A new hundred dollar bill was released into circulation earlier this year. Aside from a small quarter stash for downtown parking, county park entry and the occasional vending machine purchase, I rarely carry cash at all… so until one came through the office this week, I had yet to see the new hundred for myself.
If you are a hundred-less, quarter-stasher like me you can read all about the new bill here.
Jennifer, Kaelyn and I spent a few minutes dissecting the new hundred (we analyze most everything), and the conversation was oddly familiar (a short version of what would go into any logo, print or web design). Like any business, government agencies (and currencies) have a brand to maintain. If you are currently evaluating your own branding, the analysis listed below may provide some helpful design perspective.
Graphic Design Analysis
A beautiful design is relatively useless if it isn’t functional. When conceptualizing a design, the goal or purpose of the intended design is of paramount importance.
What does the hundred dollar bill need to do? What features are non-negotiable?
- Function as a trusted form of currency.
- Discourage (and hopefully prevent) fraudulent reproductions.
- Feature a sweet portrait of founding father, Benjamin Franklin.
- The off-centered portrait of Benjamin Franklin is a subtle way to break tradition. The change works because the design retains balance (new subject matter has been added to the right).
- The portrait has also been slightly enlarged. Everyone here agrees that the size change is a good move (and not just because we like Mr. Franklin). The increased size ensures that the portrait remains a focal point, even if it isn’t centered.
- The bill has definitely undergone a color transformation as well. The new shade is clean and modern, yet it isn’t a complete departure from tradition. …but of course we like it! Notice any similarities?
- The bill features a new “3D Security Ribbon.” Why is it blue? Why is it 3 dimensional? We understand the intended purpose, but it doesn’t make the design seem any less odd.
- The bill also features a pretty heinous 100 on the back. Why is it so big? Why is it gold? Why is it outlined? Why is there a gradient involved? It’s obviously not what we’re used to, and everyone here agrees that it makes the bill seem foreign. I doubt that “foreign” was the Treasury’s intended "brand message."
In a nutshell, good design requires a whole lot of thought and a little compromise. It’s all about striking the right balance between function, mass appeal and personal aesthetic.
Maybe blue security ribbons are inevitable, but gold hundreds? Surely there’s a better way!