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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to make money with free software...

For a dutch text click here.

Introduction
The Dutch Ministry of Finance organized an architecture competition for which a selected group of architectural offices (unstudio, nox, ...) and artists were invited, including myself. The goal of the competition was not to design a building, but the new 5 euro commemorative coin with the theme 'Netherlands and Architecture'. The winner will be rewarded with a nice price, but most of all with the honor: his design will be realized and will be a legal coin within the Netherlands.

I approached the subject 'Netherlands and Architecture' from two points of view. On one hand I paid tribute to the rich Dutch architecture history and on the other hand to the contemporary quality of Dutch architecture. These form also the two sides of my coin. Traditionally the front of the coin needs to portray the queen, while the back side displays the value of the coin.

Front side

When someone looks closely (click above on picture to enlarge) to my portrait of the queen, it becomes clear that her portrait is constructed with names of important Dutch architects. On the outside the names are clearly readable, while they slowly get smaller to the center. Under a magnifying glass all names are readable, but not with only the human eye. It is fascinating to see how an old medium like a coin can be in this way a 'compact disc' of information.

The tension between what is readable and what not, is also a metaphor how time shapes history. Some big names of the past, might be smaller names in the future and vice versa. To reflect this idea, I chose to order the architects not alphabetically or chronologically but in a new way: I used the internet as a seismograph and ordered the architects by the number of hits on the internet.



Of course this order changes over time and as such this is another time stamp on the coin besides the number '2008'. Only the first 109 architects fitted on the coin, so that was immediately the selection. Apparently becoming famous goes exponentially:



In order to achieve the image I developed my own single-line font system. I let the line width change within the same character in order to evoke an underlying picture:


Back side


Nowadays Dutch architecture is famous for its strong conceptual approach. This translates itself in the fact that there are not only a lot of books about Dutch architects, but also by Dutch architects.


On the back side of the coin I treated the edge of the coin as a book shelve. The books rise as buildings towards the center. Through their careful placement they combine to outline the Netherlands, while birds’ silhouettes suggest the capitals of all the provinces. The following scheme reveals the process:



One of the issues was how many books to take: many thin books or fewer thick books. With one very thick book you would only get a circle. To get the best approximation of the Netherlands you would need books of only one page, which is not optimal either. Therefore I needed to find the optimum between these two extremes which you can see in the scheme below. On the left you see the approximation of the Netherlands, in the middle you see the 'skyline' of the books and on the right you see the difference between the 'skyline' of the books and of the border line of the Netherlands:



The following is the idea sketch for the birds. Each bird flies above the capital of each Dutch province. In the final coin these random birds are replaced with a bird which is typical for that province.



Technology
The whole design was done for 100% with free software. The biggest part consists of custom software in Python, of course within the SPE editor. For the visual power I used PIL and pyCairo. From time to time also Gimp, Inkscape and Phatch helped quite a bit. All the developing and processing was done on GNU/Linux machines which were running Ubuntu/Debian. In the end I had to collaborate closely on location together with the technicians of the Royal Dutch Mint (coin factory). So all the last bits were done on my Asus Eee PC. (I am still wondering why Asus doesn't offer Ubuntu on its netbooks.) The Eee laptop took a bit longer (30 seconds instead of 3 seconds to generate a whole coin), but did the job just fine. For looking up the number of hits on the internet, I rediscovered Yahoo, which provides a much better api for automatic querying than its competitors. Of course the jury judged only the design and not the software used as others used Maya, Illustrator, ...

And the winner is...
I am proud to announce that I won the competition! So soon 350.000 Dutch people will use the fruits of free software. I would have loved to release the coin under the GPL, which could maybe solve the financial crisis. However for obvious reasons I was not allowed to do that. There will be also special editions for collectors which can be bought world wide: a massive silver edition for € 30,95 and a massive gold edition for € 194,95. They will be probably sold out quickly as these are real collectors items. The coin is released in all Dutch post offices to the public the same day as the Intrepid Ibex: 30th October 2008.

