Designer profile : Peter Soobik - designer of the 2003 Coronation Set


Q. What is the story behind your designs for the two Coronation coins?

I see these Coronation coins as completing a series with my earlier Accession designs (both the figurative and abstract) and I think the themes of change, connections and cycles come through in my work.

Again my approach was to combine historical and personal points of view - a young woman taking on a huge responsibility with the death of her father with the inevitable mix of emotions and determination to serve her peoples to the best of her ability.

In the original gold Accession coin, the ghosted image of George VI was shown. With its Coronation counterpart, Elizabeth, having ceremonially assumed the role of monarch, reigns alone - a young, strong queen.

Central to the design of the silver 50c coin is the alignment of the Crown over Elizabeth's cypher and the "50" also representing Her Majesty's fifty years on the throne.

The designs for the Accession and Coronation coins were intended to follow a story and be complementary - a celebration of events that are part of our history to be seen on a global, national and personal level.

Q. What is the appeal of designing coins?

I suppose that coins are a miniature form of public art - small intensive symbols of different nations reflecting a community world view. Such design is not so much self-expression as a creation of a common/shared image or idea.

Q. What are the restrictions / special considerations of designing coins?

Basically, coins are designed as low-relief sculpture, usually in a circular composition including elements of information - images, letters, numbers. The designer has to be aware of the production process which is a team effort involving many skills and processes.

My best skills are in drawing and being trained in Architecture, I am very aware of the third dimension (and the fourth - time). But a strong concept and story is essential. I try to put as much 'content' or meaning as possible into my coin designs - all elements have to contribute to the story.

Q. Do you have a particular style throughout your work?

I think an individual designer's "style" comes through in any design, but I like to look at each design as a new project with its own requirements. I like to have an element of contemplation or discovery by the viewer of the coin. Of course the coin must be visually pleasing and be clear in image and meaning, but I enjoy giving details to be discovered and symbols that provoke thought.

Coins are an historical record. The commemorative aspect is an important part of coin design and research is therefore often critical to understanding history and personalities and events. It is always interesting to think of how future generations will view a coin, not to mention the future of the coins themselves.

Q. How do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration in the land, nature and art history. Since having been involved in coin design I seem to look for circular forms and compositions. Geometry and order are inherent in coin design and obviously artists and designers throughout history have been fascinated by the proportions and geometry of the world of plants/nature. I am interested to see coins from other ages and cultures, especially the latest ideas in coins around the world.

I usually produce a series of different approaches to the coin design - some are just 'curiosities' (or just plain inappropriate) but usually one or two designs emerge as suitable in discussion with the client. I then develop the idea/design trying variations in the theme and its elements. I like to get feedback on my design - no one has a monopoly on good ideas and outside comments are important to progress in my design process.

Beginner as I am in this field of design, my process is not very elegant - a lot of time taken and many deadends.

Q. What is your work process?

I think of coin designs as very special projects and I like to set aside clear and continuous time for such projects - as free from distraction as possible. My eyesight is not as good as it used to be and I tend to work in daylight hours at my drawing board looking out on our back garden. I find exercise, particularly swimming clears the mind and gives fresh impetus to work and concentration.

Design is a game of adjustment and compromise is usually needed as well. It is difficult to achieve an ideal image or composition when certain elements cannot be avoided (eg. Numbers, lettering) but that is the challenge - to include what is necessary or required by others in a manner that creates a pleasing, unified whole. After all, the coin has a basic function as currency as well.

My training in design has introduced me to the history of Art and Design and I suppose that I have an eclectic viewpoint - there is always more to discover in human endeavour. We always have had moments of insight and moments of foolishness, but I think overall it helps to be inclusive and promote a sense of community and humanity in all the artefacts we produce or things we do.