Meet Jennifer McKenna - designer of the anniversary sovereign

Jun 17, 2024

Coin designer Jennifer McKenna

Experienced coin designer Jennifer McKenna, who has worked at The Perth Mint for 11 years, created a new St George and the Dragon design for The Perth Mint 125th Anniversary Australia Sovereign 2024 Gold Proof Coin.

In this Q&A, she steps us through the design process.

What are the challenges of designing something as small as a coin?

There are always a few things I keep in mind when designing for a tiny canvas. Detail is important, but to create a strong design at a small size it needs the forms to be distinct and bold. The design must be immediately recognisable, so I always put a focus on strong shapes and controlled placement.

Aside from the size, one of the biggest challenges when designing coins is the circle template.

It’s an unorthodox canvas, but there is so much symbolism to be embraced when your design flows within a circle. In my St George design, the dragon, horse and knight are all entwined, illustrating the infinite battle between the three.

Was it daunting being asked to re-imagine one of the world’s most famous coins?

When I was briefed, the focus was not so much to re-imagine the Benedetto Pistrucci design, but to create our own interpretation of St George and the Dragon. This project was an exciting prospect for me. This was a story that countless artists had depicted throughout history that I now had the opportunity to design.
Can you outline the creative process?

I read about the legend of St George and the Dragon to gain a full understanding of its importance in history. I researched different artists’ renditions, from historical murals on church walls to modern story book illustrations. I wanted to study how other artists had interpreted the story.

The next step was to put pen to paper, splashing out concepts and compositions to discover what worked and what didn’t. I then narrowed down the rough designs into three distinct concepts, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and presented them to my team. In this instance, the chosen concept was the simplest but strongest design.

How would you categorise the finished work?   

Much of my art draws influence from ancient Greek sculpture, but I also use techniques and styles picked up from my generation’s contemporary illustrators. My aim was to create a universal interpretation of the legend that would speak to all. I hoped that this method would create something timeless and classic, yet modern.

What is it about working for the Mint that you enjoy most?

I love working with my team of designers. Each designer has their own style, technique and process that have inspired me to explore my own. Watching them work inspires me to challenge myself in different ways.

View the The Perth Mint’s 125th Anniversary Australia Sovereign 2024 Gold Proof Coins