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Designing Banknote Identity


  • Hans de Heij


Confidence in banknotes is entirely based on trust in the currency, the organisation behind it and the authenticity of the note. The authenticity may be verified by an authenticity check, one of the four main user functions of a banknote; the others are value recognition, handling and (communication) message. Central banks may follow different banknote design policies, like putting 'authenticity check' first. In all combinations the final banknote identity is made by the 'design sum' of all functions. Scientific literature to support these decisions is not available and banknote identity issues are rarely discussed at conferences on banknotes. This study addresses this lack by looking into development metrics and contributing to a better understanding of identity subjects. Once the desired identity of the banknote has been described, the banknote may be designed. These two concepts, banknote identity and banknote design, are brought together in this study. Several design methods are introduced to support the development of an identity policy, like positioning and balance diagrams, familiarity and design freedom. To be perceived as a banknote, a new design has to carry several prototypical banknote design elements; the study describes 37 of such elements, divided in currency and banknote elements. Although general principles are described, the focus of the study is on the former guilder banknotes and on the euro bank notes. In 2011 De Nederlandsche Bank researched which of these design elements are contributing most to the European identity of the euro cash money. The main conclusion of the study is that euro banknotes are designed according to the status quo of national banknotes based on trust. Supranational banknotes require an appropriate, different design policy, since they are a next development stage of tangible money.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans de Heij, 2012. "Designing Banknote Identity," DNB Occasional Studies 1003, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:dnb:dnbocs:1003

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    Design methodology; banknote design; banknote identity; banknote communication;

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