Norges Bank Brings Innovation to the Table

24 Jan 2018  Wed

The Nordic central bank has restructured how its banknotes are designed, incorporating top-notch security and an innovative awareness campaign.

Norwegian central bank also adopted a philosophy to break many design principles as they set about introducing a new series of banknotes.

However, Norway never has had a systemic counterfeit problem; its previous series of notes was beginning to show signs of age, with regards to security.

When developing the new series, the central bank first had to decide whether it would develop the existing Nkr50 billion ($6.3 billion) designs already in circulation or start from scratch.

The most important challenge for the central bank was picking an overarching theme for the banknotes. Five banknotes were to be printed, so five subthemes were created to aid the design process of juxtaposing how the sea has brought economic prosperity to the Nordic nation. In 2013, Norges Bank’s in-house design team rolled out some of the key details. The main colours of the notes would not change, and cotton would remain the substrate. There was a decision to make all the notes of the same height as that would reduce the use of paper. Tactile marks for the visually impaired were also incorporated into the design brief.

Departing from traditional practices once again, the central bank then invited the public to submit designs for the new series. 70 designers put forward designs for the new notes, eight of which were selected and presented before the central bank’s board for judging.

A design from Oslo-based Metric Design was chosen for the front of the banknotes. Banknotes tend to be based on simple pictures.

Many are drawn using computer-aided design tools. Norges Bank, on the other hand, has a tradition of converting designs freehand into line drawings. For the Nkr100 note, one of the two banknotes to be released into circulation in 2017, former Norges Bank banknote designer Sverre Morken was brought in to convert Metric’s longboat design.

But while the fronts of the notes are steeped in tradition, the reverse sides of the notes tell a very different tale. Through experimentation with other submissions, Snøhetta’s stood out as a clear winner.

Advanced security features have been added to the maritime designs. Metallic and colour-changing holograms have been used on anchor chains and rings, symbolising ripples in the water. Meanwhile, puffins appear as watermarks and small images only visible under ultraviolet light. The central bank has also integrated a security thread, micro-lettering, iridescent elements into the banknotes.

With regard to the design, the central bank got into an intense period of testing with French printer Oberthur Fiduciaire, before large-scale printing could begin. A limited print run of the Nkr100 banknote took place, laying the groundwork for the official note, which entered circulation in May 2017.

The Nkr 100 note was released simultaneously with the Nkr 200 note, which had been given the theme of “The sea that feeds us”, with the cod chosen as the central motif.

The central bank’s remake of the famous Norwegian comedy song Torsken Kommer (“The cod is coming”) helped in promoting the new banknotes in an innovative way.

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