dowling duncan US bank note designs
dowling duncan US bank note designs
aug 24, 2010

dowling duncan US bank note designs

dowling duncan US bank note designs



with their vertical format bills, dowling duncan have reignited interest in ‘the dollar redesign project‘ (which we previously featured here).

— following description from dowling duncan:


why the size? we have kept the width the same as the existing dollars. however we have changed the size of the note so that the one dollar is shorter and the 100 dollar is the longest. when stacked on top of each other it is easy to see how much money you have. it also makes it easier for the visually impaired to distinguish between notes.

dowling duncan US bank note designs


why a vertical format?
 when we researched how notes are used we realized people tend to handle and deal with money vertically rather than horizontally. you tend to hold a wallet or purse vertically when searching for notes. the majority of people hand over notes vertically when making purchases. all machines accept notes vertically. therefore a vertical note makes more sense.


why different colors?
 it’s one of the strongest ways graphically to distinguish one note from another.


why these designs?
 we wanted a concept behind the imagery so that the image directly relates to the value of each note. we also wanted the notes to be educational, not only for those living in america but visitors as well. each note uses a black and white image depicting a particular aspect of american history and culture. they are then overprinted with informational graphics or a pattern relating to that particular image.

dowling duncan US bank note designs1 dollar bill: the first african american president



dowling duncan US bank note designs5 dollar bill: the five biggest native american tribes



dowling duncan US bank note designs10 dollar bill: the bill of rights, the first 10 amendments to the US constitution



dowling duncan US bank note designs20 dollar bill: 20th century america



dowling duncan US bank note designs50 dollar bill: the 50 states of america



dowling duncan US bank note designs100 dollar bill: the first 100 days of president franklin roosevelt.



during this time he led the congress to pass more important legislations than most presidents pass in their entire term. this helped fight the economic crises at the time of the great depression. ever since, every new president has been judged on how well they have done during the first 100 days of their term.

see the project on dowling duncan’s website here

  • Sa-weeet! Could make the color between the 10 and the 100 a bit more noticeable since the numbers are similar as it is.

    Pieinthesky says:
  • I’d switch “1st African-American President” to “1st President”. No way in hell these designs would be adopted which as controversial a figure as Obama on the 1$, as much of a fan of the man I am personally. Keeping GW on the 1$ would smooth the change over a bit, politically.

    But I love the graphic design of the bill. Visually pleasing and functional.

    dan says:
  • Agree with dan. I’d also add the dollar sign before the numbers.

    Ronald says:
  • I think the vertical layout and the size differences are great! … but, the graphic layout is far too simple to be on money … it needs to be more complicated and more colorful to keep it from being copied/faked, besides, these look like classroom posters. Keep them green, with touches of color to distinguish them … “got to make that orange” just doesn’t sound right.

    JDP says:
  • I agree with dan as well. Personally I don’t think Mr Obama is deserving of being on us currency but that is a political debate that I do NOT want to start. I also don’t like the designs. I know there was thought put into the design and they have valid reason but I personally think the design style we have now looks better, just add more color to the current style.

    Mike from Texas says:
  • LOVE!

    Regan says:
  • That’s a total rip off: have a look at the swiss banknotes since 1995. As of 2012 a new series based on the same concept!

    Andre from Amsterdam says:
  • Hardly a rip off mate!

    Brad says:
  • These look more like a Helmut Schmid brochure than money. Not to mention how ridiculously easy it would be to counterfeit. US money is iconographic and has a certain personality; I would hate to see it change too much.

    GP says:
  • wow.. i think these are great! dont listen to the haters..

    here in Australia we have all our notes a different color as well as size to distinguish them.

    i can see these notes not being made of ‘paper’, but of plastic much like the notes here in Australia. This makes it hard to counterfeit. as an extra security measure our notes have a clear window in the corner of the notes. i think a clear window on these notes would work nicely – either that or a foil hologram.

    i think it is time for america to change the look of their currency.

  • I agree that these notes do look like leaflets or posters at 1st but that was also very informative to key parts of the U.S. achievements and history. It was nice how they related to the figure on the note.

    We in England also have different coloured money like the Australians and so do do the rest of the Europeans with the Euro. [email protected] was right about the notes being made from a plastic. with things like the hologram, metal strip thats only visble in direct light like the English notes it won’t need to be as complicated as the current U.S notes.

    I’ve just googled the U.S. notes and they do kind of all look the same where as over here you can’t mistake our notes cause of the sizes and colours.

    JordanB2710 says:
  • Great idea and execution, but I don’t think that will fly in the US. This super-conservative nation will just want their boring old green money until the end of days.

