It’s a known fact that challenge coins started with military service members, but it’s not clear when or how. Because challenge coins didn’t begin as a sanctioned item, there is debate as to whether challenge coins date back to WWI or Vietnam.
Needless to say, challenge coins have transcended military usage. Now, many different organizations and institutions use challenge coins to honor achievements or recognize milestones.
If you’re interested in designing your own custom challenge coin, you’re in the right place. We have plenty of tips and tricks to make your challenge coin stand out.
Read on for everything you should consider when coming up with a challenge coin design.
Look at Existing Challenge Coins
If you’re thinking about creating a custom challenge coin, it’s important to learn a little bit about challenge coin history. As we mentioned already, challenge coins originated in the US military. From there, they became popular with other service forces, which means that you’ll also find firefighter, EMT, and police coins.
Now, private organizations have also gotten in on the action. When you’re getting ready to come up with your own design, it’s useful to look at traditional challenge coins as well as the coins private organizations have come up with over the years. This can give you a sense of what elements to include in a timeless yet modern challenge coin.
Start Brainstorming Basic Design Ideas
The next step is to start thinking about the kind of imagery and language you want to include in your design. You can incorporate your company’s logo, for example, or classic American imagery like the bald eagle or stars and stripes. Keep in mind that your design should directly reflect the industry or award it’s being created for.
Not an artist? You don’t need to come up with the exact design, yourself. You can even create a vision board using websites like Google Images or Pinterest to pass on to your challenge coin artists. Don’t forget to include any words you want to appear on your challenge coin, taking size and space into account.
Select Your Challenge Coin Size and Shape
Classic challenge coins are perfect circles with a circumference between 1.75 and 2 inches. Anything smaller than that isn’t recommended because you’ll be limited in design options—plus coins that small are difficult to display and easy to lose. Anything over 2 inches is considered oversized, and may cost more than baseline prices.
Round coins aren’t your only option. You can also create coins in other geometric shapes, like triangles or rhombuses. Alternatively, you can ditch the classic coin idea altogether, creating a bottle opener or multitool using the same design elements that you’d see on your typical challenge coin (i.e., metal finishes and enamel colors).
Don’t Forget Weight and Texture
When you’re creating a custom challenge coin design, you’ll need to account for weight and texture in addition to circumference and shape. Weight is going to impact the thickness of your coin, with 3 millimeter coins weighing the least and 6 millimeter coins weighing the most.
Texture can give your challenge coins more visual depth and detail. A two-dimensional challenge coin will still have a raised and a recessed layer. A three-dimensional challenge coin will have raised artwork to create more recessed spaces, which can look and feel impressive.
Add Color and Plating
At this stage, you only have a few more decisions to make. The first is to decide on colors, which will be added to your challenge coin using enamel. Most challenge coin designers offer a variety of enamel options including:
- soft enamel
- hard enamel
- matte enamel
- glitter enamel
- glow-in-the-dark enamel
You’ll also have a wide range of colors to choose from, though we recommend limiting your color palette to five or fewer to avoid overwhelming the design. You can have color on both sides of your challenge coin or leave the backside color-free.
In addition to color, you’ll need to think about plating. Plating will give your challenge coin that complete, polished look and once again, you have a lot of options to choose from. The most popular choices are gold and silver, but you can also pick metals like bronze and copper or you can go with an out-of-the-box plating like blue or green.
Partner With the Pros
Now, it’s time to find a professional challenge coin design company that can help you to bring your design ideas to life and create your challenge coins. It’s useful to take a look at a specific company’s buying guide as you make the above decisions to ensure that you stay within your budget.
Unless you do have a completed design you want to use, the art department will take your ideas and come up with a design. Many companies offer this service for free or at a low cost, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.
Request Revisions as Needed
If the design your challenge coin design company creates isn’t exactly what you had in mind, ask for revisions. Keep in mind that some companies do charge a small fee for revisions. However, it’s worth the price, because you don’t want to place a bulk order of challenge coins that don’t suit your needs or vision.
Design a Challenge Coin That Stands the Test of Time
Challenge coins have a rich history, even if some of the facts are up for debate. Now, all sorts of organizations and institutions use challenge coins to commemorate significant achievements or events. Use this guide to create your own challenge coin that will stand the test of time.
Challenge coins can boost morale and strengthen company identity. For more ways to improve your business, take a look at our business section.