LWV license tag

The license plate design created by Hillsborough’s Nan Fulcher that was chosen by the N.C. League of Women Voters.

Nan Fulcher’s biggest achievement as a graphic artist is small enough to fit on a license plate. In fact, it’s potentially going to be on a license plate.

The League of Women Voters of North Carolina recently held a contest, asking artists to submit their design for a specialty license plate that the it is hoping to create. Fulcher, who owns Pie Chart Graphic Design, was named the winner.

“I can’t even describe it,” said Fulcher, who is a freelance graphic designer. “It’s the biggest thing in my life at the moment, and I was so proud. And it goes beyond that. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, I’m always entering contests for graphic design and I happen to win this one.’ This touches on so many things because it’s coming from my artistic professional life and it’s also part of my advocacy life and the core things I believe in and I fight for. It hit on a lot of things.”

Carolyn Lyons, who chairs the license plate committee, said, “We loved Nan’s design for its overall ‘wow’ factor and the historical significance behind it. Nan’s inspiration was taken in part from World War II U.S. government posters encouraging American women to work for victory.” 

Fulcher said for years she’s been an advocate for fair representation and democracy, and she was involved within her community and even went to the General Assembly to share her voice and take part in rallies. Through this involvement, she became more acquainted with the N.C. League of Women Voters. 

“These accomplished and talented women taught me many valuable things about advocacy and inspired me to support multiple causes including voting rights, public education, and racial equity,” Fulcher said in a statement about her design. “For the specialty license plate representing the North Carolina Chapter of the League of Women Voters, I wanted to convey the women behind the League’s unrelenting effort to uphold the democratic process: their strength of character, their sense of purpose, and their bond of sisterhood.”

Fulcher, who has a PhD and a career in science, said she came into graphic design on her own, calling herself “untrained.” Having her design chosen to be on the license plate, she said, has confirmed her decision to pursue design.

“There’s this sort of legitimacy that says, ‘Wow, that was a big change. I really did the right thing,” said Fulcher, who mostly does design work for nonprofits, but is hoping this recognition will expand her clientele.

She said the design for the plate came to her in waves. She tried generic ideas, like a dynamic-looking voting box. Fulcher was unsatisfied with this idea, so she began mulling what people consider when they’re picking out a license tag for their vehicle. She wanted to come up with something people could bond with.

“It was clear to me the image has to be meaningful for women and men that want to support women,” Fulcher said. “So it has to be women, right? That’s where it came from. And then I was thinking, how do you represent diversity of women and that sort of thing. That’s where the concept of having a variety of women represent that. Other women are going to want to encourage other women to vote through this plate. Just because they see that as women and there’s this bond of sisterhood and all of that, just from recognizing that in the design. That was the moment where I was like, ‘Yep, I know I’m headed in the right direction.’ It was just the nuance of how to show that, and kind of show marching towards something.”

Fulcher said her family — particularly her 14-year-old son — played a key part in helping her create her design for the license plate, sometimes in blunt terms. But she said their perspective was valuable for keeping her engaged with the project.

“They’re more than the peanut gallery,” she said. “They’re the essential editing voice that keeps you from getting lost in the thing. Sometimes they’re like, ‘Are you aware that that looks really like weirdly yellow?’ I don’t because I’ve been looking at it for seven days.

“The person I rely on the most though, is my 14-year-old son. He has an eye for design that I’ve figured out over the years, and his gut reaction to whatever I show him is kind of a touchstone for me.”

With the design unveiled, the League is now gathering prepaid applications. A minimum of 500 must be collected before League leaders can approach the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles to request authorization for the plate. 

For each $30 specialty plate that is purchased or renewed each year, the NCDMV will keep $10, and the remaining $20 will go to LWVNC, which will use the proceeds to support the cost of providing access to VOTE411.org to North Carolina voters. League leaders believe that North Carolina would be the first U.S. state to boast a League specialty plate. Membership to the League is not required in order to apply for a LWVNC specialty plate.

Learn more and apply at: https://my.lwv.org/north-carolina-state/lwvnc-specialty-license-plate

 The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.