Frankenstein and the Power of Typography

Typography, the art and technique of arranging type, is incredibly powerful in communicating a message or feeling.

Across the world, brands use typography to convey a subliminal message to their customers. Disney’s simple, swirly font with the bubble above the ‘I’ instantly conveys a sense of fun and childhood, whereas the crisp, clean lines of Apple can be interpreted as reflecting their design language.

It is this power of typography that appealed to designer Thomas Docherty, who recently ‘brought to life’ the Frankenstein coin, the latest coin produced by The Royal Mint.

Thomas has worked at The Royal Mint for over 13 years as a member of the coin design team, having studied product design at university.  With a love of calligraphy and typography, Thomas’ design submission for the Frankenstein coin was chosen to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s iconic novel.

Thomas told us: “As always, we start with a design brief outlining the theme of the coin.  For this particular coin, I wanted to steer clear of the traditional Boris Karloff imagery, and given that we’re basing our new coin on the novel by Mary Shelley, I felt using words to portray this would be the perfect homage.

“As part of the research for this coin design, I wanted to stay true to the novel so I borrowed a copy from the library.  Given time restraints, I needed to get through the story quickly so swapped to an audiobook.  I remember driving home from work one evening during the winter, listening to the deep voice narration as the rain poured down.  I realised I was driving far more slowly than usual, as the story had completely absorbed me.

“I also read a graphic novel version of Frankenstein and found that the visual aspect alongside the audiobook enabled me to digest the story more easily.  Using both mediums as my inspiration, I continued exploring the theme, and whilst researching life and creation, I stumbled across an ECG graph and thought that it could form the perfect symbolic representation of the life of Frankenstein’s monster.

“Working as a coin designer, I have developed a love of lettering, which has led to me practicing calligraphy as a hobby.  Working on different scripts, I saw a good opportunity to incorporate this into the Frankenstein coin, avoiding the stereotypical ‘monster’ motif.

Thomas continues: “Starting on the left as a flat-line, the design then bursts into a jagged and unpredictable line of life, spelling out the word ‘Frankenstein’ then steadying back into a flat-line, denoting the end of the monster’s life.

“I felt this demonstrates the volatility of the monster’s life with sharper, more serrated lettering then reverting back to a steady flat-line.  The coin symbolically depicts life and death encapsulated inside the perimeter of a coin.

“Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’ is regarded by many as the ‘birth of science fiction’ and reflecting birth, life and death within a coin felt like a powerful design element to me.”

The Frankenstein coin is now on sale, and if you look closely, you’ll also see Thomas’ initials struck into the coin as a mark of pride in his very own creation.

Let us know what you think of the design using Facebook or Twitter.

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