Responses by Christian Schnitler and Are Kleivan, designers/partners, Metric Design
Background: Our main task was to find icons that replaced the traditional portraits in the original banknotes with new icons that told the story about Norway’s close relationship to the ocean. Secondly, we needed to present a new and coherent design system for the Central Bank of Norway.
Reasoning: A banknote must maintain the people’s trust in the general expectations to the economic system. The design must be able to reflect this. Therefore, we decided that these notes should be perceived as both serious and uncontroversial. Neither too challenging nor complicated, but with a broad and accessible appeal. In line with Norwegian society ideals, the notes should represent all citizens and all parts of the country. We aimed for designs that every Norwegian could take ownership of, and at the same time, tell foreigners something important about our country—our identity, cultural heritage and society.
Challenges: Banknotes are not simply printed pieces of paper. They are sophisticated and highly advanced technical objects with numerous intricate security elements, many of which we do not even know about to this day. We had to take into consideration many limitations in the process that were equally challenging, exciting and educational. There were strict demands and guidelines regarding size, placement and specific print techniques for the various elements and parts of the design. The print techniques included offset, screen-print, foil, UV and intaglio. The fact that all the elements were to be translated into banknote idioms and line art also affected our approach.
Favorite details: All the details that have come together to make a coherent series that works on many levels. The banknotes have also received a lot of praise both in Norway and internationally—way beyond the design community. Having made a notable contribution to the Norwegian society is both humbling and something that makes us proud.
Visual influences: Contemporary Scandinavian design, nature and traditional craft. Norwegian design is known to be rational, subtle and functional. Meanwhile, we are constantly surrounded by dramatic scenery, powerful, sometimes grim climates and unique light conditions. The traditional hand-drawn illustrations are framed by rational grids, modern and functional typography and colors reflecting the Nordic lights. Also, banknotes have a universal visual language—a “banknote design language” which distinguishes them from other designed objects. In order to safeguard this visual language, we also looked at other banknote designs.
Alternative approach: We are glad that the original concept and the obverse sides of the final notes ended up exactly as we proposed. However, it would have been interesting with an even closer collaboration between Metric, The Central Bank of Norway and fellow design colleagues at Snøhetta, whose design is featured on the back of the notes, after the initial design phase was completed.