Creative Challenge: Redesign US Currency

If you think your latest design endeavor was difficult, consider one of the Letter Society‘s latest design-related challenges: Create a new look for US currency. With something as ubiquitous as dollars and cents, the members of the Letter Society had their work cut out for them. To find out more about the Letter Society, the design challenges and the newly created (and way-cool) currency, HOW connected with member Erik Wagner, who gave us the details.

US currency redesign by Jenn DiMenna

US currency redesign by Jenn DiMenna

How did the Letter Society get started?

EW: When you’re working full-time as a designer, it’s easy to get lost in your passion and only focus on the deadlines and criticism. In order to keep my sanity outside of normal business hours, I constantly try and keep myself busy with fun projects—to have something that is my own. The Letter Society was born to bring several designers together, make awesome stuff, have fun doing it, and not to take each other too seriously along the way. Not all of the members have a degree in graphic design, but that’s where the exciting stuff happens.

US currency redesign by Erik Wagner

US currency redesign by Erik Wagner

Who picks the design challenges? Is there any method to what the projects include?

EW: Every three weeks, we assign each other a new project. We have a list of everyone’s names and we just go down the list so that everyone gets a turn to assign a project of their choice. We’re still making our first pass through our list of names, so not everyone has assigned a project yet. There’s really no method to the madness of creating/assigning the projects. We just want everyone to look forward to working on the project, so we try our best to allow the project to be as open-ended as possible so that you may become as invested as you want to be.

US currency redesign by Casey Crisenbery

US currency redesign by Casey Crisenbery

Who decided to do a currency redesign project?

EW: One of our founding members, Jake Nolan, decided on the USD Currency Redesign project. His parameters were as stated:

Project 3: Currency Redesign
Choose any one US paper currency and redesign it. Which bill do you have to do? That’s your call.

The size needs to stay the same for practicality’s sake. Please retain all necessary information. The website below labels the different parts of information in case you want to do some research. www.onedollarbill.org/decoding.html

Jake is currently a senior in the Visual Communications Design program at Purdue University. He’s the only member of the group that is still in school. Everyone else in the Letter Society graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia sometime in the past few years.

US currency redesign by Bridget Hildebrandt

US currency redesign by Bridget Hildebrandt

What do you think of the results?

EW: I think the results of this project are fantastic. What I love so much about the work done for this particular project is that it is so varied. We have work that is very much derivative of the current USD Currency and we also have work that is so conceptual it hurts. A couple of designs depended on the standard of an antiquated personality while another design went the opposite route and followed the Swiss style. One designer took their creations a bit further incorporating vellum into the production process while another designer ditched paper money altogether and created a Federal Reserve sponsored “debit card.”

I think the varied results really represent what this group of designers is all about. Our group is comprised of graphic designers, illustrators, art directors, a student, and a package designer. Seeing everyone’s polarizing perspectives on the same Project prompt is pretty inspiring. This project epitomizes why I wanted to get a group together to create
beautiful things.

US currency redesign by Mark Manalaysay

US currency redesign by Mark Manalaysay

Were there any challenges when trying to redesign something so well-known?

EW: The challenge I had with designing USD Currency was breaking conventions with which USD Bills  are designed. Sometimes, it is hard for something to look legitimate or realistic when you are so used to seeing something done a different way. For me, I think removing the notion from my head that things can only look a certain way was what allowed me to explore the depths of bill design.

US currency redesign by Frances Palmer

US currency redesign by Frances Palmer

Anything else you’d like to add?

EW: We  should give a shoutout to Square Carousel, another collective of artists with a passion for illustration. We formatted a lot of what we’re doing after them (with their blessing, of course). I was also told to add that we are all very attractive and that one member in particular, Fran, is single and accepting Tindr messages.

The Letter Society tackled this design challenge to keep them sharp, but a similar procedure could be employed when designing creative business solutions for your clients. To help get you started, HOW is offering the Develop a Winning Creative Strategy Ultimate Collection at a 71% discount. Check it out today!

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