    If there’s a redesign, why not get rid of the obsolete 1-dollar bill altogether and introduce a coin of that value? In the Euro zone there are one and two Euro coins, and the first bill starts at 5. Which makes much more sense, considering that you can hardly buy anything anymore for a dollar.

    Gabi says:
  • could have atleast have been a better picture of obama! but loving the colours and the general idea. says:
  • ummm only dead presidents are allowed to be depicted on US currency

    greenbacks says:
  • The size difference makes perfect sense, which is why it probably wouldn’t be implemented.

    Bruce says:
  • Great design! What about the reverse side?

    We have been using different size notes in South Africa for years.

    Johnnie Autard says:
  • They look like entrance tickets to some boring European museum.

    jah says:
  • Nice graphic project, like the vertical layout, pretty easy to forge though i’d imagine, no detail.

    sjs says:
  • Oh sure we gave him a Nobel Prize for doing pretty much nothing why not put him on the bill! Screw George Washington.

    Other than that the idea is alright. I would like to see a bit more of a historical vestige left intact though. Give it another try. I mean, it is money! Not a pamphlet given out at a US history interpretive center!

    DS says:
  • I suspect as these are highly conceptual, the idea re: Obama would be that whoever the current president is, would be featured on the bill. So in 20 years time, you’d have a nice little running history of different presidents.

    The Aussie notes have to be one of the most well-thought out currencies out there – congrats to whoever worked on that and managed to get it into production.

    Love this direction – they need tidying of course, but for a starting point to shake things up, awesome.

    pete says:
  • They look sterile and lack any character. I like the idea of different sizes of money, but its a bit to much, you only need minor differences to make it easy to thumb through, the 100 dollar bills look huge. The webdesigny look, Helvetica font, and putting Obama on the bill for doing nothing other than being elected (which i see as an achievement of the American people, not Obama) looks more like something a pseudo-intellectual design student would make, not a firm.

    truthseekersss says:
  • Hedious! Produced by someone who’s in severe lack of imagination – student work trying to follow “cool”. Yeah, make everything Helvetica and that’s modern. But before you finish that sentence, it’s old, stale and characterless.

    lb says:
  • Yes!

    S says:
  • What no photo of Obama with his nobel peace prize??? They remind me of a 70’s board game named stock market. Its always funny to me how modern looking designs just also happen to be really easy to create.


    Dave says:
  • look more like stamps than money. I prefer paper money to plastic ones, despite being environmental unfriendly, i like that they just stink more.

    shiroi says:
  • Great design. There needs to be numbers on the top left as well. American south-paws would hold the bills with the right hand. When fanned out all we would see is The U…

    rp says:
  • Not a fan of these graphics. And get over with the whole ‘Obama-worship’, it’s too much. I think different sizes would be less comfortable to use.

    mantis says:
  • Agree with Josh, Jordan & Gabi. U.S. currency is way overdue for a makeover. An attempt was made to have the dollar coin, but as most vending machines would need to be replaced, it didn’t go too far. Further to that, the penny (1 cent) and nickel should also be dropped as legal tender. However, in conservative U.S.of A. that is not likely to happen any time soon d;-)

    Jetwax says:
  • Heres an Idea! Take Obama off of the dollar bill, and put on a president’s image that actually holds validity, timelessness and the image of the United States of America. Superstars, move actors, and people with equal stature to the Hilton sisters do not belong on our currency. AT LEAST, let Obama prove himself and push or country in a positive direction before we go ahead and plaster his head all over everything american.

    SECONDLY, redesign costs $$$$$$$$!! Just like we wasted millions on quarters for 50 states, we are going to waste BILLIONS on creating new dies and presses for completely unnecessary “NEW” currency. Especially when we shouldn’t be spending at all.

    ADDITIONALLY, Jetwax, we cannot drop the penny and nickel from US currency. With that Tax percentages (rates) would increase, and they way we do business would likely change for the worse with an end result of only higher priced products and services on our end, which would only continue to suppress our slow economy.

    REALIST says:
  • Think idea.

    diesigner71 says:
  • I like them all as they are. Just great. Fresh ideas. Problem is that the dollar wont be around long enough for these to come to fruition. I hope they are recycleable.

    charles says:
  • let me first start by saying that i love all these designs. i would not have wanted a redesign before but you made me a convert.

    one idea that i had was to try putting Washington on the one dollar bill. It will link the new bills to the old bills and give the people less receptive of this change to have a sliver of familiarity

    johnJJS says:
  • oh jesus … you guys are just showing that you do not see across the ocean or even the border!

    as in europe and other countries different colors and sizes are just normal … also the vertical format …

    i like the idea of switzerlands national bank, to make a design competition every 10 or twenty years. as you see, they got some nice results five years ago:

    [url=] entry of norm [/url]

    the new series is actually based on this drafts and will be released in january 2012.
    [url=] entry of manuela pfrunder[/url]

    perhaps this gives you some inspiration … that money does not have to be green and dusty for all time.

    yvonne says:
  • Looks sweet.

