Black is the new gold: ASU releases new license plate design after eight years

The plates have supported the Medallion Scholarship Program since 1989

Out with the gold and in with the new, ASU says — the official University license plates are getting a makeover after eight years since their last design change.

The original white plate design released in 1989 was changed for the first time in 2010 to the gold plate featuring Sparky. 

After polling alumni about the plates over the past year, the Alumni Engagement and Impact Office determined it was time for a new look.

“The redesign largely came out of the direction and support of our alumni,” said Rekha Athreya, marketing manager for the alumni engagement office. “We were actively seeking input from them and that was exciting because the changes were all alumni-driven.”

The new black plates, which trade Sparky for the Pitchfork Logo, were released on March 15, 2018 and designed by Allison Perlis, who graduated from ASU in 2012 with a degree in graphic design. 

The announcement of the new plates on Facebook was met with mixed reactions.

While some were excited about the new design, others expressed contempt for Sparky’s absence or concerns about how the black plates will fade in the Arizona sun.

Michael Schmidt, an ASU alumnus, commented on the post that he has the gold Sparky plate and he prefers that design to the new one.

“It feels like ASU is trying to move away from tradition and be more like Oregon where they have a different uniform for every day of the week,” Schmidt said. 

Despite his personal preference, Schmidt said he is still very supportive of the larger purpose of the plates: funding the Medallion Scholarship Program.

“College is already expensive as it is, so any way I can help out, I try to do that,” Schmidt said. 

Read more: The road to scholarships: How Sparky license plates send students to ASU

The Alumni Engagement and Impact Office said that raising money to help send Arizona high school students to ASU has always been the goal of selling the license plates.

Currently, there are over 16,000 ASU license plates on the road, and $17 out of the $25 cost of the plates goes directly towards funding the Medallion Scholarship Program, Athreya said.

“With every plate on the road, it builds recognition, strengthens the ASU community and ultimately brings more money for the scholarships,” she said. 

The are between 100 to 130 recipients that are funded through the program each year. Beyond supporting the ASU community financially, Athreya said the plates are a great way to showcase Sun Devil pride. 

“It is a true sign of affinity,” Athreya said. 

The plates are also featured in a display in the Tempe Historical Museum alongside ASU sports memorabilia and stories of people like Pat Tillman

“I think it is important to not only show the buildings and people of ASU over time, but also to show what is going on now,” said Dan Miller, the curator of exhibits for the Tempe Historical Museum and 1978 ASU graduate. 

While Miller said he is proud to have his own gold ASU license plate which spells out MUZEUM — "museum, with a Z" — he likes seeing the original plates on the road.

“Being from a history museum, I love when I see the older version of the license plate because it means they have been involved in the program for a long time,” Miller said.

Regardless of a person's preference, the release of the new plate design has served as a reminder for many about a unique way they can support the ASU community.

“I am a Sun Devil. I have an ASU license plate. It shows pride, it supports scholarships and it is an easy way to give back to the school,” Athreya said. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @graceoldham123 on Twitter. 

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