Those notes and coins in your pocket

Imagine designing something that everybody desires. What is it? How does it look? What does it do? A shiny car? Not for those that can’t drive. A mobile phone? Not if you can’t use one. What is the most universally desired product in the world?
One argument would be money.
Money makes the world go round, and in today’s global environment money is just numbers being fired across boardrooms and international undersea cables to and from servers and financial institutions, but the down and dirty amount us still deal In cold hard cash. Cash is king, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. There’s nothing that wets a sellers chops more than the sight and smell of a big wad of twenties ready to blow on their next impulse.

But who designs the money? Money, like all the things its used to barter against, needs to be designed for the people who use it. But how do you distil 350,000,000 peoples needs into a coin or note? How do you set about making that what is desirable desirable?
When the new euro currency was being planned in 1996, the powers that be were faced with a problem: identity. How do you represent the identity of millions, many of whom have been at war as recently as the forties. How do we say ‘this represents me’ without alienating others? The answer was in plurality, having each country or sub group with their own national side, and a common side to represent the denominations.

Luc Luycx designed the common side. He’s a computer engineer from Belgium working with the Royal Belgian Mint. His signature is visible on the coins, beneath the O on the 2 euro coin as ‘LL’. Go ahead, check. I’ll wait.

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For those too impatient or too broke!

Why these coins? Surely there must have been a selection process, with competing designs? What did the other possibilities look like?

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And the notes are even better. Just look at some of the crazy designs for euro notes,

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This series by Roger Pfund (Switzerland) is based on symbols

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Winning design by Robert Kalina (Austria)

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How crazy would it be to have dance steps on the back of a fiver?
(Klaus Michel & Sanne Jünger, Germany)

Source:euro information website

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Street art in Holland- part 2

This is a selection of street art stickers I found on my travels around Holland last week. The stickers are all around 60mm squared, some in colour, and most are die cut to around the design. I think this is a very nice way of applying street art, as the property is not   ruined requiring a fresh coat of paint. It also allows for mass production and proliferation of the chosen design or message, and instant application to the scene. All in all, it is a novel form of grafitti, and adds to the urban art scene in Holland. 

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Street art in Holland- part 1

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This sea lion made from old oil drums played on the disastrous and destructive effect of oil spills

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Jean Paul Gaultier's welcome message to the exhibition we visited

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This keen fellow left me a little uneasy, what's that in his hand, and why is he 20 feet tall?

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These lights were positioned like lifting cranes, and the design in the back ground was burned into the concrete by leaving a sign up in the sunshine

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This was just a wind breaker outside one of the pubs we were in, but a very effective use of laser cutting

Best Korea ?

With all the talk about North Korea’s recent military belligerence, I have put together a few pieces on the Enigmatic Country in the hope of stirring a little debate. Is North Korea really BEST Korea, as the popular internet meme would have us believe? 

quick history lesson:

Korea was invaded in 1910 by Japan, and later separated into North and South in 1945, when the USSR and USA defeated the Japanese, ending world war two. Unable to agree upon whom to install as government, the state was split in two at the 38th parallel, the soviets taking control of the North, and US controlling the south. The North was established as a single-party Stalinistic Dictatorship state with a centrally planned economy, the South a multi-party with a capitalist, open market economy: cold war politics were essentially to blame for this radical contrast.

Between 1950 and 1953, a Proxy War between Soviet and Chinese backed North Korea and US backed South Korea left a million soldiers and civilians dead, and the threat of nuclear war high. An Armistice was signed and uneasy peace (or ‘non-aggression’) descended on the region.

North Korea remained closely aligned to China and the Soviet Union until the mid-1960s. Recovery from the war was quick – by 1957 industrial production reached 1949 levels. Until the 1960s, economic growth was higher than in South Korea, and North Korean GDP per capita was equal to that of its southern neighbour as late as 1976.

North Korea lost a powerful trading ally and strategic partner with the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, and a series of natural disasters lead to the north Korean famine 1994-1998, in which between one quarter of a million to a million people lost their lives.

History lesson over.

Today, the North has some intriguing reputations. It has the highest literacy rate in the world, at over 99%. Education both academic and political is compulsory and free up to secondary level, the government even supplied uniforms until 1992.

Life expectancy is just 68.8 years, making it one of the lowest in the developed world. (the south’s is 79.9)

North Korea scored against Brazil in the 201o world cup, despite being ranked bottom in tournament standings.

Leaving the Kim family out of this discussion entirely, we can also marvel at some very impressive monuments in North Korea.

directing ‘traffic’

the world’s fourth largest flagpole, flying a north korean flag near the demilitarised zone.

I guess what im trying to say is that the North Koreans have achieved some very impressive feats. Their commitment to a single idea, a single identity, a single project can really produce some remarkable results. There may be something to be said for the results-driven ideology of North Korea, but at what cost? Can the Koreans justify the million dead from starvation in the 90’s, just because it desires for Juche, or total self dependence?  Can it justify the glorious monuments when its people starve?

For sure, North Korea seems a strange place to me, but I wonder would my existence strike them as weird? Or do they even know people exist differently beyond the border?