    Sorry to say Dan, but rather people like him or not….President Obama made history & that will remain.

    I only wish the U.S. would change it’s ugly currency.

    alvin says:
  • The FDIC has nothing to do with our currency therefore it has no place on the currency…

    “i think it is time for america to change the look of their currency.” Yeah, about that… we just did.

    “Great idea and execution, but I don’t think that will fly in the US. This super-conservative nation will just want their boring old green money until the end of days.” I don’t know if you need glasses, but my U.S. money is green, blue, pink, red, yellow, peach, gold, copper, and black…

    “ummm only dead presidents are allowed to be depicted on US currency” When was Benjamin Franklin president?

    “Agree with Josh, Jordan & Gabi. U.S. currency is way overdue for a makeover. An attempt was made to have the dollar coin, but as most vending machines would need to be replaced, it didn’t go too far.” The Sacagawea dollar coin was made with a vending machine company in Reading, Pennsylvania helping to design it so that it would be user and vendor friendly. The problem is that because the Crain Paper Company gives large contributions to elected officials, laws authorizing the minting of dollar coins never authorize the removal of dollar notes from circulation. And given a choice, the public overwhelmingly will pick a dollar bill over a coin everyday.

    “SECONDLY, redesign costs $$$$$$$$!! Just like we wasted millions on quarters for 50 states, we are going to waste BILLIONS on creating new dies and presses for completely unnecessary “NEW” currency. Especially when we shouldn’t be spending at all.” FIRSTLY, the redesign of state quarters never wasted millions. People are employed with that money, which is a good thing. And when money is struck it usually costs less to make than its face value. This is called Seigniorage , the profit made from the difference in production cost verses what the coin is sold for [face value]. Because collects collect new designs, the U. S. Mint actually is making you billions of dollars in profits because everybody and their grandmother have a few state quarters sitting in a top draw at home. Dies strike coins, plates print currency. And the presses do not care about the design they print so the ones we own now do not need to be replaced. And any design cost is recouped when the notes are sold to the Federal Reserve Bank, a private company.

    think again says:
  • This is ridiculous. I like that the denominations of the bills is linked to the content but come on. Obama does not yet deserve a place on our currency. And just because other countries design their currencies in a specific fashion does not mean that the US must follow suit. What a boring world it would be if everything was the same.

    Brian says:
  • so cut out obama and it’s legit, what has obama done except talk and spend money.

    Jeremy says:
  • the idea is good, the designs are terrible. why would you ever put someone as controversial as obama on it? fdr is problematic enough as it is. i just want to know why washington and lincoln, who are american icons, get swapped with obama and fdr. and anyhow, the bill without all our rights isn’t even correct, first amendment includes more freedoms than simply speech

    echo says:
  • This is silly. There’s zero counterfeit protection and it literally looks like flashcards for a grade-school student. The vertical design is bad, no American wants colored money, and the motifs are bad. The different sizes are good though – except when it came to vending machines or just about anything not human. It also means the 1 dollar bill would be comically small.

    Tom says:
  • Tom you ALREADY have colored money–unless you were being racist…

    Stupid Americans! says:
  • U.S. and 0 bills are the most counterfeited currency on earth and most of the hideousness inherent in the bills is due to the ridiculous amount of security required. These, while pretty, would be simple to counterfeit. Not to mention they lack dollar signs. You are right about the different sizes and vertical usage of bills though and it would be nice if those were incorporated sometime in the future.

    Kat says:
  • This is so completely and utterly un-American in spirit and execution despite the use of American motifs

    TC says:
  • Even if Obama was deserving, there are plenty of more important figures that even allowed him to be deserving.

    We’ve always some of the poorest designed currency, and unfortunately I feel these may be a step back. Also, I will assume (since the designer must have quit halfway through his class project) that the backs are a solid field of pantone 802, or more correctly for this guy – 0,255,0.

    ALH says:
  • I agree with brad, not original. however they are bland and cheesy with no reason to have obama on the 1 – thats just you politicizing.