Here are some scans of the real coin:





The coin will be advertised 20 times on prime time on Dutch television with a nice video clip (will be available soon) and advertisements will run in several newspapers. Today was the official launch of the coin, with from left to right: myself, Secretary of State for Finance De Jager, the Chief government Architect Liesbeth van der Pol and Master of the Mint Maarten Brouwer...

Liesbeth van der Pol toont het eerste Architectuur Vijfje (Bron foto: Githa van Eeuwen Fotografie)

116 Kommentare:

piotr said...

wow, congratulations :-)

Grimmtooth said...

Well, this tickles both my Python and coin collecting nerves! :)

Well done and congratulations, Stani!

bouvard said...

Echoing piotr here, "Wow". I subscribe to your feed so that I can get updates regarding SPE and have to confess that I knew absolutely nothing about your professional life. If I had been asked I could not have guessed that are a working artist. That said, I love getting unexpected things in my feeds and this was truly a treat. Reading about the creative process that you used to generate the coin and the levels of symbolism involved was riveting and I can not even begin to imagine a design that could have exceeded yours. While I think it is wonderful you created this with free software, I encourage everyone who reads this to take off their Free Software goggles for a moment and congratulate you on a design that is truly superb. It is a beautiful coin and a fantastic story. Thank you for posting it.

pochu said...

Awesome news. Congratulations Stani!

Lee said...

Very impressive from both a design and execution standpoint.

mahonester said...

This is seriously the coolest story of the use of Ubuntu/Debian/Free Software I've ever heard! AWESOME!
You should seriously contact the people from Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, so they can link to your blog.

Cesaro said...

Congratulations on your achievement and thanks for emphasizing the importance of FLOSS on your work.

Ethan Anderson said...

This is amazing! Great job!
You'd think, with how niche this task seemed to be, that it would require some obscure windows-only software or something.. Heh.. Python FTW!

No one in the Netherlands calls their country Holland because north and south Holland are only two of the nation's twelve provinces. EDUCATION!
~The Ninja

Walther said...

Geweldig! Gefeliciteerd.

Jammer dat ze free software niet noemen op de site van de Nederlandse Munt. Was mooie reclame geweest :)

Carlos A Perilla said...

Congratulations, well deserved for such amazing work.

Errante said...

Wow, congratulations. I saw this post on planet python's feed, and had to come and leave some comment. Great job, and great post.

notriddle said...

Wow! Great design with immeasurable amount of detail. Even better, made on Ubuntu.

Dorival said...

Well done, mate!
Congratulations from Australia!
Dorival.

Willem said...

Stani,

Wij zijn er even stil van....

Prachtig gedaan en evenzo prachtig resultaat.

behdad said...

Greetings from cairo land,

Wow, this is very, very, impressive!

/me wants one of those

You made my day!

Regards,
behdad

Dutch said...

Schitterend mooi ontwerp. A big step for FREEdom. A nice stunt you pulled of on the Dutch Ubuntu Forum, you little rascal.

greetz Tico

csaavedra said...

CONGRATULATIONS!

This is just awesome! I think I have an excuse for going to the Netherlands this year!

Lefty said...

Amazingly cool, thanks for the great article, Stani!

behdad said...

I wonder... Any way to have any part of this on a tshirt?

jake said...

Congratulations !!
Terrific achievement.

Greets from Italy

J2mO21Y3qtcFXN44b8MEicfIQ_yedA-- said...

What a magnificent achievement! You can be pround on so many levels! Thanks a lot for sharing this story. I'll try to catch a few of those coins if I can. Living in Aachen makes the Netherlands "next door" for me :)

BackwardsDown said...

Wow,I find these coins very inspiring, being a Dutch guy myself :)

Henning Hraban said...

Hi Stani,
my best congratulations!
The design and its depth in meaning is really WOW, especially the "bookshelf"!
(Since I don't use SPE any more I heard about this on the NTG-ConTeXt ML.)

lonetwin said...

