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10 Tips For Making Great Custom Challenge Coins

Posted by All About Challenge Coins | Tuesday October 1st, 2019 | Topic: Challenge Coins 101

Designing a custom challenge coin sounds simple enough right? You’d be surprised. There’s more to challenge coin design than slapping a logo on and calling it a day. From plating, size, shape, and more, the choices can be daunting. 

Whether you’re designing your first challenge coin ever or this is just the latest in your organization’s history of different coins, following these 10 tips from our art team will help smooth the design process and make your end product much more impactful. 

1. Consider The Coin's Role and Purpose

Get a feel for who it is you’re designing this coin for and why your custom coin design should be significant. Why are you making this coin? Is it recognizing a specific act or service? Is the coin a symbol of pride and solidarity? All challenge coins are designed with purpose, even if it's as simple as honoring a single deed, paying your respects, or just to be sold to raise money for a cause. You are designing a symbol and symbols have a purpose. 

2. Explore Your Coin’s Concept

Sketch out your ideas, collect your content, and come up with a few different variations of what you envision before sending them in for production. What emblems or imagery to incorporate? What colors or text to add? And how do you actually make people identify with a metal coin? Great challenge coins aren’t as simple as slapping a logo on a coin and calling it a day. 

It’s always better to start your design with a clear concept before sending your ideas in
For example, if you’re thinking about having a custom coin manufactured in different plating styles, then it doesn’t hurt to actually put some thought into how those plating styles can change the way details and designs are displayed on the coin. 

3. Start with high-quality vectored artwork 

Look, we love to advertise the fact our design team can help create great challenge coin from something as rough as a napkin sketch or a written description, but there’s no getting around the fact that the better your starting artwork, the easier it will be to create a professional look matching your idea. Not only does this make the initial design easier to scale but it’ll be much easier getting the exact colors and features of the design right on the first go.

Granted, this will tie back to your art and Photoshop capabilities but something as simple as a vectored file with a rough outline of your coin shape with logos and text marked out will be leagues better than a grainy phone image of a drawing in bad lighting. 

4. Draw a design to scale

When responding to a request for a price quote, AllAboutChallengeCoins includes a scaling chart of your design. You can use this chart to help you visualize the actual size of your challenge coin as a finished product and decide whether you’ll need to go bigger if some of the details in your design aren’t coming out as intended.

Whether as small as a quarter or as big as a dinner platter, outlining your challenge coin’s design at the size and scale you want ties directly into how your coin will look as a final product. 
If you need help deciding what size is best for your coin design, check our guide here on finding the best size for your coin design. 

5. Plating options matter

Gold or silver, polished or antiqued, your choice of coin plating sets the tone and visual of your entire design. Especially so if your design uses few colors or is entirely die struck. From a cooler look to a warmer tone, your choice of plating is like the canvas or backdrop for your entire design and you should take into account how your metal choice will influence the overall look of a design. Some of our best work has found interesting ways to combine a coin’s natural plating with typography and color options to create a fresh look.

6. Localize your design

A challenge coin isn’t just a coin, it’s a symbol of your organization whether it’s a military unit, fire department, law enforcement, or business. That means aesthetics alone won’t cut it. On top of a flashy coin, customizing your coin to best express the personality or character of your organization is essential.

Aim to include text, imagery, or symbols on your coin significant to the organization and its duties. Look for ways to localize elements that are specifically significant to your organization’s membership. 

What separates a shiny bauble from a meaningful award is the personal significance an award symbolizes and how it touches on the day-to-day pride people take on their local efforts. 

7. Double-Check Each Design

We can’t stress this tip enough! AllAboutChallengeCoins does its best to ensure a top-quality product but we can only work with what we receive. Making sure every piece of text, artwork, and color choice are spot-checked before confirming the design will go a long way to ensure your challenge coin is exactly how you want it.

We make sure to detail-check on our end, but details like the spelling of a name or the right version of artwork are things you might catch long before we realize something is off. 

8. Send Your Ideas in Early

The art team at AllAboutChallengeCoins works each day to create full-color renditions of the concepts our clients send in but it never hurts to plan ahead for revisions or time to work over different ideas once you see your concept drafted.

Send your ideas in late, and you’re not going to have much time left to actually test ideas and spot-check your custom coin design. Most importantly, sending your ideas in late means you’ll be running the risk of not getting them in time for any deadlines or events you might need them for. 

9. 3D Molds are Great for Texture and Detail

If your custom coin’s design is based on a photograph of a person, building, or a very-detailed sketch, it’s almost always best to get those details captured using a 3D mold. While you can definitely create fantastic designs using a traditional 2D mold, there’s nothing better for capturing texture and detail than having those details molded in 3D.

10. Measure Out Your Coin’s Actual Scale

One of the hardest things to envision is the actual scale and size of a custom challenge coin, which is why we make sure to include a scaling reference in all of our art proofs. Taking the time to actually measure out your coin design’s scale using a ruler or other measuring tool goes a long way to making sure the scale of your designs fits the final look of your order.

This is especially important for coins with really complicated or detailed looks to them, which can become too small to look if you order at a scale too small. 

Make Your Challenge Coin Work For You

Seeing a custom challenge coin go from concept to coin is one of the most rewarding parts of our jobs at AllAboutChallengeCoins. But don’t forget these coins are meant to work for you and represent your unique values and personality.

Whether you see these coins being carried in back pockets or proudly displayed, make sure the final design is something that people getting them can identify with and has a snappy design they’ll love looking at.
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