Emblazoned with official seals and portraits of leaders, a nation’s currency is often one of its most recognizable statements of design. And in the United States, a single bill can circulate for years, guaranteeing that each gets thousands of views.
This ubiquity, coupled with the transgressive force of currency defamation, makes it an enticing substrate for designers looking to interrogate institutional power.
Patriotism ≠ Consumption
In the wake of 9/11, U.S. President George W. Bush told citizens that the best thing they could do to help the country was go out and spend money.
In response, San Francisco designer Mark Fox created an edition of thirty $1 bills altered with the phrase “Patriotism ≠ Consumption”.
Fox placed the ≠ symbol so its bars overlayed George Washington’s eyes and mouth. The screen-printed words were set in HTF Leviathan, a hefty gothic inspired by type from the Industrial Revolution, at the dawn of commercial advertising.
Fox used the typeface for another project around the same time: a commentary on Bush’s push for war.
Almost a decade later, designers Ivan Cash and Andy Dao also modified the dollar bill for political purposes—this time, in support of the burgeoning Occupy movement.
On September 17, 2011, protesters set up an encampment in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. By October 9, similar camps had sprung up in nearly one thousand cities around the world.
Under the rallying cry “We are the 99 percent,” their grievances were many: the 2008 mortgage crisis and the U.S. government’s bailout of the banks that had defrauded the American people, the ever-widening income disparity, and predatory student loans and mortgages.
As the movement gained steam, Cash and Dao got to work with rubber and ink…
…illustrating the economic disparities in a series of infographics and provocations, and stamping them onto dollar bills.
Their charts showed how much the average worker earned compared to the average CEO, and the difference in income growth between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent.
A tagline invited readers to OccupyGeorge.com where they could see all the designs, and then download the templates to print and distribute their own bills.