We love you. Most ardently.
So, when we got the chance to talk to Dominique Evans, the woman responsible for designing the new Jane Austen £2 coin, we jumped at the chance (and it seems fitting to share that with you today, seeing as its the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death…)
Why Jane Austen?
Jane Austen is one of Britain’s best loved authors, and her stories have been appreciated the world over for generations. It was so exciting to have the opportunity to create the design, as I’ve always loved her books, and this year is a significant one for Jane Austen fans, with nationwide celebrations of 200 years of her life taking place. It’s lovely to be part of the activities reminding the public of Jane’s life, work and achievements.
Jane Austen is now firmly cemented into the next chapter of our change, so not only do her books have a place in homes across the world, her face will now be seen on thousands of UK coins too.
How did this get signed off?
The Royal Mint marks significant British anniversaries, events and people on UK coins, and a lot of thought, research and consideration goes into choosing suitable themes.
The options are then put forward for approval by an external Royal Mint Advisory Committee, made up of eminent individuals from a range of arts-related professions.
How did you start designing it?
I was privileged enough to be one of a number of UK-based designers invited to submit designs for an anonymous selection process for the coin. I feel honoured that my design was chosen, and that the art that I created actually appears on what we call the reverse of the coin.
The elements of the coin design are taken from artefacts relating to Jane Austen. The signature across it is based on Jane’s actual signature that appears on her will, and the silhouette is thought to be of Jane Austen. The frame is a regency design which we chose to keep simple to depict regency-era wallpaper. I wanted it to feel as if Jane was watching her characters walk by to attend a regency ball.
Initially I had planned for a quote to be placed across the middle of the coin, but at such a small size, it would have caused quite a challenge for our production team, and would have been too small for the naked eye to see!
Jane Austen is a lovely subject, so it felt quite a natural process for me to come up with the design I wanted for this coin.
How exactly DO you design a coin?
I read as much as I can about my subject, and through that I get an idea of the magnitude of the person or theme I am going to symbolise with my art. Once I have familiarised myself with all the background that I can, I tend to take myself for a walk to clear my head and allow myself to subconsciously take my surroundings in, which helps me to be creative. Sometimes I like to read interiors magazines as well and take inspiration from the styles used in the homes. I really take care not to copy what other designers are doing, be it fashion, interiors or tech, as I want my designs to be original.
What materials do you use ?
I sketch my initial ideas and inspirations into my sketch book – it helps me to move the ideas around from my mind onto the paper. Once the design is in place, I then transfer it onto my computer and use Adobe Photoshop or a similar programme to focus on the finer details. These programmes are great as they allow me to zoom right into the design and focus on the finer detail, which I find a really effective tool for getting my design thoughts to come together physically.
I constantly have to remind myself of how small the actual finished item will be which is one of the challenges of coin design. Sometimes the most aesthetically pleasing and clever of design compositions may not be the most appropriate for striking in 3D onto a coin. Simplest is often best.
Did you get a say about the shape of the coin?
The shape of the coin is not something that I get to influence, as once decided, their size and shape will remain the same for many years. A coin shape will be carefully considered in terms of where the coin fits into UK currency.
What’s your job title? How did you get into what you do?
After finishing school, I did an Art Foundation course which I loved. I then studied at Brighton University which really did instil in me the importance of idea generation.
I started work as a Graphic Designer at The Royal Mint 12 years ago after a diverse career path in marketing and design. When I first started, my job was mainly working on marketing emails or adverts for customers. Now I get to work on a variety of things including coin designs, exhibitions and more.
When my hobby is my work and my work is my passion the only thing I have trouble with is knowing when to stop – I love the projects I am involved in! I find myself working on coin design, coin marketing campaigns, and event design with tons of research and testing. No two days are the same, apart from being both unpredictable and fulfilling.
How many designs did you shortlist to?
My artwork for the Jane Austen coin was chosen outright, which I understand was simply due to the fact that I had placed Jane clearly at the heart of the design. Coin design selection can often go to a shortlist stage, as there are frequently so many established and hugely talented designers submitting, from whom two or three designs may be considered equally as fitting, they might all go through to the next stage.
What was your inspiration?
Jane Austen is such a fundamental part of literary history, I realised that she would not just be in the minds but also in the hands of the nation when she appeared on a coin. I placed a silhouette of Jane at the heart of my design, with a frame around her, as if she were on the wall in one of the houses featured in Jane Austen’s books, with guests passing by to attend a dance. Like a scene from Pride and Prejudice or perhaps hanging on the wall in the home of Emma.