Designers Rip Into The New $5 Note

Designers Rip Into The New $5 Note

The new $5 note has received a lashing the past 24 hours.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) revealed the design of the $5 note pending its official release on September 1 this year.

But not everyone is loving it. Within hours of the RBA release, articles popped up around the interwebs parodying the design. Below is the new note, sans parodies.

new $5 note_back new $5 note

News.com.au called it ‘vomit like’ – referencing social media posts – and Pedestrian.TV pulled together the numerous photoshopped fivers that are circulating. It’s garnered so much traction online The Guardian opened a thread for its audience to have their say. And it’s been picked up overseas by The Telegraph in the UK and New Zealand’s stuff.co.nz.

Not everyone abolishes the design – this journo liked it – but it’s hard to ignore the scornful comments coming from social media. Some designers too aren’t pleased with it, labelling it a “wasted opportunity”, a late April Fool’s joke and rendering it ‘design-by-committee’.

True, we do not have the brief for the design, so the comments are coming purely from an observational viewpoint. B&T understands the design was from a culmination of work from internal and external designers, with work from RBA’s printing company Note Printing Australia. The RBA selected one design from three and a preferred designer to refine the note.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Jaid Hulsbosch, director at design agency Hulsbosch, from quipping it’s like a late April Fool’s joke.

“I believe the Next Generation $5 note is very embarrassing for Australian design,” he told B&T.

“It unfortunately does not set a new standard; this was a great opportunity to create a design hallmark that reflected Australia’s ambitions and enterprise for the future.”

“I think the Queen looks like the rest of us feel,” remarked Graham Barton, creative director at design and branding agency Folk.

“They’re not great are they?”

Both Barton and Jennifer Segail, managing director and founder at design agency Jam&Co, agree it looks like ‘design-by-committee’ – a colloquialism for an idea that has many designers but no clear concept.

“You need to have focus otherwise the design can become confused and complicated which I think is what has happened here,” said Segail. “My opinions are purely based on what I see in front of me, but understand that the brief and the process would have played a major role in this rather disappointing outcome.”

Barton added it was “grasping at prickly straws”.

“It’s commendable to retain a distinctly Australian signature, resisting the temptation to simply gravitate to another’s visual style – be it drop-shadowy-Americana or Euro-minimalism,” he said.

But, if this is reflective of a nation, it’s unsurprising it’s getting paid out so much.

While the RBA said the note was designed to maintain the similar elements of the original $5, so as not to confuse people, Jam&Co’s Segail begs to differ.

“I believe it has been a wasted opportunity,” she said. “Surely we, Australia, should be able to update and modernise a $5 note quite dramatically without confusing people who are pulling notes from their wallets.”

Dan Ratner, managing director from design agency uberbrand believed the design was a missed opportunity to celebrate Aussie icon Fred Hollows.

“While there is a definite place for Queen Elizabeth in our currency, the five dollar note presents a great chance to showcase a true Australian hero who championed tirelessly to restore sight to those in need,” he said.

“There’s even a petition to ‘Put Fred on the Fiver’ instead of the current Parliament House image.”

And the actual design elements of the note are questioned.

“The complete mix match of images, lack of element hierarchy, and overall feeling of design confusion makes us look like we don’t know who we are,” said Segail.

“The overall artwork lacks simplicity and consistency – two critical principles for any iconic design,” put in Hulsbosch.

“It’s an over-complicated vision that results in a contradictory layout with a battle of detail versus graphic elements. You can’t have both. From the Queen’s head and on the reverse side Parliament House; the overwrought detailing fights wildly with interpretative graphics of the Prickly Moses wattle and the Easters Spinebill.”

Still, the ‘tactile’ element introduced to make the note easier to distinguish for those with visual impairments is to be applauded, added Hulsbosch.

And yet Folk’s Barton said the practicalities have overpowered the aesthetics.

“Clearly, practicality has been prioritised over aesthetics,” he said. “Assisting the vision impaired and foiling forgers. Which is difficult to argue against. But not impossible.”