Should We Redesign the Dollar?

by Elaine Schwartz    •    May 31, 2012

Have you ever worried that you gave someone the wrong bill–maybe a ten rather than a dollar? With US currency, it is easy to make a mistake. After all, the US dollar bill, the five, the ten, the twenty, the fifty, the one hundred are mostly green, 6″ x 2 /2″, and they all have the Secretary of the Treasury’s signature.

Using Australian currency as an example, one expert suggests that varied size, different colors, user friendliness and durability are the basics of good currency design. With Australian currency, if you move up the currency ladder, from dollars to fives to tens, the notes get larger, maybe a centimeter each time.  In your pocket, you can feel the size of your bills and know what you have. Colorful, the 5 dollar note is sort of lavender, the 10, bluish, 20 is orangy (sometimes called a lobster), 50 is green and yellow (occasionally referred to as the piney because of its pineapple resemblance). Instead of some linen and cotton, the Australians use a plastic-like polymer that lasts 4 times longer.

Being so used to US currency, I wonder if we forget that it is dysfunctional. Or does it not matter because soon we won’t be using paper currency at all?

A wonderful podcast, 99% Invisible was my original currency design source. But for more, this NY TImes discussion from Richard Smith, perfectly describes why we need a newly designed currency and the site, “Room For Debate” looks at other coin and currency issues like the future of the penny and becoming cashless.

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