Designer interview: Chris Costello

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05 January 2021
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We recently chatted to Chris Costello, an award winning graphic designer, coin designer, illustrator, and type designer based in Boston, Massachusetts, and asked him about his work for the US Mint on coins including the recent Mayflower 400 set.

Since 2010, he has worked with The United States Mint as an Artistic Infusion Program Artist and is credited with over twenty coin and medal designs. In 2019 he received a Coin of the Year Award for best gold coin and continues to contribute innovative designs for America’s coin and medal programs. Chris has designed coins and medals for America’s commemorative and circulating issues, and his achievements include:

  • Contributed drawings to over 50 United States Mint design programs
  • Original artwork appears on 23 coins and medals including one Congressional Gold Medal
  • Eleanor Roosevelt First Spouse designs nominated for 2014 Coin of the Year Award
  • Winner 2018 Coin of the Year Award for American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin.

What first attracted you to the design of coins? Did you collect coins as a youngster?

Yes, I have been a coin collector since I was about 10 years old, and it was the highly detailed designs and diverse themes depicted on such small canvases that attracted me to the hobby.

I was attracted to older coins with beautiful classic designs that were enhanced by the colour and patina of the metal. I was also fascinated by how the designs held up with wear and preferred to collect lower grade and worn coins because of the stories they told.

I had always wanted to design a coin, but had no idea how one would go about making that happen.

So this is where the US Mint's Artistic Infusion Program came in, can you explain how this helped you realise your dream?

It was quite an honour to be selected by the United States Mint to be a part of the AIP.

They call me to very high standards of creativity and artistry and give me every opportunity to express my vision for modern US coin designs with each assignment. With such a broad spectrum of design themes, fascinating research, and interesting subject matter, each project is a very rewarding artistic challenge.

The direction and guidance that I receive throughout the creative process gives me the best chance to have my design selected and minted into a coin or medal. 

Can you describe the feeling when you first saw your design on a US coin?

My first design that appeared on a US coin was the reverse of the 2013 Girl Scouts of the USA Centennial Silver Dollar. I wanted to represent the Girl Scouts trefoil logo in a very contemporary and innovative way.

My design was praised by the reviewing committees as “beautiful”, “a winner”, “absolutely stunning”, and even “signalling a new American style” in coin design”.

I was very happy about the committee’s responses, but when I saw my two-dimensional drawing as a 3D sculpt on an American silver coin, it took my breath away. It was a thrill to understand that my artwork would record a historic moment in American history and preserve it as a permanent record for millions of people to see for generations to come.

How does it feel to be praised for your work, and to win awards?

It feels great that my work moves people enough to recognize it as being worthy of attention and awards. I am happy that, as an artist, I can contribute to the documentation of significant moments in national and international history and that my work is appreciated by so many people around the world.    

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What has been your most rewarding coin design project?

The 2020 Mayflower 400th Anniversary Commemorative coins and medal designs for United States Mint and The Royal Mint was by far the most rewarding; first to discover that I won the Mayflower design completion held by The Royal Mint, and second, that the United States Mint wanted me to design an American coin and medal to compliment the UK coins.

I appreciated the challenge of narrating the histories of the United Kingdom, The United States, and the Wampanoag Nation in a consistent artistic style across three different coins and medals.

I am very pleased with all five designs and how well the sculptors from both mints executed each design. As with all of my numismatic art, I designed these coins as items that I would want to own as a collector, and these are proud additions to my collection. 

What does 2021 hold for you and your coin work?

There are a few 2021 releases by The United States Mint and The Royal Mint that I am looking forward to seeing.

I am also working with a private mint to design gold bars for the retail bullion market, and am honing my digital 3D sculpting skills so I can soon sculpt my own medallic designs.

Thanks Chris, exciting times ahead and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the coming months.

 

Image captions:
The coin design and production process

  • Researching photo references
  • Final pencil drawing of design
  • Edits and notes to sculptor
  • Final minted silver coin design

Cast medal design and production process

  • Positive clay model transfer to negative plaster, then to positive plaster model
  • Final cast bronze medal 

IMAGES COURTESY OF FERRIS COIN COMPANY AND DUNCAN CRARY COMMUNICATIONS


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