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New Military Coins from The Royal Mint
ENGRAVED IN HISTORY
New Military Coins from The Royal Mint
ENGRAVED IN HISTORY

Behind the Design with Henry Gray

The Innovation in Science Series

When discussing the most important technological achievements of the last 200 years, there is a strong case for the invention of the telephone as a top contender. Arguably, it is the most important communication tool ever invented and since its creation, it has changed the world, allowing people to connect verbally wherever they may be.

Patented in 1876, this landmark invention was the brainchild of Alexander Graham Bell. Over the century and a half since, his name has become known as one of the greatest inventors of all time, making him a prime candidate for a commemorative coin in his honour. Naturally, such a deserving icon of invention warrants an equally iconic design to celebrate his remarkable legacy and the reverse design chosen for the coin is the work of Henry Gray, whose previous numismatic design work also includes the reverse for the coin commemorating 150 years of the British Red Cross. We caught up with Henry to discuss the Alexander Graham Bell coin and find out more about the process behind his creation.

Behind the Design with Henry Gray

Prior to this project, how aware of Alexander Graham Bell were you?

“As a kid, I was given a book for Christmas in the eighties called The Way Things Work, probably because I was fascinated by the working models of ships in the Science Museum. In the book, there was a whole section on telecommunications focusing on Alexander Graham Bell. I read the book until it fell to bits and [it] was probably one of the reasons why I ended up doing an MA in Industrial Design at Saint Martins.”

What are your opinions of Bell and his contributions to technology?

“The invention of the telephone was one of the greatest breakthroughs in human history, profoundly affecting life and society from the moment of its implementation. Our modern life is unimaginable without it and although there is controversy about the patent, it is clear that Bell’s work was both groundbreaking and transformative. Bell was a polymath whose hunger for knowledge manifested itself in numerous patented inventions and avenues of research that have subsequently led to other inventions and breakthroughs.”

How did you approach the initial design concept?

“I wanted the design to be instantly understood, to be immediately recognisable – for everyone to know what it was they were looking at.”

Was there anything you knew you wanted to include from the outset?

“Designing for coins is a unique process. Because of the media, size and shape of the canvas, the content often needs to be refined and pared back in the extreme, especially if the aim is to create a design that is instantly recognisable, that works almost like an icon. As such, I try to approach the design with an open mind and discover the aspects that are the most effective as I go.”

What were the main challenges you found during the design process?

“Finding a happy medium between the storytelling aspect of the design and the historical development of the invention that we know today was the biggest challenge. Generationally, a telephone is visually understood in many different forms, due to the changing nature of the product over our lifetimes. How many people today recognise Bell’s original invention as a telephone? Probably not that many.”

Behind the Design with Henry Gray

How was the overall experience of designing a coin for such an iconic figure?

“Fun and incredibly exciting – I absolutely love the entire process from research to finished design.”

How did this process differ from that of previous coins you have designed for The Royal Mint, such as the one commemorating the British Red Cross?

“The general process always follows a similar path for me: research, conception, design and then honing. That being said, this coin was a lot more meaningful to me because Alexander Graham Bell is a bit of a hero [of mine]. The overall experience was both fun and incredibly exciting. I absolutely loved the entire process, from research all the way through to the finished design.”

What are your thoughts on the finished product and design?

“I literally cannot wait to hold it. I think it’s often overlooked that the design is in relief and a significant part of the concept is how the design works when you feel it – much like a phone, I suppose. I’m going to have to try and restrain myself from making the ‘beep boop beep bop bap’ tones when I press the keys!”

Honouring an Audio Visionary

Be Inspired

ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL – A PENCHANT FOR INVENTION

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ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL – A PENCHANT FOR INVENTION

WIN AN ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL UK £2 COIN

Find out more
WIN AN ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL UK £2 COIN
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