The news that The Royal Mint would be releasing the very first UK coin dedicated to H.G. Wells was met with much fanfare and excitement, particularly from fans of classic literature and the science fiction genre.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest British authors of all time, Wells was a worthy addition to the exclusive group of authors we have already celebrated on a coin, including iconic writers such as Dame Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens to name a few.
Naturally, designing a coin for such a beloved and influential author was a tall order and one not to be taken lightly. With that in mind, The Royal Mint extended an invite to a number of artists, including Chris Costello, a designer that is all too familiar with such pressures and the designer behind the Mayflower 2020 UK £2 coin, to submit a design for the occasion.
Like any project dedicated to such a beloved figure, the H.G. Wells design was one that would pose many challenges, not least the scrutiny of diehard Wells aficionados. We sat down with Chris Costello to delve into the design process and his experiences along the way.
After receiving the submission invite, what were you most looking forward to about this project?
“I was required to create designs that were original and unique; capturing ‘the essence of the author’s style with imagination, inventiveness and creativity’. Based on the direction from The Royal Mint’s creative brief, I was looking forward to creating a never-before-seen coin design concept.”
How did your preparation for the H.G. Wells coin differ to your preparation for the Mayflower coin?
“Actually, the process for creating the Mayflower design was quite similar to the H.G. Wells design. There are no known examples of what the Mayflower ship looked like. It was a typical merchant ship of the day, so I was free to create my own romanticized interpretation of the ship that would also translate to a successful coin design. Similarly, as Wells’ stories have been interpreted in many ways since his first editions, I had much latitude to envision my own contemporary interpretations of his best works.”
What were the main challenges you found during the design process?
“The most difficult challenge of this design was to incorporate three distinct story ideas into one unified composition that was informative without being too cluttered. This was accomplished by stylizing each of the three images, then balancing the positive and negative spaces so that each subject carried equal weight. Another challenge was to create a design that was easily recognized as the work of H.G. Wells without using any additional inscriptions.”
How did it feel when you found out that your design had been chosen to feature on the coin?
“I honestly did not think I would win the competition because the chances are always so small when you are competing with some of the best artists in the world. It was a risky design and I was pleased that the mash-up of ideas had appealed to the RMAC [The Royal Mint Advisory Committee] in such a positive way that it rose to the top. I was quite excited when I found out that I won and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these coins.”
What are your thoughts on the finished product?
“It is among my most favourite coin designs because of its entertaining subject matter and original imagery. I was encouraged to create my own artistic vision of his life’s work and I feel that this design encompasses the essence of H.G. Wells into one representative and iconic image.”
How was the overall experience of designing a coin for such a beloved author?
“I accepted the opportunity provided to me by The Royal Mint with great enthusiasm. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, the research, the creative process, critiques, and finalization of the designs. To be acknowledged as the artist whose work was chosen to celebrate H.G. Wells, his vision, and cultural contributions on a world coin is a very high honour.”
Finally, on the subject of the man himself, is there a particular H.G. Wells novel that appeals to you?
“The War of the Worlds and subsequent cinematic adaptations are what appeal to me the most and have inspired my imagination for this coin design. The fact that this story is the blueprint for much of today’s science fiction is a lasting credit to H.G. Wells as an innovative writer and thinker.”