Todays, internet transaction is invading offline world. However, it is still impossible for our life without paper money or any kind of banknotes. Because paper money is not only the traditional payment method, but also the symbols of societies. Therefore, design of banknotes or paper money is so important that will bring you inspiration and lessons from their designs.
1. Ancient Banknotes in China
Using paper money is as old as paper. Ancient Chinese people use paper to transfer letters of credit for the long distance transaction from 618 AD. They are so cleaver in the way using it and describing them in the paper. This kind of money names fei-chien or “flying money.”
The paper notes which is still maintained todays were issued in the Ming Dynasty in 1368 to 1399. This money size is like a legal document, and they were produced from the recycled gray mulberry bark paper.
They are really effective in that time. However, by the 15th century, China had to remove paper notes because of high inflation. Such a pity, because Chinese paper money appeared before European, and 3 centuries before it became popular all around the world.
Lesson: Accessibility issue
Although the limited resources and design tools, the Chinese people at that time still can designed a easy understanding product. So, everyone can use or read it. In additional, there is a draw of 2 strings (one holding 10 coins), that’s why anyone doesn’t know how to read still can understand the value of money they hold.
The paper money was designed with complex patterns, dragons and clouds. This makes the money be unique and difficult to make the fake one.
So, when you work with accessibility, you need to make content be able to perceived, navigated and interacted with any style.
2. US Dollar
The US dollar was issued in the early of 1860s by US Treasury in order to help finance of the Civil War. The portrait of Salmon P. Chase was used to illustrate for this first US banknote.
The first dollars had a green on the back. Because American people think that this colour is stability and growth. Therefore, green in the dollars became the traditional colour in the American paper money. Beside, the dollars are also printed with the black colour. However, this colour was criticized because of not being accessible for the visually impaired.
The US Educational Series banknotes in 1896 is the most beautiful paper money design in USA. However it was given up because of of controversy due to the classical female figure depicted on it.
The next dollar design was also critisized in the media for a lack of aesthetic and legibility. Michael Bierut wrote in The Atlantic magazine: “Anyone trying to understand our national values would be baffled by the rococo Victoriana and Masonic mumbo jumbo that festoon a dollar bill.”
The current $100 dollar is the newest banknote issued on 10/2013. It is better in design and accessibility. This “Benjamin” dollar got the special anti-counterfeiting features, one of them is the complex effect when the dollar is exposed to light directly.
Althought, Benjamin Franklin’s portrait appears in so many banknotes from 1914. Brian Thompson’s design focus on the other aspects of Benjamin’s looking. So, inkwell and script from the Declaration of Independence was added to remind American that Franklin is the one of people who design and edit the Declaration
From 2009, because of the US recession, Richard Smith called everyone to join to design the US currency. And the submissions from enthusiasts continue to come from all over the world.
Lesson: Redesign Wirely
The US currency history proves that redesigning is more difficult than designing from the beginning. Because people are usually afraid of that the new one is less effective, so they often avoid the huge changes. However, it seems safer because redesigning can inherit the strong points from the original one.
3. Notgeld: German banknotes
Notgeld (emergency money) was issued by the other body, not centre bank. They was printed in the hyper inflation period. (World war I). It was not only the bill, but also the a powerful force for raising the spirits of a desperate society although banknotes were printed almost nightly in every area.
Almost Notgeld design based on history and historical subjects and heraldic images to remember the unlucky past. While the rest (one desined by Herbert Bayer) was minimal, modernist aesthetic to give people motivation to create the better future.
You can see that Notgeld if the golden mine for anyone loving typography
Lesson: lound visuals draw attention
A impressive looking can be achieved by mixing colours, contrast, gradients, as well as using ornate item to make sure that your design is still attractive although it’s not on the top page.
4. European banknotes
The European Monetary Institute (EMI) started a competition for designing the European paper money in 2/1996. This design is the big challenges for designers because it will be used in 28 countries. So, there was no bias in this competiton. All design was required to be easy to recognize, secure against counterfeiting and aesthetically attractive, not to mention accessible to people with impaired vision.
After 7 months, the EMI’s council chose the winner. The design belong to the Australian guy Robert Kalina. He designed the bill based on the “ages and styles of Europe”. Each feature represent for a period of European history.
The banknotes changed a litle bit in design 5/2013 and enhance security
All the design process included a survey for everyone to choose the most suitable features and design. Although the European banknote design is not the most impressive, it is an excellent balancing of everyday objects and the uniqueness of this social symbol.
Size of the wallet is one of the hundreds design right after designing the banknotes.
Lesson: The universal design approach
European banknote is the standard example for global design. These design need to include a cultural and political message and accessibility features. Furthermore, it also need to be suitable for user’s expectations, highlights the most important things and remove the unnecessary complexity.
5. Swiss Franc banknotes
Swiss Franc is the most secure banknote and the most in this world. Each banknote is a piece of art with numbers and labels. 8 series of Swiss franc bills were printed since 1907. Each series were design with different size and colour. All of them were focus on elaborate layouts, typography and colour.
All 8 series have to adopt by5 countries: Mexico, Colombia, Bermuda, Venezuela and Nicaragua after it’s issued.
Manuel Krebs won the design competition in 2015 for the ninth banknote series. He attempted to enhance human factor by incorporating emotion into it. However, it was criticized because of the blood cells and embryos design.
Therefore, the Swiss National Bank chose the second one designed by Manuela Pfrunder..
Lesson: Paying attention to orientation
Focus on the vertical and horizontal positions because this will help designers so much on providing content. When you design the orientation of a theme or anything else, consider to the priority of the content throughout materials or devices.
6. Norwegian Krone
In 10/2014 Norges Bank (Norway’s central bank) also launched the design competition for the new banknote series.
One of the necessary feature in the design is security. So designers incorporate numerous anti-counterfeiting features in their concepts.
Metric System’s design brought the abstract classic appearance with the features of sea: ships, fish, a lighthouse and people resting by the sea.
The rainbow in the new design seems to blow the new wind for this krone. Along with guilloches, it was the strongestsecurity features of Norwegian banknotes. However, this technique has been abandoned because of the development of other printing methods, such as: traps, screen, or scan
Norway’s banknote design is so ingenious on many levels. For example: smart connection between the past and present or the seamless blend of classic and avangarde. So it can be a symbol for country’s values to both citizens and the world.
Lesson: Embrace constraints
Like many banknote design, The Krone has many limitations. However, it’s the chance for designer to embrace constraints and make a creation.
When make a design with many limitations, just see it as a guidelines, so you will feel it much easier. Keep your mind always open, the breakthrough will come to you soon.
Learning From Banknkotes Design
To recap, here are lessons we can learn from banknotes design
- Accessibility is important
- Redesign wisely
- Loud visuals draw attention
- Consider a universal design
- Pay attention to orientation
- The Swiss franc set the trend for portrait orientation in banknotes.
- Embrace constraints
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