In 2021, we are celebrating two timeless literary treasures on UK coins for the first time – Lewis Carroll’s universally adored Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its immensely popular sequel Through the Looking-Glass. We spoke with Ffion Gwillim, a product designer at The Royal Mint, who used Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations to create the reverse designs for both coins.
What attracted you to this project?
“It was a privilege to celebrate such a widely beloved story and have the opportunity to help evoke childhood memories for all generations. It was an exciting project to be a part of, and I really enjoyed revisiting Lewis Carroll’s bizarre adventures in his books.”
How did you approach the initial design concept?
“I took on lots of research and selected the images that portrayed the strongest representation of Alice and other characters in Wonderland – what tells the story, in other words. The next step in the process involved reviewing the images as a team each morning, which meant we were able to continuously improve and shortlist the images before creating the final designs.”
Was there anything you knew you wanted to include from the outset?
“I wanted to make creative use of typography that was both unique to us and hinted at the elegance of calligraphy from the Victorian era. I particularly liked including the ligatures – especially joining the letters like a game of snake and ladders, which was really befitting of the subject.”
What themes did you explore in this design?
“The themes are pretty much set by Lewis Carroll so it was more about portraying a narrative in the design and actively engaging people with the story.”
What were the main challenges you found during the process?
“Coins are a very different compositional challenge than a rectangular page; we also have to consider that metal has no fixed area of light or shade as you move a coin about.
“Another welcome challenge was ensuring I brought a freshness to the original illustrations, which makes you think differently compared with generating a design entirely from scratch.”
How was the overall experience designing a coin for such an iconic, timeless story?
“I really enjoyed it. The creative process is great because you will always learn something about a new subject and how to overcome the same challenges next time. It’s great to be part of the Alice story – like The Royal Mint, she is very much part of our culture.”
Are you a fan of the books?
“I was very aware of them and enjoyed learning and discovering more as part of the project.”
What are your thoughts on the finished product?
“I’m really proud to have done this as I’m relatively new to the team, so it’s exciting for me to see one of my first designs come to life.”
The Alice COLLECTION