In 2014, The Central Bank of Norway appointed Snøhetta and Metric Design/Terje Tønnessen to develop the design proposal for its new paper currency. One and a half years after the release of the emblematic 100 and 200 notes, the new 50 and 500 notes have now gone into circulation. Reflecting the importance of the sea to the Norwegian national identity and prosperity, the new banknotes introduce this powerful symbolism to one of the country’s most significant identity markers: its currency.
Snøhetta’s design proposal is represented on one side of the banknotes, with Metric Design/Terje Tønnessen’s design proposal on the other. The design proposals were adapted by the Central Bank of Norway to comply with strict security measures.
Snøhetta’s design proposal explores the notion of the beauty of boundaries of the characteristic Norwegian coastline – the boundaries between sea and land, between land and air and between air and sea. By linking the coastline metaphor with a graphical expression inspired by ancient mosaic artefacts of colored glass or stone, the designers have translated this analogue art form into the mosaics of our time: the pixels. In this sense, the design represents boundaries as a travel in time: a travel between old and new, past and present.
The undulating waves and pixilated patterns of the note vary from each specific banknote design, whether a 50, 100, 200, 500 or 1000 kroner note, by referencing the Beaufort scale which measures wind speed. On the 50 kroner note the wind is gentle, represented by a dense cubic patterning and long, tame waves in a subtle organic wave pattern. On the other side of the scale, the 1 000 kroner note is characterized by a strong wind, expressed through long, pixelated cubes and short, choppy waves.
Banknotes are symbols of a nation. Through its wide distribution and rapid switching of hands, with 124,2 million banknotes in circulation in Norway just last year, the banknotes are perhaps the most social design of our time. The banknotes connect people and create value as people meet to exchange them – a value that far outweighs the note’s material worth.
The final banknote designs release will take place in the fourth quarter of 2019 with the 1 000 kroner note coming into circulation. While the final release will mark a new and fresh start for the entire banknote collection, the release could also be the end of era as the notes could well be Norway’s last paper currency before stepping into a future of digital-only currency and exchange.