Amazing ! Cheers to your creativity !

btw: you have been stumbled !

Silveira Neto said...

Congratulations. You really deserved it.
Seems to be a incredible art and computer work.

jimmac said...

I bow down before your skills.

André said...

Most impressive! I've always thought SPE was excellent, but this is truly awesome.

townxelliot said...

Nice work, fella. Very impressed.

Kragil said...

Well .. it will be a Euro coin, right?

So everybody in the Euro-states should be theoretically able to get one as change ;)
I get coins with your queen all the time .. but you probably get even more with our eagle ;)

openwhyme said...

Inspiring post. Looking froward to using your coin in Ireland.

andrewsavory.com said...

Nice work, congratulations!
You might also like to know that the Ministry of Finance website runs on free software - specifically Apache Cocoon and HippoCMS, I was a part of the team that built it.

Vadi said...

Impressive - congratulations.

Michael said...

truly amazing modern design, and still stands for so much that the casual viewer can understand. great work and my thanks for promoting the open source community, this is a big moment for us. congrats.

Phill said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Phill said...

This is indeed an impressive story. I am inspired!

While it doesn't directly help you, or probably open source in general, I have just ordered the Silver and Gold commemorative version of these coins from the Royal Dutch Mint.

At least I feel like I have invested in open source in some small way. Plus I liked the design very much.

Congratulations Stani.

hugin said...

I love how you mixed engineering with art--and sacrificed neither. Awesome!

I host a DIY/skills-share programming club at MIT--we call ourselves Social Underground Programming (SUP).

We have (small, usually nightly) challenges for fun and learning, and I was thinking that "design your own coin" would be cool one. We'll definitely give it a try.

I also wonder whether your code is open source. I think its awesome that you built on top of open source programs and divulged your inspiration and process. I suspect preventing counterfeits must go beyond hiding the code, since the images and eventually real coins are available, so it'd be great to learn from.

diN0bot.

RobinD said...

Wow. Impressive.

laacque said...

Goh, Stani, ik herinner me nog twee heel aardige mensen die beretrots op hun zoon waren tijdens de Hardy party in Hasselt.
Ik kan me niet anders voorstellen dan dat hun trots nu onmeetbaar moet zijn.
En ik?
Ik vind het gewoon een prachtig ontwerp. Heel bijzonder.
Ik moet acuut naar het postkantoor.
Gefeliciteerd!

Ko Saipetch said...

Amazing work! Congratulations!

Noufal said...

Saw your blog via the Python planet feed. Beautiful work and congratulations. You deserve every bit of accolades.

tim.rss.gmail said...

So... what has this got to do with architecture?

Manu said...

Awesome imagination and good crativity... :) u rock buddy.

Victor Noagbodji said...

Bravo! Python for ever!

nataraj subramanian said...

Wow man! God has blessed you with such beautiful creativity and intelligence. Excellent! Amazing!

And yet again FOSS shows it's quality and usefulness! Bravo Python!

Rodrigo said...

Congratulations! Your coin is beautifull!

Plouj said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "release the coin under GPL", but I guess you mean releasing the code used to generate the design.

Maybe you could at least donate some of your prise money to some Free Software projects that you used to make this coin or just like.

Dominic said...

Awesome in every way.

Stefan P said...

Congrats man, a really, really nice looking coin, a true piece of design. Bravo !

.: Zoph :. said...

Congratulations on winning!

How can someone across the ocean (in the US) procure one of these nifty coins?

Jelle said...

Prachtig, dat wil ik bij ons ook wel zien. (Hoewel liefst zonder ons koningshuis, dan)

robarson said...

Greetings from California.

I got goosebumps.

Jerry and Shawna said...

this is so ridiculously cool. my mind is blown, congratulations on your achievement!

tim chen said...

How do we get a normal or commemorative silver edition in the US? The mint's website says "Shipments to non EU-countries are not possible." =[

david said...

