Yorktown Student's Pentagon Design Wins Decal Competition


(Thursday, January 31, 2008 7:55 AM EST)

Yorktown High School junior Writesh Maulik carefully considered what Arlington drivers would want to see on their windshields for an entire year, when designing his entry for the 2008-09 vehicle-decal competition, and that preparation helped to earn him the top prize.

Maulik's design was slated to be announced as the winner at the Jan. 29 County Board meeting, and will begin appearing on the windshields of Arlington's approximately 155,000 registered vehicles this summer.

The design, a montage featuring the Pentagon and a Robert E. Lee quote superimposed on an American flag, was chosen from among four finalists, representing the artwork of county high school students. Arlington residents cast votes for their favorite decal design through the county treasurer's office and through the Sun Gazette.

“We had a spirited competition, and again we thank all the students and the teachers for their participation, and we hope we have the opportunity to do it again next year,” Treasurer Frank O'Leary said.

Students from Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Lee high schools, as well as the Arlington Career Center and H-B Woodlawn Program, were invited to submit designs for the decal. About a dozen judges chose the four finalists from a pool of 14 submissions.

Maulik had never entered the contest before, and was thrilled just to be a finalist, especially because he does not have a lot of experience in graphic design.

Maulik usually likes working with colored pencil, but he designed his decal in his computer graphics class, using digital images and Adobe Photoshop.

“I was shocked and surprised that I was chosen as a finalist,” he said. “I did a mini-happy dance when my teacher told me, and, when I told my parents, they were very excited.”

Explaining the concept behind his design in a recent interview, Maulik said he tried to showcase the contributions Arlington currently makes locally and globally, as well as the impact it's had on the United States and the world throughout history.

“Friends say we're overshadowed by D.C., and I wanted to show that Arlington contributes to the national and international community,” he said. “I thought of what in Arlington represents that, and the Pentagon just came to mind. Then I thought of Arlington residents who contributed to the community, and since most of Arlington was [Robert E.] Lee's back yard, I used one of his quotes.”

All the finalists received $500 savings bonds from Wachovia Bank, and even though Maulik was glad to receive the monetary reward, he said seeing his design all over the county was the best prize.

“Every single car in Arlington is going to have my design on it,” he said. “How cool is that?”

With just over 2,100 votes cast in the competition, Maulik won comfortably by a margin of nearly 200 votes.

Although the three other students in the competition - seniors John Chambers and Alex Beck from the Career Center and senior Vanessa Ndege from Wakefield High School - said they would have loved to win, they were all very excited just to be finalists.

Chambers decided to use the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater as the central focus in his design, and he said he was glad that the lesser-known landmark received a positive response.

“I was shocked [to be chosen as a finalist],” he said. “No one had ever used the amphitheater in a decal design before.”

For Beck, the decal competition was a way to make Arlington residents think a little bit. His design, a man playing the saxophone in front of a Metro station, had “Use Mass Transit” written across the top of it.

“I hope people thought, ‘Wait, what is my decal telling me?'” he said.

The focus for Ndege was on Arlington's uniqueness. She chose the subject of her design, the Rosslyn Dancers statue, because it grabbed her attention when she drove by it with her father.

“The dancers stood out in Rosslyn like Arlington stands out in Virginia,” she said.

Arlington began requiring vehicle owners to show that they paid personal property taxes in 1949, when metal strips were first attached to license plates. In 1967, windshield stickers replaced the metal strips.

This is the sixth year that the public has been able to vote on the year's decal design, and it is the fourth year that the competition has been open exclusively to student artists.

The first decal chosen by the public, in 2002, was the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

O'Leary noted that more people cast ballots in the decal competition than voted in last year's Democratic School Board caucus. He said all the students who submitted artwork were, in fact, winners.

Yorktown High School student Writesh Maulik is the winner of the 2008-09 Arlington county decal design competition. Maulik’s design, selected by voters from among four finalists, features the Pentagon and a quotation by Robert E. Lee.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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