Redesigning the Dollar Bill

Studio 360 Redesigns

Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 12:36 PM

Detail of a new design for the $10, $20, and $50 bills featuring Emily Dickinson, Duke Ellington, and Mark Twain (Dean Potter/Dollar Redesign Project) Detail of a new design for the $10, $20, and $50 bills featuring Emily Dickinson, Duke Ellington, and Mark Twain (Dean Potter/Dollar Redesign Project) (Click here to view full image)

Despite a few tweaks over the years, the cash money in your pocket looks a lot like it always has, with the same all-male cast of characters. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A few weeks ago England announced that Jane Austen will grace their tenner (where she replaces Her Majesty!). Switzerland celebrates one of their artists on every bill. So we got to thinking: what if we redesigned American currency, Studio 360-style?

The first step is simple. We’re looking to replace the “dead presidents” with great American artists -- creative masters of any kind: painters, illustrators, musicians, architects, dancers, designers, comedians, writers, directors, actors. The only rules are that they must be American artists, and that they be dead. There are six bills to redo ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100), so suggest as many names as you’d like. Who would remind you how cool America is every time you open your wallet?


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Comments [25]

Joe A from Camden, NJ

Some possibilities:

Nicola Tesla
Ella Fitzgerald
Walt Whitman
George Gershwin
Irving Berlin
Clara Barton
Mark Twain
Pete Seeger
Cab Calloway
Frederick Douglass
Harriet Beecher Stowe

And nobody thought of these...?

Steve Jobs
Neil Armstrong
Jackie Robinson
Jesse Owens
Jim Thorpe

Sep. 14 2013 10:06 PM
jill giles from lincoln university pa

Norman Rockwell
Walt Disney
Martha Graham
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Andy Warhol
Jimmy Stewart
Judy Garland

Sep. 13 2013 10:15 AM
AC Warden from DC

Already submitted Woody Guthrie Georgie O'Keefe Alfred Stieglitz Andy Warhol & Willa Cather but also too many -
Lena Horne
Scott Joplin
Martha Graham
Henry David Thoreau
Frederick Douglass
Rachel Carson
Winslow Homer
Zora Neale Hurston
All make me think of America

Sep. 07 2013 01:19 PM
Cirrus Robertson from Oakland, CA

Most of the artists I would like to see have already been listed in previous comments, but I would like to see George Catlin's work on one of the smaller bills with all the flowing reds, golds, and browns with which he showed the prairie. The watercolors would look glorious on the linen paper of US currency.

Sep. 04 2013 12:42 AM
Murali from Sunnyvale, CA

$1 Norman Rockwell
$2 Frank Lloyd Wright
$5 Ansell Adams
$10 Miles Davis
$20 Mark Twain
$50 Bing Crosby
$100 Orson Welles

To be an "American artist" of enough standing to be placed on the currency, the artist in question should express American-ness in their work. This expression should be both an externally focused beacon showing others who we are, but it should also be an internally focused mirror where we see our reflection.

Assigning the artist to a denomination should not mistakenly try to equate the artist's importance with the value of the bill. Rather, the ubiquity of the smaller notes gives greater weight to their meaning.

The $1 bill is really the most iconic. Being the most recognizable note, it should have wide accessibility but also serious merit and meaning. For this, illustrator Norman Rockwell is the choice, due to the commonness of his themes, with a clearness and boldness of their expression.

The $2 is a type of also-ran. Though it is legal tender, it is hardly used or seen. For this exercise, it serves as a kind of honorable mention. This goes to architect Frank Lloyd Wright, not because of any deficiency of Wright's, but because of the diminished role of architecture in general American life today. Most Americans live in homes designed by developers, not architects like Wright.

The $5 is an important workhorse, and that position goes to photographer Ansell Adams. His work has an American-ness that goes beyond the subject matter of the natural world. His work also showcases the great American ideal of the National Park.

The $10 is another major denomination, and this position goes to musician Miles Davis, who worked in the most archetypical American genre of Jazz.

As the largest of the "common" denominations, the $20 has high visibility. This is a good spot for the unmistakably American works of writer Mark Twain. Behind his amazingly sharp wit, his inciteful observations of American culture make him a superb representative.

The $50 is another note of less visibility. For this, it may be best to pick an artist who, although producing work of of great impact, has had it absorbed to an extent that it is no longer noticed. This describes singer Bing Crosby, who was a major artist at the dawn of recording, but who also continued to be prolific and iconic through his career.

Finally, the $100, being the largest bill in circulation, is a major designation. This is a slot for an artist who was/is considered a titan in their field. That is a good description of Orson Welles.

Sep. 03 2013 11:45 AM
Jeff Moore from Birmingham, AL

Allen Ginsberg
Nikola Tesla
Frank Lloyd Wright
Andy Warhol
Nina Simone
Dennis Hopper

Aug. 31 2013 05:24 PM
Tracy Hanson

Elvis Presley
Mark Twain
Marilyn Monroe
Walt Disney
Lucille Ball

Aug. 29 2013 10:13 AM

James Baldwin, because his novels are so intensely wonderful and because he has such a distinctive look.

