#Cash

How to design secure and aesthetic banknotes

Global Trends
6 Mins.

For travelers, banknotes are often the first visual encounter they have with a foreign country. They are long remembered – provided that the artists have succeeded in leaving a lasting impression. Each banknote around the globe is unique, and each reveals interesting facts about the issuing country. Marc Mittelstaedt, Head of Design, describes how G+D works with customers to create notes that are as unique as they are secure.

Why are banknotes so crucial to a country’s identity?

Banknotes are the “business card” of a country, and every banknote tells a story about the country. Our goal is to create that story with an aesthetic design, combine it with counterfeit-proof security features, and thereby enable efficient banknote production. Notes are genuine pieces of art that reflect the country’s culture – its history and spirit – as they are passed from hand to hand, millions of times.

How do you approach a new project?

We first listen to our customers’ wishes and try to understand their needs – without losing sight of security issues. This is what distinguishes our banknote designers from designers in an agency. Thanks to our experience in banknote printing, we don’t create impossible works of art. Instead, we create producible, customized designs with high aesthetic standards right from the start.

Where do designers get inspiration?

Our designers get their inspiration from everywhere: from other artists and works of art, from foreign designs, or by seeing and understanding art. They also look for ways to blend newer techniques and styles. Art in public spaces, industry, or nature can also serve as inspiration. Designers are always looking for ways to blend newer techniques and styles.

To question yourself, again and again, is also part of the design life. From this, you can draw new ideas. It is helpful to pay special attention to things happening around you and the latest security standards, but also to critically question which elements could be counterfeited in the past and what should be improved in the design.

“The integration of the security elements, and their connection to design and history, gives the banknote its own story“
Marc Mittelstaedt
Head of Design at G+D

Who is on the banknote team, and how do you work together?

Feature designers take care of the individual security elements in the banknote, while banknote designers take care of the overall note: how the integration of the security elements, and their connection to design and history, gives the banknote its own story. We also have engravers on our team, who integrate, in a wonderful combination of art, craftsmanship, and technology, the famous little works of art in the form of portraits, animals, or landscapes on the banknotes and give them the typical banknote style and feel.

How do customers approach a new banknote design?

Portrait of Marc Mittelstaedt
Marc Mittelstaedt, Head of Design at G+D

There are three very different approaches, which can also be combined:

  1. “Do something nice.” In this case, we start with a blank sheet. For designers, this is the most beautiful form of freedom and often a long process.
  2. The customer already has a concrete idea and gives us initial ideas – for example, in the form of pictures. This can be an upgrade of security features or the revision of individual components within the existing series.
  3. A national artist has already created a great artwork that is to be transferred by us to a secure banknote.

As you can imagine, each scenario has its own technical and design challenges, and working with the customer requires a lot of empathy and patience – qualities that our team takes on with enthusiasm.

What aspects do you consider when creating a new banknote design?

First of all, the note must be a secure means of payment that incorporates the latest security features. Then we see the chance to create a business card for the country, with wonderful storytelling. So, on the one hand, we combine the security features on the banknote with the visual aspects and, on the other hand, tell a sophisticated story about the two sides of a banknote. It’s easy to say but difficult to develop. This challenge is a welcome mission for us.

What makes the new 50-rial banknote of Oman so special?

Note: this banknote with the varifeye® ColourChange Patch is a finalist in this year’s IACA Awards in the category “Best New Currency Feature.”

The 50-rial banknote is the first banknote in circulation with the varifeye® ColourChange Patch technology. The varifeye® ColourChange Patch is a transparent window with a striking color change from gold to blue and provides users with front-to-back-verification – and that’s an industry first. In direct light, the main motif shimmers in sophisticated gold, while in translucent light, the LaserCut™ window appears in intensive blue. This effect is visible from both sides of the banknote. When you turn the note, the back shows a contrasting shape and size, created by a laser, resulting in a design that is spectacular and easy to authenticate: minimum space, maximum impact!

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