I’ll name that bill in three…

Kathy Sierra says there is no culture of design in the USA. She covers a lot of ground but her Exhibit A is dollar bills.

Anyone who has come to the USA from another country knows how hard it is to tell one bill from another. I would guess that it took me about a year before I could reliably tell a $1 bill from a $10 in less than three looks. I still can’t tell nickels from quarters unless I have one of each in my hand to compare side by side or unless I look very closely. I still can’t calculate change quickly because the 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢ scheme makes no sense to me.

There is something very beautiful about the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, ₤1, ₤2, ₤5, ₤10 scheme in my home country. If you can calculate the change from 50p, you can calculate the change from ₤50. The rules are the same (at least, that’s how it used to be when I was there. they might all be using zlotys and glotys now for all I know).

Kathy reminds us that aesthetic benefits are so closely bound with ergonomic benefits that it is hard to separate the two and therein lies the root of the problem. Too many people dismiss design as prettying something up (including too many designers). The best designers (I am not one of them) are able to make something that is both beautiful and easier to use.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

One thought on “I’ll name that bill in three…”

  1. It’s true that American money is boring. However, having all the bills the same size is brilliant, especially that they’re small enough. It makes it possible to neatly fit all my money in my (rather small) wallet. Whenever I travel to Europe, half my money sticks out, and those are the big bills too.

    Of course I could choose to carry a big wallet to fit my larger bills, but then pretty soon I would have to wear one of them man purses. If I need to carry a purse, I don’t care how pretty money is, it gets an F.

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