As New Zealand received this year’s International Bank Note Society (IBNS) Bank Note of the Year award, one might ask what makes a banknote remarkable.
The general elements that are taken into consideration are colour, contrast, security features, design and artistic merit. But that’s not all and it’s often in the eye of the beholder: what makes a banknote beautiful for some might not be so for others.
In the case of New Zealand’s $5 note, the distinctive designs and vibrant colours are referred to as the strongest reasons for its success. Unlike other graphic design products, there are many other things to take into consideration when constructing a banknote. The public might be attracted to original designs and striking colour tones while the central bank will be more concerned about the strength and durability of the security features.
But there’s also something deeper that attracts people to banknotes: it’s the story behind them. The rarer the story, the more attractive it is. IBNS Director Jonathan Callaway explains that, “The note may not be inspiring as a piece of paper but the story behind it is remarkable.”
The only way to arrive to an impeccable product, however, is through a collaborative process. David Freer, founder of the O Street design studio that developed the Scottish Fabric of Nature Banknote series, states that “Other designers’ input really strengthened it [the Fabric of Nature project] in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own.” Because, in the end, banknotes are printed in millions of copies and remain in circulation for years – a reach and lifespan that can only be acceptable when the end result is perfection.
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