April 15, 2008

Funny Money

From BBC NEWS | Magazine: Brass in pocket

I know this story is a little stale, already, so please forgive me; it's not that easy to keep up with United Kingdom numismatic trends from the United States of What Other Country?

Anyhow, apparently the Royal Mint has decided to ruin British currency for the foreseeable future, so I it seemed like I should comment.

The mint is completely revamping the "tails" side of all British coins (except the £2, which we all know isn't a real coin anyway), removing the traditional iconography and replacing it with a gimmicky jigsaw puzzle motif that's like something straight out of a washed-up Eighties gameshow. If laid out side-by-side in the correct configuration, the coins display a unified image of the Royal Shield of the UK, as it might be viewed through a hockey mask — which the designer was quite possibly wearing when he drafted the idea.

It's about as half-cocked an idea as I've seen — even worse than the dull-as-dull Euro coinage that we've had to put up with for the last five years. It's sad that people seem to have lost sight of the symbolic value of money (which is, of course, all it really has, now that it's forged from non-valuable metal), and seem content to submit currency to the same sort of lazy, fad-based design that can, to date, list a wardrobe full of graphic hoodies from H&M as its crowning achievement. To quote Philip Nathan, coin designer extraordinaire:
The twenty pence piece is a very difficult shape to work with. In this case the designer has ignored it.
...which seems to sum up very well the approach taken in the coins' new look: "Who cares!"

It's valuing style over functionality, pure and simple (viz. lack of numerals), which is just ridiculous when it comes to designing something that is — lest we forget — one hundred percent freakin' FUNCTIONAL!

Sigh. I'm beginning to feel like an old crank.

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