Opinion: Does anyone actually like those yellow NSW number plates?

Black and yellow number plates have been a part of New South Wales roads for over 70 years. Isn’t that enough?

Living in Melbourne, I probably have no place to say this, but it’s time for the black-and-yellow NSW number plates to call it a day.

My current long-termer, the 2022 Nissan Juke Ti Energy Orange, wears a set of these bright yellow rectangles and I really wish it didn’t.

This is not an ‘everyone in Melbourne wears black’ stylistic pitch against yellow either, as I don’t have any issue with the rear number plates in the UK or France, and quite like the New York ‘Empire State’ ones, so feel there is a combination of the size, font and general layout of the NSW design that just looks a bit… crap.

Whatever the case, the street cred of DA-45-JO isn’t done any favours by bright yellow tags, and there’s not even a snappy slogan to take some of the edge off.

Perhaps a Nissan Juke, with an already polarising design, isn’t the best example to use, but I challenge you to show me a scenario where the current yellow NSW plates look good, on any car, and I’m pretty sure you can’t.

New South Wales adopted the first ‘yolky’ yellow design in 1951, with a three-by-three alphanumeric combination starting at AAA-000. The paint became brighter in 1960 but still wore only a simple NSW motif above the three-letter, three-digit combo.

In 1980, the material changed to a reflective metal sheet and the familiar ‘lemon yellow’ plates became brighter still.

Since then, motorists have had the option of the black-on-white slimline or various custom and Euro-look options for a fee, but if you just go standard then your car gets the yucky yellow ones and I think I speak for many when I say, that’s enough now.

Modern number plate recognition systems can work on a variety of styles and colours, so there is no technical reason the yellow plates need to persist, so lets do everyone a favour and call it a day.

I mean, Western Australia did away with their yellow ones in 1997, surely NSW can follow suit?

There’s nothing to stop drivers with an emotional connection to the yellow plates to run ‘period correct’ versions either. Victoria swapped the green-on-white ‘Garden State’ plates for blue-on-white, but you can still order the iconic originals if you want.

While we’re here though. it’s not just the colour that needs to change, the whole design needs an update.

As I noted earlier, other countries use a yellow number plate design, but the colour is more subdued and similar to the original ‘yolky’ NSW plates, plus the format is generally longer and the typeface gives a little more space for readability.

The Netherlands even use a similar two-two-two alphanumeric structure, and they don’t look awful.

For context, Victoria’s current ‘Education State’ plates have characters 30mm wide, whereas New South Wales goes a bit bolder at 40mm. Pair this with a 10mm gap between the plate’s digits and top edge in NSW with 15mm in Victoria, and you’ve got a heavier typeface with less bleed and less kerning on the same overall area.

Traditional typographic design suggests that more space between letters and more surrounding negative space (kerning and bleed respectively) makes writing easier to read.

Those cool New York ones I mentioned earlier? Yep, thinner letters, increased kerning, good negative space, but still yellow and getting away with it.

So perhaps rather than just a colour change, New South Wales could adopt a more modern and cleaner design, for the betterment of everyone’s eyes.

Not to mention a better-looking car in your driveway.

I won’t even mind if they are yellow, just tone it down and yolk it up.

What say you? Are the yellow perils overdue for a rethink? Let us know in the comments below.

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