How “Fabric of Nature” Scottish bank notes were designed

New polymer banknotes designed by several design consultancies, co-designing with the public and experts from the worlds of botany, poetry and weaving.

Update: The new Scottish £10 note designed by O Street has entered circulation. It features astronomer Mary Somerville (1780-1872) on the obverse – and otters on the reverse – so fittingly has been launched into space. 

A new set of Scottish polymer banknotes has been designed by several groups of designers who have worked on a huge public engagement project to create the “Fabric of Nature” series.

The collaboration has been led and managed by service design consultancy Nile, while Glasgow-based O Street created the final artwork.

£5, £10, £20 and £50 notes will all become part of the family of new notes, but so far it is just the £5 and £10 notes that have been designed.

1000 members of the public engaged

They will tell a “connected story” when complete, according to O Street owner David Freer, who is calling the exercise “one of the biggest public design projects of its kind ever undertaken.”

The first note, the £5, is due to be released at the end of 2016, with £10 12 months later before the rest. Scottish author Nan Shepherd features on the £5 with mackerel on the reverse while scientist Mary Somerville adorns the £10 with otters on the reverse.

More than 1000 members of the public including school children and pensioners took part in the co-design exercise, which also saw experts consulted from the fields of botany, poetry, marine science, numismatics and weaving among others.

The public was asked to choose the concept rather than vote on individual elements and they suggested how hundreds of design details might be included in the final designs.

“mackerel, midges, tweed and otters”

The public has identified with “modest and everyday” things, landscapes and traditional Scottish imagery according to Freer who says: “The notes will feature things like mackerel, midges, tweed and otters instead of tartan, castles, salmon and stags. ”

Nile associate principal and project lead Jeni Lennox says: “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.”

Freer says: “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.”

Other consultancies who worked on the notes included Timorous Beasties, Graven Images and Stuco.

Scottish author Nan Shepherd features on the new £5 note
Scottish author Nan Shepherd features on the new £5 note
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