Designing Local Currency
Communicating Design with Jason Santa MariaStudents were assigned the task of designing their own local currency. Inspired by Ithaca Hours and BerkShares, students pulled a neighborhood out of a hat, and were asked to research their neighborhood to determine what characteristics should be represented on its currency.
Gene Lu : Alphabills
Four out of the five required denominations were mapped to an avenue, e.g. one dollar to Avenue A and twenty dollars to Avenue D. A 5th denomination, the 40oz Pass, was included as a tribute to many of the first graffiti writers, b-boys, rappers, and DJs during the 1980s. When placed side by side, the bills form Alphabet City’s low profile skyline. This skyline consists of all the letters in the alphabet minus A, B, C, and D. In order to promote local artists, each bill is commissioned to a graffiti artist. Their tags (names) can be found on the back side of the bills. The bills also have a limited run so that other artists are able to contribute.
Eric St. Onge : Chelsea Market Currency
As part of an assignment to design a local currency for a neighborhood in Manhattan, I was assigned the neighborhood of Chelsea. Rather than designing a currency for the large and diverse neighborhood, I decided to focus in and design a currency for one building in the neighborhood: Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market was built as a factory for Nabisco, but it now hosts offices, grocery stores, retail shops, and restaurants. The building’s architecture is inspired by its factory roots, so I thought it would be interesting to design a currency inspired by its former factory products. Each denomination in the currency adopts the form factor of a Nabisco cracker: Nilla Wafers, Fig Newtons, Oreo Cookies, Ritz Crackers, and Saltine Crackers. The geometric design from the face of the Oreo Cookie is used to tie all five of the designs together.
Evinn Quinn : Greenwich Greenbacks
Inspired by the movement that was happening in the Brooklyn area with local currency, I decided to create a local currency for a well-known neighborhood in Manhattan. The area I choose to design for was Greenwich Village. Know for its bohemian roots, the Greenwich area was home to some of the most influential artist, writers, and performers. I wanted the design to reflect the artistic and vibrant nature of its history. Using memorable faces and landmarks in the design, I made sure it was specific to the area.
Russ Maschmeyer : Little Italy Favors
Little Italy has shrunk over the past 50 years from a rich, wide area of Italian-American heritage and family life to a three block row of tourist-trap restaurants. So my goal in designing a local currency for the all-but-gone neighborhood was to establish a link between using the currency and reversing the trend of encroachment from the surrounding neighborhoods. To create that link I not only designed bills that reflect periods in Italian design and typography, but also turned the bills themselves into a real map of Little Italy, which grows in size as the denomination grows with it. When visitors spend the higher denominations within the community, its directly suggested that they’re acting to tangibly re-grow the boundaries of the neighborhood to the size suggested on the denomination. It’s an economic and cultural battle cry of sorts.
Katie Koch : Meat Money
When I was assigned the Meatpacking District for my designing local currency project I knew I wanted to incorporate its rich and varied past in my designs. I began my research by taking a walk through the historic Meatpacking District neighborhood. I created a set of five bills that reflect the period of the neighborhood’s history when it was a functional slaughterhouse district set in contrast to the 1980s and 90s when the neighborhood was revived as a center for nightlife in Manhattan.
Kristin Graefe : Midtown Dollars
This local currency is designed for midtown Manhattan. The back of the notes features the map of midtown Manhattan while the front has one famous building in that part of Midtown on it. By putting all notes together the whole map of Manhattan is shown. Each of the banknotes has its own color and is issued in $100 (Empire State Building), $50 (Grand Central Station), $20 (New York Public Library), $10 (Museum of Modern Art), $5 (St. Patricks Cathedral).
Stephanie Aaron : Upper East Side
The Upper East Side, which is home to more museums than any other neighborhood in New York City. The currency’s name is the “Mula,” which is an acronym for, “Museums: our Local Asset.” The currency comes in denominations of five, ten and twenty Mula, and each museum would put its art on a set of the three denominations, yielding upwards of thirty different designs. The design of the Mula is based on the golden section, and the colors used are the three primary and three secondary colors.
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