At top: Designed by Snøhetta, the reverse sides of all five denominations of Norwegian kroners form a continuous pattern; above: A proposed redesign of the U.S. DollarAt top: Designed by Snøhetta, the reverse sides of all five denominations of Norwegian kroners form a continuous pattern; above: A proposed redesign of the U.S. Dollar
[Update (11/19): A fellow named Travis Purrington is reportedly the designer behind the new-look U.S. Dollar, pictured above and below; we also have more on Rønsen's kid-sourced design.
By now, you've probably caught a glimpse of what were widely hailed as "the most beautiful banknotes ever." Somewhat less widely reported, at least in the first wave of press, is the fact that the Snøhetta-designed reverse side of the new Norwegian kroner is based on the Beaufort Scale for windspeed, or the fact that the jury actually selected Enzo Finger as the winner but that Norges Bank overruled their judgment and, um, split the bill between runner-up Metric System—who, in fairness, received credit for the obverse—and the architecture firm's PR-friendly abstraction. (A curiously contrarian interview with Snøhetta's Matthias Frodlund in Creators Project is perhaps the most interesting window into the process behind the pieces: "[Since] this might be the last [paper] money to be produced in Norway, [it's like] giving the digital world a little sneer—look we can be like you, digital and pixelated, just much more beautiful.")
The front and back of the 100kr note, designed by the Metric System and Snøhetta
In fact, all of the entries are available for viewing in the exegetical catalogue [PDF] (published with the October 7 press release), which elaborates on requirements such as standardized dimensions and colors of the notes—these properties remain consistent with extant currency for easy identification by both blind and sighted users—and judging criteria. Taking the theme of "The Sea," each denomination was required to express a subtheme, i.e. "Sea that brings us into the world" (100kr); "Sea that brings us further" (1,000kr). Other considerations include acceptance by the general public, aesthetic longevity, and, interestingly, the fact that it will represent the national idenitity as "a businesss card for Norway."
The front and back of the 1000kr note, designed by the Metric System and Snøhetta
That much I gleaned from some de rigueur Google translating; the 64-page document (only about 15 of the pages have text) is a fairly straightforward outline of the competition, but I won't deny you the surprise of seeing Aslak Gurholt Rønsen's entry (pp. 16–21)...
Yet it was only after seeing
a Redditor's Travis Purrington's hypothetical U.S. Dollar redesigns (pictured at top and above), that I thought to revisit the Dollar Rede$ign Project, which lives on as a blog following its original 2009/2010 manifestation as a design competition. It's well worth browsing if you're curious about this sort of thing—recently posted concepts range from artisanal chocolate packaging-esque to (unintentionally?) satirical—but a video from March happens to be worth posting here, not least because it's a CBS Sunday Morning segment, meant for the general public:
I recommend watching it in full, but I was particularly interested to learn about a British company called De La Rue, which apparently is the "world's largest commercial banknote printer" and seems to be the invisible hand, so to speak, behind the designs of many printed currencies in circulation around the globe. Inasmuch as DLR and its main competitors Giesecke & Devrient and Oberthur literally make money, they must stay one step ahead of both counterfeiters and each other. And while these companies increasingly deal in digital security and authentication—De La Rue exec Tim Cobbold noted in 2013 that "the banknote paper market is in a situation where there is more capacity than there is demand"—it's fascinating to learn about the measures that they take when it comes to embedding security features into paper currencies. From the fact that "color-changing features [have] seen consistent growth" since they were introduced in Romania in the early 1990s to the fact that central banks often incorporate security measures proportional to the value of the denomination (i.e. the new hundos here in the U.S.), De La Rue's 2013 trend report offers compelling insights into contemporary currency design even as the likes of Square, Paypal and now Apple vie for mobile-payment market share. (Also, whatever happened to Coin?)
Naturally, this element of the Norges Bank brief was paramount but remained largely confidential, and I was unable to determine which, if any, of the major players produces the kroner; for the record, the federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing oversees the production of money here in the States... and their website is (I kid you not) MoneyFactory.gov. Although only a lucky few among the design community will ever have a hand in creating a banknote, it's a fascinating sui generis category of design.
See also: Were Older U.S. Currency Designs More Aesthetically Pleasing?; The Best-Looking-Ever U.S. Money was Designed in the 1890s; Makin' Money: '19th Century Craftsmanship' is At the Heart of Creating 21st Century Currency; Canada's Funny Money: Graphic Design Fail