Go behind the design of the 1960s coin from our new Six Decades of 007 collection as we sit down with coin designers Matt Dent and Christian Davies of Bison Bison.
The James Bond collection is one of the most successful movie franchises in cinematic history. Dating back to 1962, it not only enjoyed incredible success from the outset but the character of Bond went on to become synonymous with 1960s film as a whole.
With the first six coins dedicated to a specific era of Bond, starting with the iconic Bond movies of the 1960s, the Six Decades of 007 collection is a numismatic journey back in time, rounded off with special completer coin celebrating the overall legacy of Bond. For the design dedicated to the first decade of Bond films, we left the artistic duties in the capable hands of award-winning design agency Bison Bison.
We sat down with designers Matt Dent and Christian Davies of Bison Bison to find out more about this project and discover the real story behind the design.
Today, Bison Bison is a hugely successful design agency. Where did you start your respective design journeys?
“I grew up in Bangor in North Wales, leaving to study Graphic Design at the University of Brighton, which is where I met Chris. Shortly after graduating, we worked together at a studio in London, before eventually branching out on our own and setting up Bison Bison.”
“My story is quite similar, really. I grew up in Penarth in South Wales before leaving to study Graphic Design at the University of Brighton. I bumped into Matt there and I’ve been stuck with him ever since!”
After receiving the submission invite, what were you most looking forward to about this project?
“We couldn’t wait to get into the weeds of the project and begin researching. We knew that we’d have the pleasure of rewatching some of the classic films that we hadn’t seen in a while, diving into the plethora of fan websites and sifting through the rich image libraries.”
The Bond films of the 1960s are iconic pieces of cinema. What connection do you have to these classic movies and the Bond franchise as a whole?
“We’d previously had the pleasure of designing The Royal Mint’s three-coin James Bond series in 2020, so we had some background knowledge, but as the films are so iconic, it’s impossible for them not to have made an impression. For me, the way the villains would (often creatively) dispatch their enemies always stuck in my mind. I’m not sure what that says about me!”
“I vividly remember watching The Spy Who Loved Me as a kid and seeing the Lotus Esprit going underwater and thinking it was just the coolest thing ever. During the process of designing the collection, I showed my son what we were working on and it blew his little mind too, all these years later.”
On the subject of design, how did you approach the initial design concept?
“We initially explored a range of concepts; some were focused on the sets, whilst others featured a variety of visual components. We felt that it was important for the designs to feature a unifying ingredient so that the collection had continuity, and that this element be distinctively Bond. We settled on the gun barrel, which is used in all the Bond title sequences and frames the design.”
What kind of research did you undertake prior to approaching this coin theme?
“One thing we especially enjoyed studying was the film posters. The posters for the early films were illustrated and the artists producing them were phenomenally talented. The foreign versions of the posters were also interesting and would sometimes focus on entirely different aspects of the film.”
What kind of challenges did you encounter whilst creating the design?
“We experimented with the design throughout the process. For example, we tried out different numbers of segments to the barrel, eventually settling on the number commonly used in the films for that feeling of authenticity. We also tried out a variety of compositions, favouring options where the main subject is generally set at a three-quarter front view, underlapping and overlapping the outer barrel, which gives the design a satisfying sense of movement.”
Could you talk us through any iterations that led you to the final design?
“ ‘Little Nellie’ was a real challenge. It’s such a complex machine; there are so many struts, pipes and mechanical parts to it that it needed to be simplified in the design process without losing the essence of the vehicle. We managed to spend about a week just on exploring how the propeller ought to be depicted. In the end, we circled right back around to the first version that we created!”
What’s next for Bison Bison? Are there any coin themes you would like to design in the future?
“I’d love to be asked to consider a series for the 12-sided £1 coin, which was introduced in 2017. The old pound had a number of design series, so I’m wondering whether this is something The Royal Mint might tackle at some point. We’ve never produced a design for a 12-sided coin before, so it sounds like an exciting challenge.”
“If humans step foot on Mars it would be another giant leap for our species. Surely that would be suitable subject matter for a coin? Always available for that one!”
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