Why the 2000 rupee note is the way it is.

The designers who designed the new Rs.2000 note live in a practical world. It’s naive for me to do a design critique without knowing all sides of the elephant. Still this is an attempt to address few things.

Short answer
The design (aesthetically) could have been better. But looking at the larger context, discussing about layout, typography, alignment, colour and graphics seems to be very shallow.

Long answer
If Narendra Modi or any of the RBI people wanted to get it designed something, why wouldn’t they approach David Carson, Stefan Sagmeister, or any of the IIT and IDC Ph.Ds for that matter? In fact, the designers could have copied some of the stuff from Travis Purrington just like we get influenced from Dribbble.

But thats not the case. Even if the best design guys were given an opportunity, they would have landed up with something marginally better. I am not defending the new design, but making aware of constraints in which it would have been designed.

“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in a environment, an environment in a city plan.” — Eero Saarinen

Every designer has to design under constraints and that is the beauty of it. Following are just few of the thousand things which I found while doing my research and trying to understand the thought process behind the new 2000 bank note.

  1. Language
    The new note should have Rs.2000 written in 17 languages out of 22 official languages.
  2. Latent Image
    This image should be visible only when the note is held at an angle. This is one of many security measures.
  3. Guarantee Clause
    Governor’s signature with Promise Clause and RBI emblem is non debatable. It has to be there.
  4. For visually impaired
    It will be printed in intaglio i.e. in raised prints, which can be felt by touch. RBI Governor’s signature, the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, the Reserve Bank seal, guarantee and promise clause, Ashoka Pillar Emblem all should be in intaglio
  5. Security thread
    Windowed security thread with inscriptions ‘भारत’, RBI and 2000 on banknotes with colour shift should be done for security reasons. Colour of the thread should change colours when the note is tilted.
  6. Fluorescence
    Since all financial institutions have to check authenticity of notes, lets have a special spot which can not be replicated easily. Number panels of the notes should only be visible when the notes are exposed to ultra-violet lamp
  7. Identification mark
    A special intaglio feature has to be in different shapes for various denominations (Rs.20-Vertical Rectangle, Rs.50-Square, Rs.100-Triangle, Rs.500-Circle, Rs.1000-Diamond) and that will help the visually impaired to identify the denomination.
  8. And many other small must haves
    Year of printing of the note on the left
    2. Micro letters ‘RBI’ and ‘2000’
    3. See through Register
    4. Father of the nation — illustration
    5. Handling of soiled and mutilated notes
    6. Legal provisions against counterfeiting
Number panels of the notes are printed in fluorescent ink

Banknote designers are specialised in both art and manufacturing. Just FYI (Currency paper is composed of cotton and cotton rag). The design of money begins with ideas and rough sketches. Then, like piecing together a puzzle, banknote designers must incorporate design elements around selected security features, while maintaining the “look and feel”. Designers strive to retain familiar elements and convey an image that is uniquely Indian and reflects the strength of our economy.

Banknote designers use both cutting-edge, digital technology and classic tools like pencil to develop banknote concepts. They must not only take the imagery of a note in consideration, but also its reproducibility during manufacturing — considering how details such as outlines, tone, and shading will “translate” when engraved and printed on an intaglio press because each stage of the manufacturing process has its own technical requirements. A design concept typically includes dozens of iterations and extensive testing over several years before a final design concept is presented to the Secretary of the Treasury for approval.

Process of making a currency

  1. Raw Materials
  2. Design
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Engraving the master die
  5. Making the master printing plate
  6. Printing the front and back of the bills
  7. Printing the coloured treasury seal and serial numbers
  8. Cutting and wrapping the notes
  9. Quality Control
  10. Distribution
  11. Fraud handling and thousand things.

Surely this opened my eyes to the real world. If I had more knowledge and had dedicated my career to the government, I would have totally given my best to design the best possible currency note. Unfortunately so far I am just learning interface & experience design.

For further reading on currency & it process:

  1. Indian Rupee
  2. RBI currency FAQs
  3. Indian currency security features
  4. Paper money retrospect
  5. Currency issued in India
  6. The new 2000 rupee note
  7. Press release by RBI & Note from the issuer
  8. Evolution of currency
  9. Process of currency making

This is in response to all the design critique of the new Rs. 2,000 happening over the internet.

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