snøhetta gives new look to back of norway’s banknotes
all images courtesy of snøhetta




following a competition held by the central bank of norway, designs have been selected for the country’s new banknotes, with the backs featuring graphics by snøhetta and the fronts by the metric system. the team and norges bank will be fine-tuning the schemes to incorporate security elements and refine motifs. the new currency is intended for initial issuance in 2017 at the earliest.

snohetta norway new banknotes designboom

(above) the metric system’s proposal, to be featured on the front of the new banknotes
(below) snøhetta’s design will be featured on the back of the NOK notes
image courtesy of norges bank




based on the theme of ‘the beauty of boundaries’, snøhetta conceived a graphic language referential to norway’s landscapes, and in particular their long coastline — ‘the transition between sea and land’. the design for the backs of the banknotes is organized as pixelated compositions, which dually represent digital and analog imagery. in abstract ways, the mosaic-like motifs allude to dynamic environmental forces such as wind and waves, while organizing themselves about legible horizon lines.


these cubical patterns will be complemented by the metric studio’s proposal, ‘norwegian living space’. the design utilizes typically nordic imagery, including a lighthouse, fishing boat, historical viking vessel, and other depictions of sea life.

snohetta norway new banknotes designboom

each of the pixelated images features a legible horizon line




for the notes’ fronts, snøhetta proposed a series of black and white photographic images which portray the coutry’s coastline in various ways. the gray-scale tones contrast the vibrant colors of the pixelated compositions, and also, ‘complement the norwegian style and tone’. through their open ended nature, the images allow for various readings and allow for a diverse range of interpretations.

snohetta norway new banknotes designboom

the black and white images contrast the vibrant coloration of the pixelated compositions




the design team expands upon the scheme’s intentions:


‘our organic pattern abstracts the sea. seen in connection with the rational cubical pattern, it emphasizes the differences between the soft and the hard. both patterns follow the beaufort scale, as an expression of wind force, affecting the waves of the sea. on the 50 NOK note the wind is gentle, represented by short, cubical shapes and long, tame waves in the organic pattern. on the 1000 NOK note the wind is strong, expressed through sharp long shapes on the cubes and short waves.’

snohetta norway new banknotes designboom

horizontal lines from the back side transition to the notes’ front




snøhetta introduces its proposal with the following basis:


‘human beings settle nearby rivers, mountain chains, mountain passes, and coasts. we settle near boundaries – near the boundary between one element and the other. the beauty of boundaries is about the transition between sea and land, where something meaningful and interesting happens. over time the sea becomes commonplace, just as land easily becomes so. however, where sea and land meet there is life. there is life in the same way as life on earth exists between sea and air, between land and air. where water meets earth, soft meets hard, wet meets dry, life is created.’

snohetta norway new banknotes designboom

the 500 NOK note depicts an image of a parent and child at the norwegian sea’s edge

snohetta norway new banknotes designboom

the 1000 NOK note takes a more purely horizontal composition