Norway's new banknotes influenced by the sea air

Norges Bank has announced that designs by two Oslo studios have been chosen to feature on Norway's new banknotes, which will come into circulation in 2017. Snøhetta's design for the reverse of the notes features a pixellated image of the country's coastline, the amount of distortion depicting the wind speed as it whips up with each denomination...

Earlier this year, eight designers were invited to submit proposals for Norway's new banknote design on the theme of 'the sea'. Today, the central bank of Norway announced that designs by The Metric System and Snøhetta will be used on the obverse (shown bottom of post) and reverse sides of the banknotes, respectively.

Snøhetta's design, 'Beauty of Boundaries', renders images from the Norwegian coastal landscape in a mosaic-like pixellated form. Using a modern visual langauge, say the studio, they aimed to respresent where the sea and land meet, reflecting the communities which thrive on the coast.

According to the Norges Bank catalogue accompanying an exhibition of the shortlisted work, the patterns generated on the studio's designs for the reverse refer to the Beaufort wind force scale. On the 50 kroner denomination the wind is weak, so the image is rendered in short, square shapes; while on the 1,000 kroner note the wind is strong, creating longer, stretched-out forms and – while difficult to discern in the images shown here – choppier waves in the water.

It's such a refreshing idea and reminded us of the kind of attention to detail on show in the work of the great 'Ootje' Oxenaar, who designed the Dutch banknotes in the late 1960s – and often included 'personal' touches in the designs, to the annoyance of the Dutch Central Bank (my interview with him from 2007 is here).

Notes shown are note to scale: they increase in length with the denomination. Images from the Norges Bank catalogue

"The obverses from The Metric System are very well suited to the incorporation of necessary security elements," say Norges Bank. "The expression is open, light and typically Nordic. Using the pixel motifs from Snøhetta Design as the reverse will give the notes both a traditional and a modern expression."

The bank is now working to ensure further security elements are designed into the notes. All the shortlisted designs are on show in a new exhibition in Grafill in Oslo, which opened last night and runs until October 26 (Rosenkrantz gate 21).

The obverse of the new notes will be based on the 'Norwegian Living Space' design by The Metric System