Yesterday, the new design for the obverses of the Dutch euro coins was revealed to the public. It was created by Erwin Olaf — “a great photographer, but a lousy typographer”, as Erik van Blokland put it. The coins depict King Willem-Alexander. The text set next to the royal portrait (and in the case of the cent denominations, ungainly across of it) is in Days, designed in 2008 by Ivan Gladkikh and Alexandr Kalachëv under the art direction of Alexey Maslov, and made freely available via Google Web Fonts, among other channels (ID credit Akira Yoshino).
It’s highly questionable whether such a bold wide retro-futuristic letterstyle in mixed case is suited for the medium and the topic — and whether it had to be a font (as distinguished from custom lettering) in the first place. Apart from these questions, the Ministry of Finance appears to send two strange messages with this font choice: For this national symbol, it was not possible to find a good domestic type design — in the Netherlands, of all countries! And they didn’t want to spend any money on the money, at least not on the type. For the coins representing the country that is esteemed for its valuable visual culture, it had to be a freebie.
There once was a time when Gerrit Noordzij was commissioned to design coins, see his rijksdaalder (ƒ2½) for the anniversary of the Union of Utrecht in 1979.
Now that is a coin.
This is depressing news. I am sorry for Holland and Europe. Of course, Americans have no reason to mock given the way we’ve been treating our dollar bills.
At least in Canada – where we have destroyed our paper money through intense uglification – our coins have remained relatively stable and elegant (if a bit antique). One really wonders why national mints don’t take the design of currency more seriously as a design exercise.
In the typeface designers’ words: “Days is a display typeface meant for use in large sizes.”
As a Dutch designer I feel shame for the betrayal by my governement of the reputation and the legacy of Dutch type design. Whether it be stingyness or ineptitude or both, this is just a shame.
Dutch designers, let’s design and make round stickers to protest and conceal this atrocity as much as possible. This cannot stand, man. What’s next, Comic Sans on traffic signs?
The new coins are just part of a cunning plan to stimulate the economy; they are so ugly that one wants to get rid of them as soon as possible.
One of those “What. The. Hell. He. Thought?!” moments.
Bruno Ninaber van Eyben did consult Gerard Unger http://www.ninaber.nl/nl/projecten/nederlandse-munten/97/gulden-reeks
[Added by moderator: Studio Ninaber was responsible both for the last series of guilder coins (1980) and the first Dutch national side of the euro, depicting Queen Beatrix (1998).]
Kraftwerk, ‘Musique Non Stop’: http://youtu.be/O0lIlROWro8 was the inspiration for Erwin Olaf he told at Pauw & Witteman most popular television talk-show.
The most important question is if it is readable. It is. The problem is the layout totally sucks.:-(
So sad. Erwin Olaf fails at coins. Just as Anton Corbijn fails at logos. It’s a profession, don’t commission a famous star at something other to do design on the side.
Ellen — judging from the preview images, I’d say it is not very readable. Being somehow decipherable is a pretty low standard. Designers should aim higher than that, especially when it is for something that will be looked at innumerable times. Also, there is more to a font choice than the purely visual aspects.
Our Dutch government has their own typefaces. Rijksoverheid Serif and Rijksoverheid Sans in several weights. Font designer Peter Verheul created a special Rijksoverheid Sans Signal for traffic signs and other applications. Why didn’t they use these fonts?
What’s next, Comic Sans on traffic signs?
The Dutch have already seen worse than that: Comic Sans on war memorial.
Those are cool looking coins! I like dual color, I like the chiseled look of the portrait and I like the font.
Xenophobic politicians are never there when you need them.
As art director and graphic design from The Netherlands with over 20 years of experience… I’m ashamed…
A big sorry to all graphic designers world wide with this typographical error: Sorry!
For years and years, Dutch culture is being flushed through the drain. It’s all about economy and work. The arts are something “you do as a hobby”.
Well, this is where that path has led us today.
The typography is just plain sad. All typographical history and knowledge ignored. Was there no one to keep an eye on the quality of the typography? It’s unbelievable!
Even a photographer should see how ugly the ‘e’, ‘g’ and ‘a’ look in this scale.
We will just use them as much as possible. Erwin made the choice and that’s it. No further comment.
The lettering on the new Dutch Euro coins again is a slap in the face of Dutch Design. Photographer Anton Corbijn does the logo of the city of The Hague, book artist Irma Boom does the logo of the Rijksmuseum, some image-oriented took over the Museum of Graphic Design in Breda, now call it MOTI and post stolen ideas made worse by using Courier. Even consulting a typeface designer does not help when the concept is poor. Just as Paul van der Laan’s professional redesign of an ill-conceived IJ ligature (which was originally made up from a chopped U) does not really save a logo. Although I think is better than the previous design.
