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British design firm seeks to rebrand American currency with Barack Obama on dollar bill

Posted by yoMcLovin on December 21, 2010

Dowling Duncan — a graphic design firm with offices in San Francisco and Newark, England — thinks that American currency needs a new look, so its designers have submitted an entry in the “Dollar Rede$ign Project,” which bills itself as a movement to “rebuild financial confidence and revive our failing economy” by rebranding the U.S. dollar.

Dowling Duncan’s submission is a rendering that appears quite European-ish, and envisions current President Barack Obama replacing George Washington on the dollar bill. Fast Company’s Suzanne LaBarre praised the Dowling Duncan design, writing, “The Obama bill anchors their sweeping concept for redesigning U.S. banknotes … The impetus: The greenback has an image problem. It has come to represent everything that’s wrong with the American economy, and worse, with its cartoonish graphics and vaguely sinister styling, it actually looks the part.”

Of course, the critics who assailed Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize as an unearned laurel are probably seeing red over him appearing, even hypothetically, on something as iconic as the dollar bill. But Dowling Duncan has proposed a host of other currency makeovers as well. For starters, it suggests giving each denomination a different color, while varying their size to make them easier to distinguish: The smaller the denomination, the smaller the size would be, with the $100 bill the largest of the bunch.

Obama aside, Dowling Duncan eschews the traditional presidential portrait in favor of higher-concept graphic images on the bills. The firm envisions an American Indian teepee on the $5 bill, the Bill of Rights on the $10, a mashup of American ingenuity on the $20, a bald eagle and 50 stars on the $50, and FDR’s image and a list of his accomplishments in his first 100 days as president on the C-note.

The firm offers up the reasoning behind the proposed makeovers in an explanatory note: “We wanted a concept behind the imagery so that the image directly relates to the value of each note. We also wanted the notes to be educational, not only for those living in America but visitors as well. Each note uses a black-and-white image depicting a particular aspect of American history and culture. They are then overprinted with informational graphics or a pattern relating to that particular image.”

The visual orientation of the Dowling Duncan bills is vertical, as opposed to traditional horizontal layout of American currency. The firm says that its research shows that this alteration was a no-brainer.

“When we researched how notes are used we realized people tend to handle and deal with money vertically rather than horizontally,” they say. “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. Therefore a vertical note makes more sense.”

That’s all well and good, but how would these notes would look in your wallet? Well, Dowling Duncan has also prototyped a rendering of the currency venturing out into the economic wilderness, below:


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