Yes, I said Python.
First, special hat tip to Mario Sundar for finding this lead. Mario is not a coin collector, but he reads my blog often enough to know that I have a special interest in coins. This one is a beauty, since it combines creative visualization with a unique engineering tale.
Here is the coin design:
Here is a brief description, from the Dutch Mint website, on the coin design:
A new 5 euro commemorative coin pays tribute to the history of Dutch architecture. Both our historical architecture as well as our innovative conceptual architecture and modern design are popular across the globe.
The Architecture five-euro coin was designed by artist Stani Michiels (b. 1973). The design on the obverse of the coin pays tribute to the history of Dutch architecture, with the portrait of Queen Beatrix being distinctively constructed using the names of important architects from Dutch history. The artist used the internet as a popularity-meter to determine the names’ order of appearance.
The reverse of the Architecture five-euro coin draws attention to the striking fact that many Dutch architects have also included publishing books on architecture in their professional activities. To illustrate this phenomenon, recent books on architecture rise up from the sides of the coin like buildings. Through their careful placement they combine to outline the Netherlands, while birds’ silhouettes suggest the capitals of all the provinces.
This blog post, however, from the designer, is where the real beauty lies. It’s too long to reproduce here, but it goes into significant depth about the design inspiration, concepts, and visualization at work. If you have a background in design, you will appreciate it.
Here is the summary from the post, and I think you’ll see why this contest winner gets substantial geek cred, as he goes into detail about the technology used in the coin design:
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.
You can purchase the coin here at the Royal Dutch Mint. They seem to still have the gold version available, but no sign of the silver version. Maybe it sold out? If you find it, please comment here with a link.