    64flair says:
  • Oh my god, these are utterly hideous, thoroughly unimaginative, and completely sterile-looking. I would be embarrassed to ever hold one of these atrocities. If these designs were ever even considered it would be a travesty of epic proportions. I don’t want my currency looking like a bunch of Benjamin Moore paint swatch cards. And to those of you extolling the virtues of the euro, I’m not sure there is a form of currency on the planet that is more useless and befuddling. Any way my country can deviate from the massive joke and writ-large failure that is modern Europe is a solid path. I say take us back to the gold standard and call it a day. Obama on money… Oh? The naïveté.

    Delphi says:
  • These look good. Concerns of counter-fitting are overblown. More advanced security measures could be integrated into these designs without affecting the overall design. Make the bills from plastic and have the currently white denominations be clear windows, possibly with holograms.

    The design could definitely go further, but I do like the idea of the bill not being so busy. Some of the current bills have letters and numbers that look like carnival stamps. There should almost certainly be more variety in the font. Just Helvetica?

    Also, as an Oklahoman, I certainly appreciate a greater inclusion of Indian tribes in American iconography (and the fact that they avoided the obvious but problematic use of the “Five Civilized Tribes”), but really, they ought to have used more than one image for 5 tribes who can be very different from one another. Certainly using just a teepee on a bill celebrating the 5 largest tribes would be taboo.

    That said, if some variation of this became the new currency, I’d be pleased. Though, really we probably ought to just do away with printed money all together.

    Steve says:
  • These are the most American designs ever. So much more American than the current designs in circulation.

    All Americans want colored money.

    Of course Obama and FDR would never fly, but the concepts of reorienting the bills, changing the sizes and colors to help differentiate bills, and tying the images to the denominations are all sound.

    There are a lot of great concepts here, but the designs could be fleshed out some more.

    Roger says:
  • Love this in theory – as an un-american, I’ve always found the greenbacks odd – yep, plenty of history there and a nice talking point, but changing the colors + size of the notes is a no- brainer – should have happened ages ago – find the design a bit too clinical, but again, all the ‘reason for being’ is sound – Think the notes should read both ways – vertical notes would take some getting used to, but it’s a concept worth further investigation around the world… great start point…

    Kid72 says:
  • the notes look cheap even for food stamps.

    a prime example of (re)designing just to be different, at any cost (and really bad at it). no real improvement in any way.

    complete disaster.

    1000$bill says:
  • Interesting idea, but would have kept Washington on the bill. Also, the picture you used for FDR looks like one of his later ones, when he was ill (thinner face and dark circles under his eyes). Would hope you’d use a better one of him.

    -Alison says:
  • In God We Trust should NEVER be removed from US currency. Also, given that Obama has yet to do anything of significance for the good of our country, I would strongly disagree with him being on the bill simply because he is the first black president.

    Jerry says:
  • @Jerry, lol, i almost forgot that 45% of you people still ignore facts and believe in a god. Wake up, it’s 2010. They should make it: In facts we trust.

    rj says:
  • God IS a fact rj. What year it is is irrelevant to whether there is a God or not anyway. If you can’t comment intelligently like the others on this post have…please keep quiet.

    As for the bills…nice idea but needs to continue to be thought out. Both size and color don’t need to be changed to make the desired difference between denominations. Size would work better for the visually impaired.

    Also the concepts for the imagery is weak at best if the goal is historical ties between the country and the currency. Traditional design with a size OR color change is all that is necessary…if anything at all.

    DerrickF says:
  • Talking about intelligence: “God is a fact”. I’m laughing my balls off right now. You made my day, that’s for sure.

    But back on topic: I really like the designs and the concept of the vertical format. Although i think it need some extra security marks and more creative versions of each bill. Keep up the good work.

    rj says:
  • I really like the vertical layout and difference in size. If the US were to go in this direction, I doubt that it would accept such a dramatic change. Using the current US graphics and colors and putting them into a vertical format of different sizes would be much better received. The “green back” has a psychological impact of growth and security. With the US all a flush with the green movement, the overall look of a primarily green bill will probably continue to be mainstream.

    Rachel says:
  • To whoever said we can’t get rid of the penny, wrong.

    Australia managed it years ago without incident.

    tudza says:
  • I love it, but they look like subway tickets or something. i don’t know how to fix that, but it’s probably in the crispness of the colors maybe

    alex says:
  • The idea is good, though I think maybe toning down the colour would help. These are far too brightly-coloured, and the ink is going to wear off very quickly – especially with the red and yellow. And I would say go for a different colour on the 100 – as visually different as possible, or maybe make it a more reddish orange. It may also be worth suggesting having Abraham Lincoln on the instead of Obama – more iconic, TBH. And I’d be interested to see the reverse of each note – ideally they should all have a different reverse to make counterfeiting harder. The Federal Reserve’s seal could be made into a transparent window, like on the Australian notes. The size change is nice – I’m sure the visually impaired would be very pleased with this, as it gives them a huge helping hand when it comes to the most basic action of all in our society.

