Norwegian Banknotes by Metric Design — BP&O
Opinion of Josh Nychuk.
If you take into account all the specific expressions of a country's brand, money, with its essential function as a measure of value, can easily be considered one of the most important points of contact. In this sense, a country's banknote is often the first physical point of contact with that place prior to travel. The shape, the feeling, the color, the language, the security features, the artwork and the legacy of the currency inform the senses and begin to build up perceptions. Norway understands this and wants to show us all a little more of their personality, history and cultural identity through its new banknotes. This article was originally published in 2014 and republished with new photography by Metric Design.
The story begins in autumn 2012; Norge Bank recognized the need to improve banknote security and ensure future resistance to counterfeiting. In order to receive as many creative and unusual design proposals as possible, the bank held an open competition for the design of a new banknote series. The entries were collected and then shortlisted, with eight remaining. These designs were selected by a jury made up of five external professionals and a member of Norge Bank. Ultimately, the team selected designs from two different companies. The design, titled Norwegian Living Space by Metric Design and The Beauty of Boundaries by Snøhetta, is on the front and back.
Norway is a small country, but with a significant coastline of 83,000 km, the longest in Europe, dominated by huge fjords that make the country one of the most dramatic coastal landscapes in the world. As a coastal state with a long maritime history rich in marine resources, the sea has played a fundamental role in developing Norway's economic prosperity and national identity, as well as many leisure and culinary traditions.
It is no surprise that Norge Bank chose "The Sea" as the concept to underpin the design of its new banknotes. This decision breaks the tradition of portrait painting, which was previously and extensively used in many of the bank's earlier design approaches.
Snøhetta's concept is inspired by the impact of the vast Norwegian coast on the country's identity, heritage and industry. Analog digital meetings and pixels on paper become a metaphor for the long border between land and sea. Pixelated mosaics, which are characterized by various coastal details such as fishing boats and oil platforms, divide the denominations. A special highlight is the use of the Beaufort wind power scale as a bearing to determine intensity increments in the abstraction. The 50 NOK note is subtle and gentle and gradually increases to the strongest abstraction intensity, which can be seen in the long forms of the 1000 NOK note.
Snøhetta's design, which runs across the back and as ribbons through the front, is partly based on the ideas and works of the German physicist Peter Richter. In particular, there are similarities to the book The Beauty of Fractals, which contains complex mathematical computer-generated images. These resonate in the entire technical detail of Snøhetta's design.
The bank's decision to select a theme based on an outstanding element of the country's natural environment conveys an important aspect of Norwegian identity without appearing "nationalistic". In this regard, the approach feels as if it is something "for the people" and avoids any arrogant idea of authority or institution in favor of trustworthiness.
The competition catalog with all designs is worth a look, but only available in Norwegian. Although there are several great designs, I think the decision to combine the designs submitted by Snohetta and The Metric System was an intelligent decision. In its figurative realism, the Norwegian living space captures a traditional concrete rational expression that can be felt in our perception of physical reality, while The Beauty of Boundaries, with its elegant and abstract expression and its openness to interpretation, reaches an ambitious camp. The contrast between the two is a bold and ambitious amalgamation of tradition and modernity, a look back and forward-thinking.
Money was and is an idea. It is an abstract measurement of the value represented by the denomination that appears on every note. At a time when money is becoming more and more virtual, Norway will be the first country to graphically depict the transformation of money exchange in the digital age within its physical banknote.
Opinion of Josh Nychuk
Josh Nychuk is a Canadian graphic designer based in New York. His freelance design work focuses on projects in the areas of visual identity, editorial design and typography. He teaches and writes about graphic design.
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