The Oblong Country

Giving tradition a run for its money

There are around 340 million banknotes in circulation in Sweden. The series of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000-krona notes was designed at the end of the 1980s, before current banknote security features were what they are today. In October 2015, the Sveriges Riksbank introduced a new set of Swedish banknotes to equip its currency with state-of-the-art protection against banknote forgery.

For SDL, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design something that would tell a story for millions, that every adult Swede would have in their hand every day. With this in mind we entered a competition along with 48 other studios, artists and illustrators. We tried many variants on the traditional banknote, including a vertical format, printing techniques, collage techniques, alternative placements of the security features, and different styles of portraiture. The set of designs we submitted struck a balance between tradition and modernity, with engravings by Martin Mörck and modern, sans serif typography and a series of landscapes that, when the notes were placed end-to-end, formed a journey through Sweden’s countryside with a single, unbroken horizon.

The entry, titled The oblong country, represented the kind of step towards modernity that could serve as a symbol of Sweden’s innovative, forward-looking spirit.