The most beautiful banknotes in the world!

13 October 2014  |   0 Comments   |    |  


Banknotes overboard!

In spring 2014, a competition was held for the design of the Bank of Norway's new banknote series, scheduled for release in 2017. The theme imposed for this series was "the sea", a founding element of norwegian identity.

The theme of the sea was to be divided into the following sub-themes:
The sea that unites us (50 crowns)
The sea that binds us to the world (100 crowns)
The sea that feeds us (200 crowns)
The sea offers us well-being (500 crowns)
The sea that opens our horizons (1000 crowns)

Like the national flag, the banknotes are a true visual representation of a country's identity. It is even an instrument of sovereignty and influence, teeming with symbols that will be seen by millions of people. And if political, cultural and artistic factors are to be taken into account, security issues and anti-counterfeiting measures are essential.

Eight participants were selected to participate in the final phase of this competition. The jury was composed of five external professionals and one member of the Bank. They concluded that two proposals stood out, the one of The Metric System and the pixel designs submitted by Snøhetta design. The Bank of Norway is therefore considering using the two projects together.


If The Metric System's work is very classic (above), the choice of the back is purely amazing! A poetic and contemporary interpretation of the theme of the sea which leaves dreamer. An artistic pixel blur leaving the mind to dream and travel alone. Fold your eyes, and you will see this "island and its lighthouse", "a ferry in the early morning" or "a sunset on an oil platform" ! Admirable!



Other proposals

In a perfectly controlled and transparent design process, the Bank of Norway published the 8 finalist projects. Here are the different projects.



We will note that it is a pity to have retained only the pixel side of this project. Indeed, the design was thought as a whole, on one side black and white photography reflecting reality, on the other side echoing the abstraction of pixel and color... Sumptuous! magical!




This trail also deserves special attention. By highlighting children's drawings, this project proposes a poetic and relaxed vision of money. Children are the future!



Blaest design

Probably the idea of an expanding horizon...



Christian Messel and Pati Passero

This proposal by Christian Messel and Pati Passero presents an anonymous character (at the bottom left of the banknotes), "in contrast to stereotypes of the great men who shaped history".



Ellen karin

Ellen Karin Maehlum, looked at "the microscopic, beautiful and unicellular plankton that forms the basis of life at sea".







Mai Elin Eikaas Bjerck


The Metric System


What about european banknotes?


The European Central Bank put a new 10 euro banknote into circulation at the end of September. This new note, whose tones are more red than brown, is the second in a new series of notes called "Europe", which is supposed to be more difficult to counterfeit. The result remains especially really bland beside the banknotes of our Norwegian neighbours !

Moreover, Rue89 recently had the headline: "the ugliest banknotes in history". That's saying!

Gentlemen of the European Central Bank, wouldn't there be a little lesson in graphic design to take from our Norwegian neighbours?


Funny anecdote, trying to open the image of this 10 euro note in Photoshop, I was surprised to discover this message:


This anti-fraud filter in Photoshop is not new since it dates from 2004. This decision was pushed, at the time, by a group of international banks in charge of fighting against the copying of means of payment using computer tools, in particular Photoshop. This still means that Photoshop "analyzes" our images before opening them. A little creepy...

The measure seems a little strong, since it is not only images of banknotes that Photoshop refuses to open, but more broadly all images that contain representations of banknotes. So don't imagine opening a picture of your son proudly displaying his 5€ bill that the little mouse left him!

Herbert Bayer's fabulous banknotes (1923)

This article on Norwegian notes gives us the opportunity to make a little historical detour to count the history ofHerbert Bayer's notes.


In 1923, the German economy was devastated by the First World War. Inflation has taken hold and prices have risen exponentially, money has become worthless. To meet demand, notes are printed almost every night in every region, in thousands, then millions, then billions of Marks. They were called "necessity tickets". Until then, the notes looked like the note shown above.


At only 23 years old, Herbert Bayer, founding member of the Bauhaus was called upon to design a series of necessity tickets for the Thuringian region, a liberal stronghold, in pre-nationalist Germany. Bayer creates a complete range of tickets overnight. The result is a superb example of modernist design, far removed from the aesthetic canons of the time.


Clarity and simplicity are the first objectives of his work. No more serif-free typography and retro effects. Fiduciary value becomes the central element, all in a spirit of bright and optimistic colours. The only non typographic element is the emblem of the Weimar Republic, as an official seal.

At first glance, these notes were not used for long because their value was quickly devalued.
But their true value was intrinsic and timeless; a message of optimism in a troubled period, encouraging innovation to regression!

PS: Promise, we will try to make a more detailed portrait of Herbert Bayer in our section "History of graphic design".

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