Designing the past, present for the future

Updated 2017-12-19 11:31:18 China Daily
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A designer works on the matrix of a commemorative coin at Shanghai Mint Co Ltd.

A designer works on the matrix of a commemorative coin at Shanghai Mint Co Ltd.

For coin designers, bringing innovative ideas to life takes talent and years of training.

If you are in any doubt, just ask Luo Yonghui, a senior designer at Shanghai Mint Co Ltd, one of the three State-run mints.

"Coin design is unique and unlike any other form of sculpture," said Luo. "We need to have the ability to design coins that are able to evoke history yet stand for present day values."

Luo has been immersed in the industry for more than 40 years and has designed 300 coins, including 80 commemorative pieces.

When he came into the business at the age of 20, he was young and enthusiastic.

Luo might not be young any more, but he is still passionate about his profession.

He pointed out that the best designs tend to include as many elements as possible on a coin that is only 20 millimeters in diameter.

"On each side there is a national emblem," Lau said. "I feel I am designing a name card for the country.

"A good design needs to have a message for the present and also the future. It should resonate with people today, with people in the decades to come and with people who live hundreds of years from now," he added.

Luo's love of his job is reflected in many of his award-winning coin designs, including one a few years ago that called on society to protect the environment.

A coin model features the Chinese national emblem at the back.

Many suggested engraving smokestack factories and polluted water, but he rejected the ideas.

"As a designer, I think I have a responsibility to help people understand the causes behind pollution when the coin was produced," Luo said. "Fast economic development, industrial revolution and manufacturing were all the reasons behind it."

"These elements will help send a more valuable message to people who do not have the chance to see what has happened in our times," he added.

Reaching Luo's high standard takes years of dedication, according to Zhu Xihua, a young coin designer who has only been in the industry for about three years.

Learning to compromise, when your work comes into conflict with other people, is also important, he said.

"Coin designs have to receive the approval from senior officials, especially designs on political topics," Zhu said. "It took me a period of time to get used to that."

He cited a popular series of official coins that he designed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) and World War II.

At first, Zhu was unhappy when his draft was constantly revised by people "who were unfamiliar with art".

Still, throughout the process, he felt suggestions from other people for such a significant historical event helped him understand it from different perspectives.

"These coins will be kept for years and even for centuries," Zhu said. "So, we need to ensure that their values will not be misunderstood."

"It is a painful process, but I am trying to enjoy it," he added.

A coin model features the Chinese national emblem at the back.

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