    Speaking of Australian currency, it might be a good idea to bring a change to polymer from paper during the redesign. We have all sorts of clever little things on our money – raised designs, special threads, transparent windows, microprint, and a dozen other things that are *very* hard to reproduce, and therefore makes our money very hard to counterfeit. Not to mention that it’s very hard to tear an Australian banknote, and they don’t deteriorate easily (though they lose colour over time) and won’t be damaged much by water or fires. The notes also have metallic security threads in them which can be picked up by metal detectors which makes it nearly impossible to smuggle them. Plus the polymer can be recycled to make another banknote if it becomes too damaged for use as legal tender.

    dartigen says:
  • I think if you were trying to hand a stack of these oddly-sized bills to someone, they would inevitably grab the end of the 20s and miss the 1’s.

    mbs says:
  • Fact as defined by Oxford Dictionaries: a thing that is indisputably the case.

    Fact as defined by a piece of information about circumstances that exist or events that have occurred.

    a statement or assertion of verified information about something that is the case or has happened.

    an event known to have happened or something known to have existed.

    a concept whose truth can be proved.

    and just for good measure, lets have a looksie at the word faith as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary:

    Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.

    Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

    Seems according to the actual definition of these words, God is in fact the antithesis of fact.

    Samy St Clair says:
  • WONDERFUL, Great work, very sharp. Im ready…

    Brad Arender says:
  • Yeah… this is the most uninspired currency I’ve ever seen.. more than our current bills… is that Helvetica? I think I’m going ot barf.

    Graphic Designer says:
  • @ Editor of this post please remove all entries that do no discuss the design it self. example -Obama this and Obama that.

    Very balanced, which is some thing of trial and error with modern design. I think you did very well. I also think the idea of having facts about the US is a very good concept, It gives the notes a bit of life. I really love the neat and clean looks of the and the .

    Deyons says:
  • this i garbage the current bills look much better than these and the different sizes are a stupid idea

    Nathan says:
  • Its pretty cool, but I think Obama and FDR shouldn’t be on the money. Obama hasn’t done anything to make him a great President and FDR is overrated. Jefferson,Washington,Lincoln and Reegan should be on the money.

    Yo Mamma says:
  • Love it, love it, love it. Currency tells us a great deal about national identity. I love your design and concept from top to bottom. Love the 5 most populous Native American tribes, love the images on this bill, love the Obama dollar (another visually arresting image), love the FDR 100 days, learned something from the 10 spot, great imagery, who cares about the naysayers–it is time for our currency to be made current.

    Great job says:
  • ummm, attention, Banks do not process money vertically. Every bank in the world would need to change their equipment. Doomed.

    fuckall says:
  • What about the other side!!

    emi says:
  • Obama should be on the 10

    for 10% unemployment rate.

    prt says:
  • God forbid America adopt a currency system that looks like those damn Canadians’ monopoly money. I mean, green is the REAL colour(color) of money, right?

    Canuck says:
  • @Jerry @DerrickF

    Whatever happened to separation of State and Church?

    Loves God, not his fanclub. says:
  • hate the idea! ive lived all over the world and everybody else except us has this crazy monopoly lookin money. its bad enough we got the tye dye lookin bills but now u wanna give us something that looks like a info pamplet too?! let us keep or genuine an uniquie form of currency. dont make us like the rest of the world. let us keep our uniqueness.

    another proud american says:
  • I believe it to be a great concept well executed, but as so many others have already said, there is no way this would fly in the US of A. As educational posters though, they would be stunning

    I also love the excitement and angry that it has managed to generate and have not seen so many comments posted on one, innocent design boom article!

    Andre from Amsterdam there is not a lot of similarity to the Swiss notes. Those are way busier, which is another reason these potentially (at this point of development) the proposal doesn’t really work as too clear and too simple

    Oh and how I had to laugh at the Obama ‘1’ bring out the inevitable Rednecks! No, not looking at you Mike of Texas, Brian, or any other of the boys at the back of the class

    Everyone know the American’s love their money the way it is and that they are easy to counterfeit, but if they don’t care then let’s leave them to it

    dextersdragon says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

design news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
504,283 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample
designboom magazine