W.A. Dwiggins Prints His Own Money

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W.A. Dwiggins (1880–1956), who off-handedly coined the term “graphic design,” was quite a character. In addition to being a polymath of the graphic and typographic arts and crafts, puppeteer, playwright and sometime furniture maker, he was a cultural critic of considerable breadth. He had something to say about just about everything. In 1932 he groused about money. He wrote that U.S. paper currency…

stands as the prime symbol of value in the infinite transactions of a great commercial nation. It is worth its face in gold … but, my God! what a face!

In response to the nation’s poorly designed gelt, WAD had no guilt in suggesting a complete overhaul. His manifesto Towards a Reform of the Paper Currency, originally published by the Limited Editions Club in an edition of 452 copies, reads a blurb on the Kat Ran Press website, “is a passionate and lively little rant with lots of good design ideas for the improvement of banknotes and stamps—and just about anything else.”


Kat Ran Press has just printed a brand new edition of 452 copies. “The original edition is now one of WAD’s less-seen and more expensive books and is often selling for one hundred or more times its original publication price of $5.84,” notes the website. Kat Ran Press’s edition is more modestly priced—and produced with the tools and methods of our time in history (as Dwiggins would have wanted it). In other words, it’s not the original Limited Editions Club object d’art, but it is handsome, with a new introduction by Bruce Kennett, whose Dwiggins biography will be published by the Letterform Archive in 2015.

This new edition features the reproductions here of banknotes and stamps issued by the Treasury of Antipodes, which Dwiggins found to be exceptional and a potential model for the redesign of U.S. currency. “Also included are reproductions of the U.S. banknotes and stamps in circulation at the time of the original publication so that readers can see what Dwiggins found so offensive.”

You can purchase with your old currency or new credit card. $44 for the regular edition, $60 for international orders, $180 deluxe edition.


The Best Designs From New York City, 2014Want to get inspired? Want to see the very best work from the design epicenter of the United States? In this download from Print’s Regional Design Annual—the design industry’s most prestigious competition—brand guru and artist Debbie Millman names the 60 best designs from NYC in 2014.


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →