The two Snøhetta projects in this commentary do not have a fixed location or place, unlike a building. These works support infrastructure which accomplish the largest functions that connect society. The two projects here are a new national banknote and a mass transit signifier, serving monetary and transportation capability. These portfolio projects are extraordinary because of their importance in the public realm.
The public realm is an amazing place. It’s where the action is. It’s where the people are. It isn’t always bounded by a physical space. It is also in the environment of open participation and availability. We can access the public realm somehow, somewhere, and sometime without unfairly owing anyone anything. Most often we move through it to get from here to there. In transit there may be conveniences along the way. The most far reaching and impressionable of all design work is in direct contact and influence with the total population in the public realm.
Norges Bank Note, the Reverse Side
Banknotes make an international impression. Graphics, text, art, illustration and security features on paper currency visually identify and represent geography and culture. Norway has a prominent coastline and maritime history, which makes ‘The Sea’ a strong theme for a new banknote series issued by Norges Bank. A design competition was held, and two proposals were chosen for the two-sides of the notes.
The front face of each note, referred to as the obverse side, prominently features a finely detailed illustration of a culturally iconic object related to the theme are the work of Metric Design and Terje Tønnessen. The reverse side of the banknotes are pixelated motifs designed by Snøhetta. Snøhetta’s unifying graphic analogue on the reverse side is a reference to the Beaufort wind force scale: an empirical scale based on observing conditions due to wind speed.
The series of banknotes includes denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 kroner. Color, size, motif, and other markings all distinguish between the denominations which have subthemes. The reverse side motif shows graduated change in the sequential denominations. With increased value, the blocky abstractions show relatively increasing lengths like an analogue for measure or value. Power, speed and capability for causing physical movement are assigned increasing numerical value on the Beaufort scale.
The pixelated field abstracts a horizon, either the place between air and sea, or the place between land and sea. Most of the reverse-side motifs visually suggest an object on the horizon that appears a blur in the comparable speed that is graphically implied. The blurred objects relate to each subtheme used on obverse and reverse sides of a denomination. In the proposal, the dominant colors of sequentially adjacent notes appear on notes both less and greater than itself. For example, the amber 500-kroner note has some blue (200kr) on its leftmost edge and purple (1000kr) on its rightmost edge. The symbolic colors of the banknotes support a suggestion that there is a depiction of delineated movement in Snøhetta’s proposal.
Money constantly moves ‒ continuously, recognizably proving its genuine worth for sustenance, prosperity, and connecting people. The number of transactions is the number of times people repeatedly perform an act of shaping and reinforcing their culture, by trading with their culturally imprinted banknotes. The Snøhetta proposal for a gradation of motif on the reverse side of these banknotes evokes relative speed and influence with the sea, a natural medium and universal theme. Two proposal concepts were selected for design development by Norges Bank’s own designers. The production of the banknotes includes sophisticated technology for features of printing and security known by currency issuers.
Vy Visual Identity
“Vy” means is a Scandinavian word that is something like a view, vision or perspective. Vy is a new name for transportation rebranding to mark a recently unified services for train and bus. The firm Snøhetta developed the brand name and visual identity for this merger of services. Transportation puts our lives into motion, so movement is a key consideration: movement is a relative change of position through a surrounding medium. The sinuous parallel contours in the Vy logo are a gesture of continuity, meander, and way. It is a symbol for regional transit. The multi-modal livery is recognizable and efficient. The cool, calm signature hues are used graphically as the field (background), areas of fill, or accents.
The bright colors of Vy reference nature and life. The brightest emerald coloring might have deep blue undertones. A single complex color has potential to secure the brand identity in a fast-paced commercial environment. A singular bold hue can be an elegant visual strategy for an operation with more than a century of history. Public transit services have a characteristically inclusive point of view, reaching and connecting all the places and people on the way. Visual branding boosts and promotes an established reputation of reliable performance, in addition to making the experience easier for new and existing users. A convenient fare can carry a person to or across a new horizon, expanding their outlook and life experience.
When planning an itinerary or making a connection, commuters and travelers use the same assumptions and tools. Resources for scheduling and booking a new fare should be clear and legible, especially in the hustle and bustle of an inner city intermodal station. A family of typefaces are part of the Vy visual identity, including a semi-serif that relates to the subtle tapered curl in the logo. The Vy website headlines an engaging message “Hi, where do you want to travel?” with its own semi-serif typeface that prompts a traveler to input their preferences in an easy-to-use trip planner.
Travel is a public activity through a system of roads and rail lines. Regional passenger carriers want to deliver a continuum that make any journey easy. The continuity of a travel experience is integrated with space and time. Transportation design and mass transit service together can be a dynamic public symbol for a region with endless possibility for leisure trips and daily convenience. The profile of the logo has dimensionality with its series of pliable, ribbon-like contours. A new name and branding provide a uniform seamlessness to the delivery of newly joined operations. The recognizable identity shows the strong impact of simplicity and clarity. The trust was always there.
The visual identity for Vy and the reverse side of the Norwegian banknotes are two works from the portfolio of Snøhetta, a firm with locations in Oslo, New York, Innsbruck, San Francisco, Paris, Hong Kong, and Adelaide. Recognized worldwide for architecture and landscape design, Snøhetta makes an impact on the public realm by directly reaching enormous populations through these two works. Visual signs and symbols that move through space and connect people to more experiences are part of our everyday lives. We live in a world that we imagine and produce, adding to repertoire and portfolio. Designing for the public realm is a durable task.
Written by CPG