There are few projects in graphic design that are more daunting than creating a new face for an entire country’s currency. Even in a world of digital payment methods, cash is still being passed through the hands of essentially every citizen, as well as international travelers. And not only do designers have to take into account that there is some political influence but also security and counterfeit to take into consideration.
Thanks to Norway and their banknote project, we are seeing evidence of commercialization of good design taking place where politics tends to be the norm. The country decided to hire eight different designers to submit proposals for redesigned currency that starting circulating in 2017 by communicating “The Sea” in an appropriate manner. A combination of the two designs from two different firms were chosen for the front and back, evolving the theme to give the bank notes a traditional and modern look.
Norway’s banknotes had given a lot of credit to influential Norwegians, which is typically the norm when it comes to currency. With this newer theme of modern art, we see a big turn away from the norm and see how currency can really pay homage to the country without playing a face to the banknote. What is most impressive is the fact that the designs are not just interesting but also quite beautiful.
The Snøhetta Design firm’s original proposal contrasted pixelated backs with timeless black and white photos of the Norwegian denomination on the front. Their concept consisted of showing the beauty of boundaries that Norway is all about, by showing the contrast of hard and soft, the pixilation vs. raw imagery. The current design helps support Norway’s international image with a strong coastal influence. The cubical pattern on the back represents the different materials and colors of the Norwegian culture as well as communicating the expression of the wind force and waves of sea. These elements vary from banknote to banknote depending on the different highlighted theme and denomination.
For the front side of the bank note, it features design direction from The Metric System, which embodies the open and light expression that is typical Nordic. Combined with the cubic design, we can see how Norway is really embracing the past with the present.
Seeing that everyone interacts with money, it makes sense to be able to make a design that is appealing to the eye. And it makes it that much more inspiring to see that these two firms had taken a leap away from the norm by showing a bit of artistic flair with these proposals. This set of currency gives Norway a big round of applause for having an appreciation for this much attention to detail, which we don’t see very often in currency. Norway is a refreshing example of what the future holds for currency design, with just a little bit of risk taking and imagination.
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