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Behind the Iconic Design: Bruce Rushin


From its conception in 1994 to its 25th year in UK circulation, the bimetallic £2 coin has championed innovation and brilliance. Featuring more than 50 commemorative designs during its time as a staple in everyday change, the reverse of the £2 coin has recognised and celebrated achievements in science, technology, sport and literature, as well as honouring key moments and events throughout British history.


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Struck in 1997, the original design for the reverse of the new coin was the first in this series to mark the scientific and cultural milestones of the nation. Produced as the result of an open competition in 1996, the winning design featured an abstract representation of the nation’s technological advancement: four concentric circles each depicting an age of innovation and development, from the Iron Age to the birth of the internet.

The design belonged to Bruce Rushin, an art teacher from Norfolk. We caught up with Bruce to find out more about this remarkable design.

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Where did you hear about the competition to design the reverse for the first £2 coin? 
“It was a public competition that I heard about on Radio 4 news on my way home from the school where I taught at the time. I thought it sounded like something that I might be able to enter but I was concerned that the technical criteria might rule me out.”
How did it feel when you found out that your design had been chosen to feature on the coin? 
“Probably the most astonished and delighted I have ever been. I surprised our young son by picking him up and dancing down the hall – he’s now 32!  The excitement was in two parts: the initial short-listing in April 1996 and then the final decision and public announcement in December 1996.”


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Do you have any personal connections to the subject matter?
“There wasn’t a particular theme – it was very open – there was some talk of ships or heraldry. My first thought was that the coin was using new technology so perhaps the design might reflect that.”
How did you approach the initial design concept?
“As the coin had an inner and outer circle, I came up with the simple idea of adding extra concentric circles which could then tell a story from the centre to the outside edge. My wife had recently introduced me to the work of the American thinker Alvin Toffler who argued that the history of the world could be divided into four sections: the pre-industrial, hand-made age, the machine age that began with the Industrial Revolution, the electronic age of constant power and energy and communication, and finally, the digital age. So, I tried to work on imagery and patterns that illustrated these stages.”
Did you undertake any research for the theme? 
“I read books, visited libraries and borrowed some pieces of printed circuit board to draw from. One of the books I looked at was Spink’s Coins of England and the United Kingdom. Although my design seemed quite radical, I also wanted it to reflect older coins. My favourite coin as a child was the half-crown which I loved for its complex and decorative design. I also made the solder patterns from the electronic ring resemble the fluid shapes to be found on early English staters.”
Could you talk us through any iterations that led you to the final design?
“Remarkably, I made very few changes as I produced the design. As I was working in a pre-industrial, hand-made way (drawing and painting), I had no opportunity to cut, copy and paste! I was working, following the advice of the notes I received from the Mint, to the approximate size of a tea-plate (about 18cm diameter). What I found difficult to visualise was how it might look reduced down to roughly 2cm diameter.”
Were there any challenges you faced in creating the design?
“I was working from a position of not knowing the technicalities of coin production. I had produced some paintings and drawings in the past based on low-relief sculptures in architectural settings so I knew how to use angled light to suggest depth but most of the time I simply thought about the surface of a coin as having three layers; a middle layer, a lower incised layer and a raised layer.”

To mark the 25th anniversary of the bimetallic £2 coin and the iconic Bruce Rushin design, a new commemorative edition has been struck. Bearing the year 1997, the reverse of the coin once again depicts Bruce Rushin’s ‘technology’ design, with the incorporation of a special latent feature that reveals the number ‘25’ within the central cog.
The obverse of the anniversary coin also pays tribute to Bruce Rushin’s contribution, featuring the addition of an ‘iron age’ privy mark to the bottom of the portrait of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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