A design of note

How do you engage a nation to create a series of secure and meaningful bank notes?


Scottish co-designers


Top Scottish design agencies

BBC Scotland documentary

It is much more than a symbol of the bank, it is a representation of what is meaningful to the people of Scotland, designed in partnership with them.
Malcolm Buchanan, Chair of Scotland Board, Royal Bank of Scotland

The need

The design of the RBS bank notes had remained unchanged since 1987. However, a rebrand to ‘RBS, the Bank for Scotland’, a need to incorporate increased security features and the introduction of polymer materials heralded a complete redesign of the iconic Scottish notes. 

There was an appetite to try something different with the redesign approach. Nile was asked to lead the redesign effort, and ensure the new notes reflected the true values of the people of Scotland.

What we did

Given the national significance of this project, we invited some of Scotland’s best creatives; O Street, Graven Images, Timorous Beasties and Stuco, to develop the creative concept and finer details for the new notes. 

A series of co-design sessions and online communities with representation across the breadth of Scotland engaged over 1178 Scots in the project. Through this process, a stand out theme, The Fabric of Nature, was found. This theme connects the entire note family together. Every note contains a feature or cultural element deemed important in the eyes of the Scottish people

See how we created The People’s Money

From the typography and calligraphy, featured animals and bespoke textile backgrounds, every element of every note has a meaning connected with the people of Scotland. The notes are a cultural time-capture of what is important, and heartfelt for all Scots.

Showcasing the colours of Scotland alongside our unique animals and nature, means so much more to me than seeing another castle or monument.
Scottish Citizen

The outcome

The final notes capture both the story and provenance of the Scottish people to be shared with future generations. Known as The People’s Money, these notes are pocket works of art, to be held in deep affection for decades to come. 

Specimen versions of the new polymer RBS £5 note
“Every person who has been involved in this project has left a little piece of themselves behind in the design.”
Rebekka Bush, Creative Director, RBS Personal and Business Banking

The notes were shortlisted for the IBNS Banknote of the Year award, an initiative recognising exceptional banknote design. They have also featured in the BBC Scotland documentary, Noteworthy with Chris McQueer. They also inspired a similar design process for Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland.

Read more on Medium

Erland Clouston tells the story behind the photograph of Nan Shepherd on the new RBS £5 polymer bank note.
Calligrapher Susie Leiper talks about her collaboration with Nile on the new polymer bank notes for RBS.
Trailer for the BBC documentary “Noteworthy With Chris McQueer”, feature the new RBS banknotes and Nile’s Jeni Lennox
Two images inset. A Nile consultant running an insight workshop, and another presents back thematic findings.

Other times we’ve made a difference

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Transformational customer service

Helping one of the UK’s largest commercial banks to transform their service model across all channels, designed with their customers at the core.