Obama on the Dollar Bill?

Rebranding America’s Money

American greenbacks have earned a bad rap globally and one design firm wants to use Barack Obama’s image to turn that all around. Thanks to the recession and a spate of senseless behavior, to some critics, U.S. dollars now represent greed, corruption and economic strife -- basically everything wrong with our country today. “With its cartoonish graphics and vaguely sinister styling,” Co.Design writer Suzanne LaBarre argues, “[the dollar] actually looks the part.” Enter Dowling Duncan, a U.K. graphic design firm that recently competed in creative consultant Richard Smith’s Dollar ReDe$ign Project contest, an online movement seeking to rebrand and rebuild the dollar. The prototyped “bills are designed to be educational, intuitive, and, to put it plainly, make America feel like it sucks a little bit less,” LaBarre says. Whether they’ll salvage our nefarious image, however, is anyone’s guess. Check out the other contestants’ entries here. Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


A Bold New Look

Dowling Duncan’s striking entry, one of 13 entries in the contest, features a new vertical orientation eschewing the traditional note’s layout. Dowling Duncan says on theier website that the decision to switch was natural, and that extensive research revealed that people often prefer to handle money vertically. Holding the bills differently might take some getting used to, but we doubt right-leaning consumers would adjust as easily to seeing Obama’s iconic visage on the dollar. The shortened bill features an eye-popping graphic, plus it is bold, blue and decidedly European in style. Dowling Duncan tweeted yesterday that not everyone has been so accepting of Obama usurping Washington’s coveted spot on the bill. On the political site freerepublic.org, NowApproachingMidnight quipped, "Where’s Chairman Mao, Hugo Chavez, Osama Bin Laden and Jeremiah Wright?" while another commenter, SmokingJoe, added, "FDR is as big an insult as Obama." Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


Move Over, George Washington

MainStreet spoke to Rob Duncan, Dowling and Duncan’s creative director, for his take on the designs that he and his partner, John Dowling, created. The bills have incited quite a controversy, but the left-leaning Brit promises they were conceptual, not political. “It never was intentional,” Duncan says of using only Democrats on the bills. “Maybe I’m looking at it like I’m new to this country,” he adds, “but what Obama achieved is absolutely amazing. What I think he’s instilled in America is that if you really believe you can do something, and you work hard enough, and you want it badly enough, anything is achievable … We can take the backlash. They always say there’s no such thing as bad press.” Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


$5 Bill: America’s First People

“We tried to link a particular idea to the imagery of the notes,” Duncan explains. “The five is celebrating the first people and the real settlers on the land.” Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


$10 Bill: America’s ‘Rule’

According to Duncan, who previously was an art director at Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) the bills were meant “to be a good representation of American history and culture” and “to relate the imagery to that particular number.” The $10 bill reflects “the laws by which people live their lives, what’s right and what’s right according to American rule,” Duncan says. Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


$20 Bill: American Ingenuity

“The twenty is all about celebrating the nation creatively and the innovation that’s come out of America -- and that’s still coming out,” explains Duncan. Here, our landmark achievements in space, technology and medicine are on full display. Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


$50 Bill: 50 Remarkable States

In designing a bill to represent all 50 states, Duncan “wanted this one to feel very regal,” he says. “That might be the wrong word, being that I’m British--but we want Americans to feel proud. Americans are proud of their nation and they should be.” Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


$100 Bill: Embracing Change

“Maybe the 100 dollar bill represents change and possibilities,” Duncan suggests. Each bill was also designed to engage and inform consumers: “Every day you use these bank notes, so what better way to educate and teach people than having these things on the banknote?” Here, a timeline spanning FDR’s presidency highlights his various achievements. Photo Credit: Dowling Duncan


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