SVA’s Steven Heller and Debbie Millman Critique the New $100 Bill

June 24, 2013

On October 8, 2013, a new $100 bill goes into circulation in the U.S., one that contains a host of high-tech features. But although the currency is new, is it improved? SVA Close Up caught up with MFA Design Department Co-chair Steven Heller and MPS Branding Department Chair Debbie Millman to get their thoughts on it.

Steven Heller: What have they done to my Benjamin?! It’s like it was pulled from a children’s activity book. Look at those awkward shifts of color and holographic changes in image. Nothing is balanced. It seems like two separate bills on one side, divided by the security band, which is so alien that Ben won’t even look at it. Then there is the now routine Helveticazation of the denomination on the “b” side that has no typographic relationship to anything else on the note. Where’s the elegance of the greenback? = Why all this copper? Well, it may be doing its job. If I were a counterfeiter, I’d be ashamed to copy this new $100 bill.

Debbie Millman: Counterfeit $100 bills have been notoriously easy to pass, as most people don’t go round with a billfold of Benjamins. Not for much longer. This fall, the Federal Reserve will begin circulating a brand new note that has been redesigned with the most advanced security measures ever embedded in our currency. And man, is it fancy! The cash is coming to market with bells on—literally. Created with color-shifting ink, first you see a green Liberty Bell; then suddenly, it turns copper. And that’s not all that’s confusing—at last calculation, I counted 41 ways in which ‘100’ is rendered. Some of the iterations, such as the in your face version vertically snaking up the back of the note, pack a powerful punch. But the random ribbons, duplicate images and quirky illustration of Mr. Franklin leave this viewer with a one-word impression: botched.

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