U.S. BANKNOTES, THE FUTURE OF MONEY?

Ferrvor Man, you may not have heard of Travis Purrington, but sometime in the future you just might. Travis Purrington has perhaps designed the sexiest, most fashion forward monetary notes on the planet. And if he has it his way, you’ll be shopping with them. The notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 denominations. We had a chance to chat with Travis about this exciting project.

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He told us that his inspiration “was based around developing an idea of worth and what it means to assign value to ephemeral items.” “I would also say a further study of the Bauhaus, Constructivism, and Swiss Typography were all factors, as well as my love for skiing and the mountains as that definitely helped motivate me to navigate through the bureaucracy to get me here. (Switzerland).”

We asked him a few questions to help us get a little more insight on the concept of this project.

What’s the concept behind each bill?

The overall concept is based on the relationship between integrity, credit and the role it plays within our lives to acquire success or wealth. It’s an experiment to assume a more interactive connection to the mental utility of our currency.  It can be simplified to say that the front is dedicated to official channels while the back is more about spirit/philosophy and defines how we are part of a system but still individuals, builders, providers, explorers, living in a symbiotic relationship to one another. Each note is devoted not to political figures, but ideas that stand as the basis for principles of progress and political discussion.

That was intense, but interesting, tell us about the individual notes.

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The 5 note is termed as a credit to the “skill of the American worker” it depicts a series of neural connections on the front and the outcome of their organization exhibited as agriculture on the back. A water mark can be seen (bottom right corner, next to braille) depicting a silhouette of a head with an Alexander Calder sculpture inside.

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The 10 is a credit to “structure” and therefore visualized by architecture…from the incredibly large challenge of erecting skyscrapers  (Willis Tower) to the even larger challenge of designing those same structures with nano-technology represented by the molecule buckminsterfullerene or “buckyball” for short (front). The watermark here shows the Guggenheim Museum in NY designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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The 20 has a little less to do with culture and a little more to do with the philosophy of circulation and symbiosis as it is credited to “life” and links a scene of blood cell culture to the ocean suggesting the world like money depends on the flow of assets or content from one location to another. The vital natural resource of water stands as the primary symbol of life and is showcased as a reminder to its importance to not just a nation, but a planet. A DNA helix taking the role of watermark as the link between H2O and the red stuff flowing through our veins.

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The 50 endeavors to present innovation in the form of digital technology and it’s role in exploration. Circuit board configurations and spacesuits standing testament to mans desire to pioneer. Two figures known as the Wright Brothers making a maiden flight for man adorn the watermark area.

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The 100 reciprocates the material / product theme by alluding to the Infinity of elemental space then by contrast detailing the surface of a life-filled planet (demonstrated by a photograph of the Teton Rocky Mountain range taken by Ansel Adams). Water mark designated by the single most important soul in our solar system. The Sun.

Wow, you put a lot of thought into this. Can you elaborate on why U.S. Currency?

The dollar is American, but it is accepted in many more places than the US and even the official currency of some other countries. My opinion in this series was if the US dollar hopes to maintain its place as the leading world reserve currency and actually expand its influence…It should represent the needs of more than a geographic subset of inhabitants. Banknotes are virtually widely redeemable fliers, and while there is something to be said for the appearance of stability through tradition, the dollar could say so much more than it does. I’m not suggesting we delete United States history, but that we catalog it and tell a story of right now.

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The United States has been known for many things, assuming that’s why you chose to highlight American culture? 

It’s quite simple… I’m American and concerned for its communication mechanisms and how it will function in the future globally. The media is lacking and political theater is a frighteningly open career opportunity. I’m not an economist. I’m not even that particularly good with finances, but I am a designer, and figure that if you want a communication channel that will send a ubiquitous message to reach the whole of society…put it on the money.  During my research for this project Werner Jeker, the Swiss banknote designer, told me his “political action is to do good work”. I tried to remember that while developing and attempting to resolve this project.

What’s the idea behind the latin phrase “Uires Alit“? 

One of the steps in this particular concept was to research and possibly find suitable updates or replacements for the current latin phrases found upon US currency.During this search one very simple phrase really stuck out in the search: Uires Alit or “Strength Feeds”. For me it is a beautiful saying that defines the path of the truly mighty and works on many levels concerning all means of sustenance for nourishment.

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However, it must be said that this banknote series proposal exists in a parallel dimension obviously where a public could agree to change the US currency and not go to war over it. There is something to be said for the countries that can change the look of their money and retain or strengthen the value. It allows for the population to be immersed in themes that can change in relationship to generational environments rather than end-all ideology.

So why did you design U.S. banknotes in Switzerland?

The initial idea of moving to Switzerland as an American from Idaho to engage myself in an advanced design program at the same school known for the development of theInternational Typographic or “Swiss” style was intimidating. The same school Armin Hoffman, Emil Ruder, Wolfgang Weingart and Josef Müller Brockman taught at. I didn’t know French or German. The first day I set foot on European soil was the day I showed up at the Basel train station with 3 suitcases, an acceptance letter, broken computer and 3 days booked at a B&B that didn’t seem to exist.

I realized early on…that others were generally curious as to my decision to come to Basel. The school itself was a melting pot of design personalities with colleagues hailing from Switzerland, Germany, France, Korea, Mexico, Iran, Turkey, Australia, Russia, Argentina etc. I found out quickly, whether I wanted to or not, that I was an ambassador for the US…and people wanted to know what the hell is going on there. I think in a way this thesis was my idea of trying to explain what I wanted to say. In the end trying to design banknotes for the US from Switzerland was a bit like trying to paint the house you used to live in, in the future, but I like to think in the future, so it was fun for me.

If you had to redesign another U.S. document, such as the Social Security Card, passport, or potentially a universal currency? What would it be and Why?

I’d probably like to have a go at the US passport I hear they are redesigning…at least at a conceptual stage, but it could also be cool to develop something a little more out there like security printed collectible stocks or bonds for private space exploration companies.

What’s next for Travis Purrington?

Ski season.

Check out  more of Travis Purrington’s designs at: http://www.travispurrington.com/

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