Interview: The Royal Mint’s Coin Design Strategic Lead

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07 December 2018
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With The Royal Mint creating a growing number of commemorative coins on a variety of subjects and with a range of style, we asked the Mint’s Coin Design Strategic Lead, Lee R. Jones, for his thoughts on how the deign process is evolving and what is involved in creating a modern-day collectable

How did you become involved in coin design?

I first became aware that this role was available when the job advert was brought to my attention by my uncle in Falmouth. The advert struck me because I didn’t think it was something you could apply, it’s always seemed rather clandestine. It really caught my imagination so I created a coin design, modelled a portrait to show my interest and that seemed to work!

Can you briefly explain the process of designing a coin, from the initial designs through to approval and production? 

As a department we design for many different countries including the UK. The approach is the same, that is, we work to a customer supplied brief. The stronger the brief the stronger the outcome. Our design process starts with researching the subject, this leads to quick concepts to start selecting the best compositions; it’s a team effort to constructively critique all stages.

The selected shortlist is developed into the final proposed concepts, which are compiled into a presentation document. Even though this a 2d design we are always considering the translation into 3d metal. Our next step is modelling, this is carried out to specification in a digital package.

The technical team ensure the model is designed for manufacture, this is exceptionally important as the final dies cut from the model have to create thousands of coins without losing detail. We then examine the cut tool which if correct goes on to produce the coin at a trial. It’s the responsibility of the technical team within coin design to attend this trial, only when all stakeholders are happy can we go into production.

How do you think the approach to coin design has changed in recent years?

We were perceived as artists and all the misconceptions that came with that moniker. Due to the hard work and passion we have instilled via our processes this perception has changed. Designing is not a subjective pursuit but measured and objective, we get a complex message across on a tiny canvas where we have no fixed light or shade.
 

What traditional methods and approaches are still used in the process?

We still employ some external plaster modellers but 95% of our work is digital. However, the essence of creating models and cutting them into the tool is still the same except we can deliver higher definition and layers of interest with modern technology.
 

How does the design technique change when creating an image of a well known character, such as Paddington?

Paddington was created with the support of the licence holder, we still have to reflect our Royal Mint brand but the character is a well-loved and known part of our culture, so a light touch is required; he has to be the Paddington we all know and love.

What do you think the future holds for coin design, how do think techniques will change?

The technology will always dictate where we go, sometimes it dictates mostly what we demand of it. It’s exciting as we create artwork that not only celebrates cultures and their achievements but our perception of them at the time. As the world changes so do we.

QUICK LINK: Read more about Royal Mint coins