What makes the dark parts of the coin dark? Especially the country on the back. Or is this a secret of the mint?

a4k8080 said...

beautiful work!

Émilien said...

Congrats! I want mine!

olav said...

What wonderfully elaborate ideas. A real marvel of creativity which well deserves the prize. Congratulations!

Alessandro said...

You, sir, are a genius! This is an incredible display of creativity and skill. I have to get one of these coins!

undercloak said...

'quote' In order to achieve the image I developed my own single-line font system. I let the line width change within the same character in order to evoke an underlying picture:'unquote'

This was done with thte python programming language. Read the whole post.

John Macey said...

Hey,

Great Job! You can send me one! LOL!

I wish the US currency would stop looking like cheap toilet paper, and the coins took on more of that "50 States" Quarter images.

Isn't the US currency sad looking? I've lived in Europe for 10 years, and another 10 years in Asia. I've seen the way other countries look at their currency.

I guess here we just us our credit cards. THAT is the problem.

JJMacey
Phoenix, Arizona

k0001 said...

Congratulatios! That's an amazing story!

Damon Lynch said...

This is fantastically inspiring! Bravo!

toorg said...

Good on you, mate!

Pavel said...

Who is the fifth person on the last photo?

*BLinKa* said...

wonderful work!

Chai said...

Congratulations!!! Highest respect.

Matt Cutts said...

Congrats! Amazing stuff. :)

kelder said...
This post has been removed by the author.
ayembee said...

conceptually, technically, and artisticaly a triumph.

fablously well-conceived and executed -- sincere congratulations!

kelder said...
This post has been removed by the author.
kelder said...

"Pavel, Oct 31, 2:52am: Who is the fifth person on the last photo?"

The fifth person is actually the mentioned Master of the Mint Maarten Brouwer; Stani forgot to name the 4th person, Koos Postema. He is a dutch news commentator and is probably in the photograph because he will be part of the commercials that will air to promote the coin :)

Very nice design, I'll try and get one today.. if I still can!

(Guess removing is visible, didn't - typos)

Rajesh said...

Wonderful! I am sure to cover your achievement in one of my blogs. On a lighter note, I was wondering what would happen if all the currencies are released under GPL :-)

Mankutimma said...

Bravo !! I'm speechless . Exceptional design. I cant possibly find good adjectives to describe the elegance of the coin you have designed. Hats off !!

Quirinius said...

Geweldig! Gefeliciteerd. Nu ik dit open-source- en ontwerp-verhaal achter de munt ken, zal ik de munt gaan halen.

-dien- said...

well done!
what a great job..
greetings from Indonesia

nitrogen said...

I am very impressed with the design of the coin, as well as the fact that you used custom software for most of it. The architecture books on the reverse, made to look like buildings, while also outlining the Netherlands, it all comes together very well. Congratulations.

Sandeep said...

Greetings from India!

Congratulations! I'm really impressed with the design and the whole creative process.

Hope to see lots more of your work. :)


Sandeep

ralienpp said...

Thank you for the illustrated explanation of the process. I am very impressed!

Looking forward to seeing the coin in action.

Ellendhel said...

Bravo !

Quirinius said...

Update: I just went to the postoffice to 'buy' two coins. They're sealed in a credit card size carton. The coins are very nice.

chris said...

Absolutely fantastic

cesther said...

Congratulations!

The coin is beautiful, physically and conceptually.

And enabled by Python, there's a surprise;)

Jan B. Kjeldsen said...

Congratulations.

I guess architects popularity also follows Zipf's law.
See http://www.useit.com/alertbox/zipf.html.

Quirinius said...

PS: picture of the sealed coins here

manatlan said...

Big congratulations (from france) !
Your work is impressive : the coin is really beautiful (I want one !). and made with python/ubuntu : I want one ! Great story !

Mike said...

Wowww!!!, congratulations. I love your post, true and very inspiring especially to users of free open source software.

