Why are we making our money ugly? We're ruining one of the greatest visual brands in history. â˜…
John Gruber, linking the story at Daring Fireball, asks “Why are we [sic] making our money ugly?” I don’t think it’s hard to explain. The answer is that “we” (you and I) aren’t doing anything to the U.S. Federal Reserve notes, because we don’t design them and we don’t have any meaningful market choice about what kind of money to use, either. The “visual brand” here is a brand in a completely uncompetitive market.
The people who do exercise effective choice over the design of U.S. government monopoly money (Treasury, the Fed, and the Secret Service) have no need to work to attract customers; their work is solely concerned with confining customers. Hence they have no incentive to be concerned with keeping their “visual brand” strong or attractive; the incentives point towards just making it as complicated and inelegant as possible, in order to make the design hard to counterfeit. Money that was produced in a competitive market, and which relied on customer choice rather than government fiat as its basis for value, has typically been attractive and well-designed.