Dowling Duncan’s Proposed Redesigns of U.S. Currency


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Graphic design studio Dowling Duncan created this attractive entry to The Dollar Redesign Project which proposes a Modernist take on U.S. currency. Some nice usability considerations have been factored into these designs: the bills are varied in size, with the larger denominations being longer; and the designs are oriented vertically. “When we researched how notes are used we realized people tend to handle and deal with money vertically rather than horizontally. You tend to hold a wallet or purse vertically when searching for notes. The majority of people hand over notes vertically when making purchases. All machines accept notes vertically.”

Notwithstanding the fact that American popular taste has moved so far away from the International Style for design of government collateral that these proposals haven’t a prayer of being implemented in the real world, they’re nice works nevertheless.

  1. Absolutely Gorgeous. And I love the vertical bills and varied height: good usability and good for the blind.

    Two concerns though: 1) the removal of the guilloche pattern might make the bills easier to counterfeit or, at least, it might make people perceive them as less secure; 2) the varied heights might require all existing machines (cash registers, atms) to be retooled

  2. While the varying lengths of the bills does solve some usability/accessibility issues for the visually impaired, it also introduces a usability issue of its own: I pretty much always carry bills folded together in varying denominations, and having bills of differing lengths will make this a pretty sloppy affair. It’d probably lead to larger denomination bills having a shorter circulation lifespan as well as they’d tend to get more crumpled and torn at the ends.

    Certainly more attractive than our existing bills though, I’ll give him that.

  3. Is there a paper-like material that’s see-through (or close to it)? If so, adding this material to the end of each bill would solve the problems mentioned above:

    1) It could be used to equalize the length of each bill, good for machines and bill folding, while still allowing the blind to distinguish between them because the main material on each bill would be a differing length.

    2) It would make the bills much more secure because criminals would need to also get this extra material and replicate the complex manufacturing process that using it would require (presumably somehow weaving the other material throughout the bill and then only having it show on the end).

    3) Because the extension is translucent, it would still allow someone to count their money while the bills are stacked up.

    I’m not sure if this would cause a host of other problems — probably it would — but it was my first thought in response to the above.

  4. I frankly think the different sizes for the bills are not a problem, or at least it’s not a problem that they’re not of uniform size. Euros come in different sizes, and while you have to buy a different kind of wallet to accommodate them, it’s very handy that they do. If anything, the fact that these only have varying lengths while maintaining uniform widths could be a problem — both dimensions could be different in practice and it would still be a usability improvement for sight-impaired users over greenbacks.

  5. We use Euros and the varying size of the notes is definitely an advantage in distinguishing between denominations, especially in a packed wallet (not that I’m overly familiar with a packet wallet 🙂
    I would assume that for machines that accept paper currency, the different sizes would make it easier to distinguish the denominations too.

  6. @Khoi, @John I’m not familiar with the Euro, but if varied height doesn’t cause problems in practice, then I’m all for it.

    Also, thinking about these bills more, I really like the imagery/text on each one: if one goal is to celebrate American history, using these simple stories seems much more effective than just a small face. It also, combined with the color, makes these bills much easier to distinguish from each other than our current ones.

  7. A somewhat superficial attempt to implement modernist “style” (maybe for the very reason that modernism is not a style, but a philosophy?) but better than the average. I like the typography (nothing to do with penguinЁ sorry) and the inclusion of the seals. The iconography is a bit literal. Interesting “exercice de style”, nonetheless.

    It is worth checking the results of the last competition for the design of the swiss (cradle of graphic modernism) notes who took place a few years ago. In this case real technical and formal brief had to be fulfilled. For the record, switzerland has the most advanced technology for currency-printing, and sells it to most countries.


  8. It’s nice to see the man responsible for ruining the dollar on the front of it! It could serve as a reminder to the American people of how great of a mistake we made and how grateful we should be for men like Washington. Props on the on the overall concept!

  9. Got me wondering what the cost of producing a bill is and how that factors into production.

    Also, giggle @ dumbshit Obama comment.

  10. These proposed designs are very far from what we see today but I see this as a good thing. Why shouldn’t we bring currency into the future? The idea of the notes being vertical is another ingenious idea from Dowling Duncan. I had the pleasure of working with John Dowling at university where his concepts were very simple, such as this, and you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it yourself. This is another way we can see how to develop as a designer — sometimes you have to sit back and see things for what they are rather than looking too deep into the matter.

  11. I quite like these and the fact that they do not look like traditional money. That might also be it’s undoing.

    A bit perturbed that some people don’t realise pretty much every other currency in the world has variable sizes.

  12. Dowling Duncan’s US currency redesign is a joke. I understand that the images on each bill relate to the value of each note, but did they even think twice about the images they were using? Obama and Roosevelt both hated money, they were two of the most anti- wealth presidents our country has ever had. Placing their image on the face of our money is a big Fuck you to all Americans.

    Secondly, their design is badly rendered and simply asinine and embarrassing. For a multi-award winning design firm they could have at least put more thought into the execution of their design. The security features on this bill are poorly executed and careless. They did not even take the time to design a back side to any of these bills. Are these bills supposed to be one sided? The lack of thought put into their design should be embarrassing for them.

    Dowling Duncan’s attempt at a European wanna-be design lacks personality,security, emotion, or artistic value.

  13. I think these are fairly attractive and like all other currency changes we would get used to them in time. Two things come to mind though.

    First, notice the absence of “In God we trust”. This would surely be the subject of a great debate.

    Second, with the difference in lengths and colors, it would be easy for someone standing close to aproximate how much you are holding. A would-be thief could then target their victims more effeciently. Click on pictures above then scroll to last pick of money in wallet to see what I mean.

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