My Blogs
www.youtechno.info ----->You Techno
www.nichea.info -------->Niche Audience
www.memoments.info------>Memorable Moments

An advocate of free open source software.

uINI9oA9qpc8psFw8mQhnWLx7Q-- said...

Oh no, no accolade to a Python programmer. Nevertheless, be proud, happy and keep up your opus !

myelin said...

Truly amazing - such detail. Congratulations on winning the competition!

Crickx's said...

Applause and emotion from Open Source Publishing.

Your stroke font is beautiful. Have you released the code/design somewhere under a free licence?

CVD said...

Congratulations!

Ervin Domonkos said...

Congratulations! Nice design!

Roland Bouman said...

Hi!

Kudos to you for creating this awesome design, and congratulations with winning the contest - it is well-deserved.

Also, great of you to explain the background of your design and letting us in on the technology you used. Just Brilliant to see you did all this with FOSS software ;)

Regards,
Roland Bouman

Andrea said...

Amazing design, congratulations!

nil said...

Amazing!Congratulations from mainland China.

Is there anyway i could get a silver one of this? I've checked the coin site. Fortunately i can afford one. Unfortunately there's no way to get it. some dilemma like Android G1 to me i guess.

gustavonarea.name said...

Simply *impressive*. I guess you'll have the opportunity to promote freedomware :)

António Mota said...

Nice, very nice, not only the coin itself but all the process that lead to it and your explanation how you did it. Awesome. Many congratulations.

ovigia said...

hi all, and specially Stani, Congratulations for your great work.

i'm a great fan of FLOSS and python, and of course, debian rules ;)

i hope to get one.

now just a naughty question, is there any hidden symbol in the design?
you know, architects, design, money have a lot to do with massonic symbolism.

is there any massonic symbol in your design?

here in Portugal we have a beautiful house and garden all designed with symbolic massonic signs, it's called Quinta da Regaleira.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/isolano/370053436/

thanks,

rj

meitham said...

congrats,
a pythonic coin designed on ubuntu with pygtk and pycairo will be my favorite ;-)

RoG said...

Congratulations. This is one of the most brilliant projects I've ever encountered, and your coin design is certainly the best one I've ever seen.

Poromenos said...

That was ingenious and inspired, congratulations, sir.

Benjamin said...

Awesome! Great work and an excellent concept!

May God bless you in all you do,
-b
http://minosafilms.wordpress.com/

Pedro Ribeiro said...

Outstanding work !!

Congratulations from Portugal !

FLOSS rules the "money-making" business :)

Rybolt said...

Now that is Art :)

Congratulations!

from the United States of America.

anand said...

wow :)
extraordinary!!

from India.

Polepetko said...

Congratulations. Great work.

Brian said...

Cool! Just, cool!

/brian (denmark)

Kristofer said...

I'm really moved by your design and the philosophy behind the parts. Thank you for this wonderful creation and for using tools available to us all!

pinchies said...

Congratulations! That coin is a FANTASTIC design.

Wray said...

Neat!

Wray said...

Neat!

henkvandentoorn said...

Beautiful! Amazing in many ways.
btw. you forgot to mention Koos Postema (one before rightmost person) in your description..

Ashok said...

Very Very Impressive. Amazing creativity and execution. Congratulations for this work of art!

Marcello Hunt said...

wow i really like the book sky line and the queens side of the coin!
where did you come up with it?
how long did it take?

mifki said...

I don't care was you using FOSS or not, because open source software should be of the same quality as commercial and it's the shame that the fact that something was possible to do using open-source software given as some extraordinary fact.

But the coin itself and its idea is really great. When I was reading and didn't know that you won, I really wished you that.
And I really want to have one of them

MrBrown said...

Wow! amazing work! congratulation for this piece of art.

Jonas Finnemann Jensen said...

Is the design free (as in freedom) so that I can print my own coins? :)

(Sorry, I just had to ask...)