Personally, I think that it is not the customers that are to be blamed in these cases. Although it would certainly be of advantage when they would consult some basic literature on corporate identity before spending tax payers money on large design projects. To me it seems that far too many graphic designers think that there is something wrong with the applied arts and flee into either ‘default design’ or try to behave like an artist by ignoring elementary issues such as inter-character space (Stedelijk Museum). Also there seems to be something rotten in the State of Education …
I was extremely proud of Bruno Ninaber van Eyben at that time. His use of type was in one word excellent. I still wear gold-plated collar-studs made of his 5 ct coins. But this silly and shameful choice for Days is a reason to avoid any of the Dutch coins in the future in my wallet.
Apparently the form of the ‘A’ must have been so weak that is was almost blown away by a puff of “hot air”
A hot topic on the Dutch public television this morning:
Het schijnt me een Ongeluk. Zoiets zie je vaak, laat maar een Architekt een tentoonstelling beletteren… etc. Ignorance is a bliss…
Mmm… I would have preferred Shelley Allegro or maybe Playbill. But this is nice too. A great way to let the world realize we’re only human and I think we’ve made our point. Let’s get back to work. There’s a lot to make up for.
Strange that everyone is focusing on the poor font choice, when the portrait looks so ridiculous… a cross somewhere between a Rock’em Sock’em Robot and the Pilsbury Doughboy. Fugly anyway you look at it.
Toy money? Down the drain with our carefully built Dutch Design image. It’s a misconception that designers master all disciplines (however tempting).
Designer Jaap Andela talked to a spokesman of the finance guys and they told him that the designer had to be famous! A couple of two fashion designers were on the shortlist too! Jaap reported the details on his facebook page.
Strange that everyone is focusing on the poor font choice, when the portrait looks so ridiculous…
One can doubt whether depicting the King as the Thing from the Fantastic Four is the best design choice, but it’s a choice and IMHO not a ridiculous one. In combination with a proper lettering, which looks now to have been made completely independent from the portrait and the coins natural form, it could have been an acceptable coin.
The facts that the applied font comes from Google, is free of charge, and not Dutch from origin, are not good arguments against the design as such. If one can get a font for free that offers the best quality for this purpose, then it’s smart to use a free font, I reckon. If the best font is made by a foreigner, then one should use this IMHO. But that is not the case here. There are much better Dutch alternatives; maybe not for free but priceless in quality.
It is interesting that typographers appreciate Gerrit Noordzij’s ‘Unie van Utrecht’ coin so much. More than a decade ago I gave a talk at a ‘coin club’ in Rotterdam, and discussed the quality of coin-lettering there. I showed Gerrit’s design as an example of excellent lettering, but the members of the ‘coin club’ did not like it. If I recall correctly, their opinion was that there were too many letters and ﬁgures –no, even worse– only letters and ﬁgures!
a spokesman of the finance guys […] told him that the designer had to be famous! A couple of two fashion designers were on the shortlist too!
That’s what happens when you have status-obsessed fools involved in the commissioning and project management. The best you can hope is that the chosen “stars” are smart enough to surround themselves and collaborate with dedicated, trained specialists. In this case it sounds like the budget made even that possibilty hopeless.
The font used is not even a quirky font which would have been a design solution. The layout is also very weak. The portrait of the King is also badly translated to a graphic drawing which looks like a bad woodcarving in metal. The detail of the King’s portrait makes him awkward and disfigured. The Netherlands has so many amazing type designers. I can’t understand why they are not involved in this design. I am all for fusion and collaboration but this is not working. The font, layout and typesetting is weak. This is not a proud dutch design for what The Netherlands are known for.
The spokeswoman of the Dutch Ministry of Finance says the ministry hasn’t issued any message about the typeface of the new euro coins.
So what’s the source of the rumours?
The low polygon technique used for the portrait reminds me of Dwiggins’ marionettes and his M-Formula:
and one of his typeface designs in which he applied the M-Formula:
spokeswoman (and spokesmen) are usually hired to avoid the spreading of anything non-official. This may also inlude spoken language in meetings which did not make into the minutes, such as some remarks on how (not to) spend the budget. So I wouldn’t take their word for granted. Ministry or not, in the end neither the Ministry nor the designer seemd to have thought of hiring a professional for the lettering. Especially when I look at the designs of Dwiggins, I think they failed to make the best out of it.
It’s so hard to read, even at this blown-up scale on my screen… surely it will be completely illegible on the €0,20.
Reminds me of Library Way, the New York Public Library plaques that I posted about last year. Some decent graphical ideas (and some bad ones), let down by extremely amateurish type choice and usage.
Photo(s) by “Karen Horton” on Flickr.
Contributed by Elisabeth Weber
Contributed by Tessa van der Waals