Critical Design Thinking – Norway’s new banknotes

One of the things that really intrigued me at the London Design Museum trip was the new banknotes for Norway. Especially because you had the opportunity to see all the propopals various designers had made, and read the designers and jurys own thoughts about their design. So I decided I would do my own evaluation of the different proposals, as it suited perfect to critical design thinking as a workshop.

When I tried to find the specimen online, I actually found even more. Norway’s nationalbank had published a lot more than I would have expected. One of the brilliant things was, that they posted the actual brief that where given to the designers. So you as a spectator could see what had been given as guidelines. Which was really interesting to have in mind when looking at the designs.

So I hope you will find this reading just as interesting as I did making it!

Norway’s Nationalbanks brief in brief

  • Should show Norway’s identity through the theme “The Ocean” as how it connects Norway. These connections should be seen in each banknote: “50 – The ocean that connects us,” “100 – The ocean that brings us out in the world,” “200 – The ocean that gives us food,” “500 – The ocean that provides ud welfare” and “1000 – The ocean that brings us into the future“.
  • Have relevans for the future.
  • Show Norway’s history and geographical spread.
  • Readability & easy color recognition.
  • Should function as a business card as well as money with higher security.
  • A jury would be assessing the contributions on;
    • The artistic idea
    • Communication of the theme and idea
    • Composition
    • Originality & individuality

My verdict on the contributions



“Opphav” (Where everything begins): The composition through the banknotes gives a good link, this is helped along with the uniques, original and well thought theme, that is followed through as with the composition. Good readability in color and currency. But isn’t very recognizable in terms of being a business card for Norway, where the motifs and the futuristic theme especially aren’t linked with Norway.

“Landet med den lange kysten” (The country with the long coast): Great idea about the kids drawings, that shows the relation between the future, present and past of Norway, where the kids are the future. Easy recognizable, but lacks details in background to be a good contribution.

“Umonumentale historier” (Unmonumental histories):  Radiates originality and charisma, with the illustrations really giving the look to the overall theme of unmonumental histories. They will be easy recognized because of the unique concept and idea. But it wouldn’t be as much recognized with Norway as you could hope. Motifs on the notes is well linked with the sub-themes. 

“Da va ruskje å leggja utpå, men den leiken ville dei sjå” (I have absolutely no idea about this one): Design shows a variety and good link in between the present, the past and the future, and motifs would link quite alright to Norway. But the difference in colors are to small, and the numbers becomes hard to read as well. The theme doesn’t come through either, and is really hard to interpretive.


“Grensenes skjønhet” (The borders beauty): It’s an overall well thought concept, where the idea of representing present, past and future really comes to shine. The pixels that connects all the notes together when lined up, links it all together, the same with the images used. Though the picture on the 1000 banknote could be a bit different, as it doesn’t match the sub-theme and look a lot like the 100 banknote. 

“Det norske livsrommet” (The Norwegian nature): There’s a clear connection between notes and still a clear distinction between colors as well. Uses traditional note design, but is designed with a futuristic touch, which makes them modern as well. There’s also a very good usage of images, which shows the sub-themes and the Norwegian culture as well. The message and communication of design is very clear. The banknotes maybe lack a bit of originality. 

“Utvidet Horisont” (Expanded horizont): Simplicity and complexity combined in one note. The design is very complex because of the ornaments which has been used. A feature that will be able to provide a lot of security. The simplicity then comes from the “Horizont” or the “The Ocean”, which is presented silent in the background. Readability in currency is being lost because of the composition of the banknote. 

“Ringvirkninger” (Ripples): A banknote that is presented in vertical orientation, a really nice touch, that has it’s obvious pros and cons. Goes well with the overall theme and sub-themes. Great composition, with small, beautiful and well thought motifs placed all over the banknote to hint to the sub-theme. Gives the viewing a chance of interpreting the design him self. Traditional style, which links well with old banknotes. 

The final layout

As well as these other things, they showed the final layout that had been chosen, see them here. Which was a mix of two designs, “Grensenes skjønhet” and “Det norske livsrommet”. A choice that, if you ask me, that combines the two best layouts, and gives the banknotes overall originality at the same time as it keeps the traditional look of banknotes.

So why did i do this?

Now that I had the chance, I wanted to try and have a look at some actual contributions from real life. All the tools was there, so I could actually look critically at it with the designers own thoughts in mind + the brief that was actually given. So hopefully all this, will learn me some things about how to composite a layout/design. Which colors may not work together, what pitfalls projects like this may have and what makes great design happen.

A school project? 

First of all, this got a bit more lengthy than expected, but thanks if you actually read through it. But this little study actually gave me an idea as well. Couldn’t it be a cool to do a project on this,  with creating a new contribution?? I think so!

All the tools are there, with the brief and all that. So if somebody is up for doing this, let me know, because I can’t do it alone!

One thought on “Critical Design Thinking – Norway’s new banknotes

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