RBS — The People’s Money

Designing new banknotes for Scotland

This is the culmination of a national design collaboration to design new currency. O Street was on board from initial engagement to artwork sign-off by RBS.

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The new notes are a stark conceptual break from traditional currency, and for good reason—the Scottish public played a direct and leading role in the design process.

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More than a thousand folk from all over Scotland took part in a series of workshops, surveys and online communities run by Nile. O Street then led creative exercises at preliminary design workshops to help determine the concept and content of the notes.

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Facing a mountain of post-it notes and other insight, O Street was asked to develop creative routes for the new notes.

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The team identified two prominent themes that would lead to the creative directions; The Fabric of Nature and The Water Cycle. With sketches and concepts on the table, we worked with currency printer De La Rue to make sure our ideas were feasible.

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The sketching process was a team effort, incorporating artwork from  Timorous Beasties and Stuco.

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The chosen creative route (by a single vote!) was The Fabric of Nature, a concept focusing on natural colour and light, textile heritage, modern futures and everyday truths. Featured on the £5 note is Nan Shepherd, heroine of the Scottish landscape. We also designed a one-off hardbound box for the RBS team as a special keepsake. Inside is the story of the design process behind The People’s Money, in print and digital form.

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Next, it was knuckle-down time as O Street developed the finished designs that would be passed on to De La Rue. We drew one-off modern serif numerals and after seemingly endless follow-up meetings with collaborators, art direction from the wonderful Janice Kirkpatrick, engraving technique discussions, midge analysis, poetry debates and more, we finally had bank notes.

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The final result is stunning. As a bonus, the notes are constructed from polymer, so not only can they go through the wash—they can play records.

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As part of the official note launch, O Street (with help from collaborators PlayDead) have created an interactive 3D introduction to present the background narrative. Download the Blippar app then use the new note (or the RBS logo) as a trigger to discover some of the secrets… and see the note come to life.

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