The familiar faces of Lincoln, Jackson and the rest are gone, replaced by a more colorful set of images. Purrington wanted to introduce imagery that had to do with systems, rather than dated iconography, because that’s really what money is about. It’s the connecting synapse between a huge number of systems that keep our country churning day by day. Each of the bills (Purrington’s redesign includes the $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 notes) has two very different sides: one side is a muted, Escher-esque drawing of a technical or scientific subject matter. The other side has a colorful, real world manifestation of the black-and-white reverse.
For example: one side of the $10 note sports an illustration of a bucky ball. Its other side has a drawing of gleaming skyscraper. The $50 note has a labyrinthine drawing of a circuit board; flip it over, and there’s an astronaut’s helmet, reflecting a view of the space station. “I wanted to play on things that we might not always think about, like neurons being involved in farming or agriculture,” Purrington says of his $5 bill design. “As soon as you pull away and look at farms from a bird’s eye view you begin to see how intricate and detailed that decision-making process is.”
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Other countries do a little better. The Australian $50 has David Unaipon, an Aboriginal inventor, the $100 has John Monash an engineer. Swiss notes has Euler, Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (a physicist), Conrad Gessner (a botanist), Albrecht von Haller (an anatomist) and Louis Agassiz (a paleontologist). Before the Euro the French banknotes had Eiffel and Marie & Pierre Currie.
Those are just the countries I’m most familiar with. America seems to be the odd man out here.