Norway's Colorful New Banknotes Are a Design Masterpiece

© calle huth / studio illegal

Architectural firm Snøhetta and graphics company Metric Design team up to redefine the Scandinavian country’s currency.

It may be the land of fjords, fish, and functional, minimalist design but Norway is about to get a whole lot more colorful. In 2014, architectural powerhouse Snøhetta and graphics studio Metric Design jointly won a competition by the Central Bank of Norway to re-imagine the country’s currency. This week, the pair's 50 and 500 notes have finally gone into circulation. In vibrant, primary colors, the bills represent the importance of the ocean and nature to Norwegian national identity and seek to celebrate the “beauty of boundaries” and geographical touch points between land, air, and sea.

Snøhetta’s designs, which occupy one side of the currency, are pixelated to invoke glass mosaic pieces and chiseled stones. An homage to the Beaufort scale, which measures wind speed, the newly released 50 kroner note is a “gentle wind,” as represented by dense cubic patterning and mild, rolling waters, while the 1,000 kroner note, to be released in 2019, will feature a fierce gust of pixelated cubes and rocky waves. The notes' alternate sides, conceptualized by Metric Design, pay tribute to the "Norwegian living space" and traditional Nordic imagery, referencing lighthouses, Viking vessel, and other seafaring ephemera, captured in photo-realistic detail. (The first bills in the series, 100 and 200 notes, quietly went into circulation in 2017.)


© calle huth / studio illegal

The new designs come as part of a larger plan to make currency in the Nordic country harder to counterfeit and safer to use. While the government has hinted Norway may soon become a cashless society, for now, these new notes are highly accessible (and collectible) Scandinavian works of art.