Case Studies / RBS

A design of note

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

The context

The design of the RBS banknotes had remained unchanged since 1987.

They needed an update.


The Challenge

With a rebrand to ‘RBS, the Bank for Scotland’, the bank wanted to introduce new security features to their reissued bank notes.

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.

RBS asked Nile to lead the redesign effort, and make sure the new notes reflected the values of the people of Scotland.

What we did

Nile travelled the length and breadth of Scotland, engaging over 1,178 citizens in one of the largest public co-design projects of it’s kind.

We aimed for representation across the whole of Scotland.

Discovering pocket works of art

In one of the biggest public design projects of its kind, Nile worked with members of the public from across Scotland, as well as a team of leading designers and experts from fields including botany, poetry, marine science, numismatics and weaving, among many others.

Through our research, a standout theme – “The Fabric of Nature” – was found. This theme connects the entire note family, with each note containing a feature or cultural element deemed important in the eyes of the Scottish people.

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

Read more about the design process >

  • 1,178

    Scottish Co-Designers

  • 5

    Scottish Design Agencies

  • 1

    BBC Documentary

A video overview of the new RBS Polymer £5 note

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

“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

A lasting impact

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

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.

Chris McQueer talks to Jeni Lennox of Nile about the design of the Scottish bank notes

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