Miami Graphic Designer Suggests How to Fix Florida's Hideous New Driver's License

Other than your credit cards, no piece of plastic in your life gets seen more often than your driver’s license. If you’ve grown tired of the static orange-and-green layout in use for nearly a decade, you’re in luck: The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles began issuing a new license design last week.

The new design is certainly busier than the last version. Instead of a faded ocean horizon hovering beneath an orange overlay, the background of the new design is a diagonally oriented rendering of the Florida state seal in pastel pinks, blues, oranges, and greens. The card uses ultraviolet ink and includes three versions of the license photo, and includes other innovations aimed at preventing fraud.

Not everyone loves the new look. Like Miami graphic designer Angel Acevedo, who decided to start his own project to redesign the Florida license earlier this year. Acevedo, cofounder of ACVDO & Co., was inspired to experiment with the graphic layout of the dated license when his wife needed to renew her license to reflect a name change.

“I thought, Maybe we can tackle this and find a new way to... make [the information] visually more attractive and more representative of what Florida is about," he says. "Little did I know that I would go through this rabbit hole of government-related design.”

Acevedo and his team designed eight alternatives for the license designs, focusing specifically on text legibility and visual representation that captures the spirit of the Sunshine State. His designs experiment with larger font, improved spacing, and modern interpretations of Floridian iconography, such as postcards and flag-inspired designs, tropical oranges, and greens that mimic turnpike signage.

“Florida is called the ‘Sunshine State’... Life in Florida is very vivid. I wanted to keep the citrusy, orange flavor of Florida with the orange and gradients that represent the sun,” Acevedo says.
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A side-by-side comparison of the old license to one of Acevedo's designs
Acevedo believes with its new design, the DMV sacrificed clean graphic design for higher security features.

“[The goal of the new design] is security. There are lots of things on there to prevent fraud and fake IDs," he says. "It is a much-needed upgrade... but there’s a lot going on. It’s busy and there are missed opportunities to lay it out in a way where there’s more breathing room and more space. They are trying to fit a lot into a card that’s three-point-five by two inches.”
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The designer posted his updated layout on a Reddit thread about a week ago. One of the comments came from a user who says he had designed government IDs before and revealed that the goals of the designers are often trumped by government demands, such as the limitations of printing technology at the DMV.

Acevedo notes that “it’s not the designers’ faults. The higherups art direct it to the ground. Graphic designers try to push for right solutions, but at the end of the day, they’re not the people making the final decision.”

While Acevedo did not submit his design to the DMV, he says the license redesign has been a productive challenge for him and his team. He encourages other designers to push their visions as well.
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“Don’t just take on projects to pay the bills; visualize the world and Miami as you would like to see it,” he says. The driver’s license project was not Acevedo’s first redesign. Last October, after seeing a New Times article about a Miami resident redesigning the state flag, Acevedo was also inspired to revamp the waving symbol of Florida. He sees these design projects as opportunities to improve his city.

“Miami is my home." he says. "I see the art community growing and embracing creativity in all different platforms, but there’s also room for improvement. There are some aspects of Miami entities, not just the flag or the license, that I want to be able to throw in some ideas as to what people can do and improve. I get excited about things in Miami and I want to help.”
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth