Bristol is surprising. Did you know that Gloucester Road is thought to have more independent shops than any other street in Britain, possibly even Europe? As the Bristol Pound is on it’s way into our lives, the results of the city wide design competition have been revealed ahead of the launch of the currency and we couldn’t help but take note.
The designs are not what you might expect from a currency, but then again Bristol is not what you might expect nor is the idea. Don’t be fooled by their friendly demeanour, all your expectations about how money should be treated are being challenged. The design of money carries with it some of the strongest and strictest design expectations in the graphic design world. The duotone approach married with the intricate patterns and pointillistic illustrations are vital in removing personality and impressing a formality upon the object. They are machine-like graphics for a reason – to hide the hand of their creator. What then do we make of the Bristol pound and it’s public, prosaic approach?
At first they made me uneasy. Money is serious business and children’s drawings feel inappropriate for the subject matter. But what the designs make clear is the shift in values and attitudes the Bristol Pound team want to produce. The open design process will create a sense of ownership over the objects which is wise as they are designed to be cherished locally. Bristol Pound Director, Chris Sunderland tells us that the currency “will help us think again about the way that we relate to one another” and strengthen the local community. This time, it’s personal.
Some of the designs have real integration issues, where images do not balance well with type and arrangement is iffy, but their values are made clear. I would also argue that a little more attention to attractiveness would make me more proud to use them and avoid the feeling of play money. The purpose of these designs though, is to help shift positive focus from the idea of money to the actual object itself and so it is right that they make us feel uneasy, because we are indeed being challenged about our preconceptions.
How do you feel about the designs? We’d love to hear from you.