A Q&A with Coin Designer Joel Iskowitz

Joel Iskowitz

Our latest release, The Prince William 40th Birthday Gold Sovereign Range, are the world’s first Portrait Sovereigns of Prince William, and were designed by the incredible Joel Iskowitz.

We spoke to Joel about his creative aspirations, and here is what he had to say about what it was like to design this world’s first series of sovereigns…

What inspired you to become a designer?

I began showing an interest in art from the age of five. Mostly this is a result of positive reinforcement from my teachers and my parents. Later, after having attended the High School Music and Art and graduating from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I found myself gravitating towards the field of illustration, because it seemed to offer a happy balance between doing artwork and actually making a living. On another level though, the nature of illustration reinforced my notion that I still maintain today, that honest artwork which relates to the content of the narrative and assumes that the art should be in service of the message and not the message itself. As an illustrator, designer, and narrative artist, I feel it’s very important for the narrative to take prime importance as the raison d’être for creating artwork.

How do you approach designing new projects?

Based on my first answer, I would have to emphasize that each new design project requires its own individual, bespoke approach. Although in format and technique there are many protocols and guidelines that remain constant, each assignment requires immersing oneself in deep research of the narratives, so that when the time comes to create a visual expression, the image speaks with authenticity. With this basic foundation and approach, I believe it is possible to add my personal interpretation, which hopefully can bring further illumination and add an aesthetic element of understanding and enhancement.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

I think my greatest achievement comes from the satisfaction and gratification I experience whenever I see that my designs have communicated my intentions to a wide group of recipients. That’s what is so great about coins, as they circulate widely and quite freely. It is especially rewarding when individuals who have played principle or even heroic roles in a given history respond to my artwork as faithfully relating the stories they’ve experienced. Besides my coin and medallic designs, I have had the honour of participating in the United States Air Force Art Program and the NASA Art Program. Both of these experiences have given me the opportunity to travel the globe and have first-hand experiences with the histories, on site where they occurred, or where I have borne witness to events that occurred during my visits. The real time and place close encounters I’ve experienced traveling with the Air Force to the China, Burma, India Theater of World War II, the beaches of Normandy and the towns of the Cotentin Peninsula, proved invaluable for designing coins and medals with historic military themes. My experiences with NASA were certainly informative when designing Aerospace themed coins and medals. When my design for both the obverse and the reverse of the Congressional Gold Medal honouring the distinguished astronauts of Apollo 11 and John Glenn was presented, I imagine meeting these heroes after the formal ceremony, remains one of my most cherished memories.

Are there any royal projects you would love to work on in the future, or any that you wished you had the opportunity to work on?

At the moment, I am actually researching a project for a client in the UK that will involve paying homage to HRM Queen Elizabeth II. I am exceptionally proud that in 2015 my profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was the first and only royal cypher on coinage of the UK designed by an American citizen. I’ve also designed a series of coins in remembrance of those who fought in World War I and in World War II for coinage of the Commonwealth. Most recently I have been greatly honoured to have been asked to design the Sovereign Range for Prince William’s 40th birthday.

A number of years ago I was commissioned to create a series of stamps honouring William Shakespeare, and I imagine a dream assignment would be to design a series of coins in honour of the great Bard of Avon.

What was the process you followed in order to achieve the likeness of Prince William?

I have actually portrayed Prince William a number of times on stamps for various nations, so I am quite familiar with his features and how they have evolved over the years. That said, I looked at hundreds of photographic references and usually engage in a process of creating a composite portrait from many preferred reference sources. What is always fascinating for me is to see how the features of any individual are an intricate interlacing of familial genetic information. In Prince William’s case, I hope I was able to emphasize the vast lineage of royal characteristics and traits that I observed in portraits of his antecedents.The 2022 Prince William 40th Birthday Gold Prestige Sovereign Set

What was your favourite part about designing the Prince William 40th Birthday Gold Sovereign Range?

Once again, one favourite aspect of what I do is in the early stages, coming across interesting and fascinating facts and stories in my research. For my Prince William design I was particularly impressed with his military service and how those experiences inevitably inform the character of the man in full that he has become.


You can view the remarkable 2022 Prince William 40th Birthday Gold Sovereign Range HERE but be quick, we are already seeing denominations sell out!