didn’t know how to even turn on a computer,” Whitfield said. “I just jumped into it, and I had the graphic skills so it just kind of progressed from there. I haven’t had a dull moment since.”