The penultimate release in our Shēngxiào Collection celebrating the Chinese zodiac features the wise and powerful dragon. The coin was designed by William Webb, a freelance designer and illustrator based in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, who has worked with many prestigious organisations including The New York Times, The National Trust and the V&A Museum. We caught up with William to find out more about the design process and how it feels to see his creation come to life.
How does it feel to have designed your first coin?
I’ve been entering coin design competitions for a while without success, so I was very excited to hear that one of my designs had been chosen. Mythological creatures have inspired me since I first started drawing, so the chance to create a Chinese dragon for The Royal Mint was a dream project.
How does coin design differ from your usual work?
My work is an eclectic mix; it can range from historical reconstructions to cartoons and portraits. Although my degree was in Graphic Design, my portfolio is largely illustration; I’ve used a variety of media from lino cutting to Illustrator to create logos, labels and packaging, but I’ve never designed coins.
What was your inspiration for this coin?
The work of Hokusai (1760–1849), whose iconic ‘Great Wave’ print is famous all over the world, was a useful starting point. His Japanese dragon paintings and woodcuts were an inspiration, as well as some terrific Chinese sculpted dragon heads. I think the ‘limitations’ of coin design inspired me to consider how I might create the most impact on such a relatively small scale.
How did you go about designing this coin? What did you do to research?
I researched Chinese sculpture, paintings and coin design, the latter to see how other designers had placed a dragon within a circle, but I wanted to find a different solution. Then I quickly drew about 20 very rough scribbles and picked a dozen of the best and refined them.
Talk us through the different elements of your coin design.
The dragon’s head had to be dead centre, looking straight at you – everything else had to work around that. I wanted the creature to display beauty and symmetry, but also potential energy, like that of a coiled spring. By contrast, the lake below had to look serene, and provide a base for the flying creature.