RBS banknotes design collaboration shortlisted for award

Dylan Macdonaldblog

This is an historic week in design and for the heritage of Scotland. Royal Bank of Scotland will launch its brand new £5 note which features Scottish literary hero, Nan Shepherd. It is the first in a new range of specially-designed notes for the bank.

The People’s Money has also been shortlisted for the Commercial Award in the fifth annual Creative Edinburgh Awards.

The design collaboration was led and managed by the Edinburgh service design agency Nile, headed up by Project Lead, Jeni Lennox.

Some of Scotland’s most respected design companies – Graven, O Street, Timorous Beasties, and Stuco – took on roles in Creative Direction, Art Direction, Illustration and Note Design. The resulting creative team interpreted the contributions and outcomes of the consultation process to create a coherent set of notes.

What sets this series of notes apart is the momentous collaborative process. It was one of the biggest public design projects of its kind ever undertaken, with the Scottish public playing a direct and leading role in the design process.

More than a thousand took part in a series of design workshops, surveys and online communities. Participants were selected from all across Scotland from a wide cross-section of society including pensioners and school children.  A team of specialists from fields including botany, poetry, marine science, numismatics and weaving also enriched the process.

Jeni Lennox said: “The challenge was to gather the voice of a nation and turn it into something visual, to find and organise familiar images and arrange them in ways that would remain fresh despite being seen every day for decades.

“I think we’ve created a set of notes that reflects what people told us they wanted all through the process. I hope that when people look at them they will recognise it as the people’s money. There is so much to discover on each note. From the typography to the featured animals, every element has a special, connected meaning that is unique to Scotland and its people.”

RBS Personal and Business Banking’s Creative Director Rebekka Bush said: “Our new banknotes feature the people, objects and wildlife that people in Scotland told us they wanted to see on their money. We were determined to design a set of notes that the Scottish public will relate to every time they open their wallets.

“These notes are unlike anything Scotland has had before. The Scottish public and designers who created them deserve a lot of credit. Every person who has been involved in this project has left a little piece of themselves behind in the design.”

The members of the public who took part were not simply asked to vote for individual visual elements for the notes. They chose the concept as well as suggesting hundreds of design details to be included in the finished notes.

Founder of Graven, Professor Janice Kirkpatrick OBE, who was Creative Director and print liaison for the project said: “I thought it was very interesting that the things the public held most dearly and wanted to celebrate through money were completely non-material – the kind things that money can’t buy.”

“It’s a huge vote for creativity, and with creativity comes entrepreneurship. I think the whole approach of designing these notes was highly entrepreneurial.”

Glasgow design studio O Street created the final artwork that was signed off by RBS.

Co-founder David Freer said: “Graphic designers don’t often get the chance to work on something that will be around for decades, that’s the realm of architects. So it’s great to have contributed to something people will use and touch every day for a long time.”

Co-founder Neil Wallace added: “I don’t think there’s any way if you had sat down with a group of designers and got them to come up with all the elements for a note they’d have come up with these. There’s just so much charm.”

The images the public suggested identify strongly with modest and everyday things, as well with our grand landscapes and more traditional Scottish imagery. The notes will feature things like mackerel, midges, tweed and otters instead of tartan, castles, salmon and stags.

The £5 note enters circulation on Thursday 27 October, with the £10 note to follow in 2017. The Creative Edinburgh Awards take place on 10 November 2016.


Follow the conversation on Twitter:  #PeoplesMoneyRBS

Read the provenance document to find out more about the notes and the process