Aug. 28 2013 05:04 PM
Tanya M from Sleepy Hollow, NY

$1: Robert Johnson or Ella Fitzgerald: both seem humble and are essential: perfect for $1
$2: Edgar Allan Poe: both Poe and $2 bill are furtive and mysterious...
$5: Georgia O'Keefe: maybe "5" barely alliterates with "flower"...who cares? It'd look great.
$10: Langston Hughes: $10 is the bare minimum I need to walk out in NYC; Hughes, too, makes me feel ready for the city walk.
$20: Warhol: of course, since we'll be seeing his face most at the ATM
$50: Twain
$100: Alvin Ailey, featuring "Revelations". Tell me that would not be a gorgeous $100 bill.
Great topic for discussion with friends. Thanks!

Aug. 27 2013 11:41 PM
Holly from Washington, DC

Chief Sitting Bull
Mark Twain
Harry Houdini
Louis Armstrong
Elvis Presley
Michael Jackson
Andy Warhol
Marilyn Monroe

Aug. 27 2013 05:14 PM
Mark Kaiserman

I agree. Let's give women their due - but let's not choose actors and artists and writers. And no politicians either. Let's choose women who accomplished things in the rest of society like:
Helen Keller
Susan B. Anthony
Rosa Parks
Rachel Carlson
Amelia Earhart
Sally Ride
Harriet Tubman
Margaret Mead
Virginia Apgar
Katherine Graham

to name a few.

Aug. 27 2013 11:24 AM
Jenny & Bill from Crofton, MD

Top picks in no particular order...

Ella Fitzgerald
Aaron Copland
Carson McCullers
Langston Hughes
John Ford
Dorothea Lange

Also considered...

Louis Armstrong
Georgia O'Keefe
Mark Twain
HL Mencken
Patsy Cline
Johnny Cash
Woody Guthrie
Billie Holiday
Grandma Moses

Aug. 26 2013 08:27 PM

A few too many, and in no particular order:
John Cage
Nina Simone
Zora Neale Hurston
Mark Twain
Kurt Vonnegut
Charles and Ray Eames
Frank Lloyd Wright
Walt Disney
Mark Rothko (b. Russia)
Marcel Duchamp (b. France)

Aug. 26 2013 05:04 PM
Lara from Seattle

After traveling through Europe and seeing that every country has one of their great architects on a bill, how about some architects on US currency? Frank Lloyd Wright is the obvious choice. But what about Louis Sullivan, Louis Kahn, Frederick Law Olmstead, or even Mies van der Rohe (born in Germany but emigrated to the US)?

Aug. 26 2013 03:25 PM
Frank from Far Rockaway

Jane Austen won't be replacing the Queen on the £10 note; she'll be replacing Charles Darwin who is on the current (Series E, Revised) banknotes. The Queen's place on the obverse of all banknotes is secure.

For my choices, in no denominational order, viz.:
Washington Irving, author
George Gershwin, composer
John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore, actors
Georgia O'Keefe, painter
Agnes de Mille, dancer/choreographer
Ella Fitzgerald, performer

Aug. 26 2013 03:14 PM
Kurt Reid from Maiden, North Carolina

Lucille Ball
Walt Disney
John Wayne
Mark Twain
Norman Rockwell
Dr. Suess

Aug. 25 2013 04:52 PM
Selma from Montclair, NJ

Hm, I am having issues picking the bills, so I'll just throw out the names. That, and I have more names than bills:

August Wilson
Tennessee Williams
Jackson Pollock
William Faulkner
Bessie Smith
Andrew Wyeth
George Inness
Roy Lichtenstein
Norman Rockwell
Herman Melville
Maya Angelou
Louis Armstrong

Aug. 25 2013 11:57 AM
Nancy Vogt

1. Georgia O'Keeffe
2. Ansel Adams
3. Walt Whitman
4. Aaron Copeland
5. Frank Lloyd Wright
6. Martha Graham

Aug. 25 2013 11:03 AM
Andy Niable from Seattle, WA

James Baldwin, Marilyn Monroe, Georgia O'Keefe, George Gershwin, Andy Warhol, and, of course, Johnny Cash.

Aug. 25 2013 05:26 AM
Rob E from NYC

$1 - Andy Warhol
$2 - Walt Whitman
$5 - Charlie Chaplin
$10 - Frank Sinatra
$20 - Marvin Gaye
$50 - Georgia O'Keeffe
$100 - Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers

Aug. 24 2013 11:09 PM
Cameel from Roanoke, Virginia

Let's celebrate our women artists.

Willa Cather-author
Martha Graham-dancer
Zora Neale Hurston-author
Mary Cassatt-painter
Ella Fitzgerald-singer
Margaret Bourke-White-photographer
Katherine Hepburn-actress
Janis Joplin-singer

Aug. 24 2013 08:24 PM
Karen Commings from Harrisburg, PA

Let's give women their due...
$1.00 Emily Dickinson, poet
$5.00 Billy Holliday, blues singer
%10.00 Georgia O'Keeffe, painter
$20.00 Lena Horne, singer
$50.00 Vivian Maier, photographer
$100.00 Margaret Burke-White, photographer

Aug. 24 2013 05:04 PM
Celeste Banks from Pittsburgh, P A

Dave Brubeck belongs on the $5 bill No Doubt about it

Aug. 24 2013 04:28 PM

The following are the Americans (artists, writers, activists, etc.) whom I feel should appear on the following dollar bills ~

1) James Baldwin - $1.00
2) Eugene Bullard (first African American fighter pilot, World War I) - $5.00
3) Paul Robeson - $10.00
4) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - $20.00
5) Eleanore Roosevelt - $50.00
6) GORE VIDAL - $100.00

Aug. 24 2013 03:23 PM

I think they should put in michael jackson and whitney houston! :D

Aug. 24 2013 02:44 PM

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