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Selection and further development of the euro banknote designs

2 July 1997


The procedure to select the designs was characterised by the following key points:

  • in 1995 the EMI Council selected two themes for the euro banknote series;
  • a design competition was launched on 12 February 1996; it closed on 13 September 1996;
  • the whole appraisal and selection process was organised on an anonymous and unattributed basis;
  • a shortlist of the designs was produced by a group of independent experts ("the jury") acting in an advisory capacity;
  • public perception was tested by means of individual interviews conducted with approximately 2,000 people across the European Union;
  • the selection was made by the EMI Council in December 1996, taking into consideration the report submitted by the jury, the results of the public consultation exercise and the technical advice given by the EMI's Banknote Working Group; [1]
  • following further work with the designer to improve his design sketches, the EMI Council endorsed the designs in June 1997.


In 1995 the EMI carried out preparatory work on the selection of design themes and features for the euro banknotes. On the basis of the work performed by an advisory group consisting of art historians, graphic designers and marketing experts, two themes were selected: "Ages and styles of Europe" and a broader theme consisting of an abstract/modern design. For the "Ages and styles of Europe" theme, the features to be depicted on each of the seven banknote denominations (EURO 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500) were to represent a specific period of European cultural history (Classical, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo, the age of iron and glass architecture, and modern 20th century architecture). The abstract/modern theme was to be represented by a design left to the choice of the designer.

It was decided that the European flag should be incorporated into the design of the euro banknotes as a universally accepted symbol of Europe.


The design competition was launched on 12 February 1996 and ran for seven months. Banknote designers nominated by the EU central banks were given precise design briefs; they drafted a series of seven banknotes for one or both of the themes.


After having checked the draft designs for printability and compliance with the design briefs, on 20 September 1996 the NCBs sent the approved designs to a notary in Frankfurt/Main. The notary removed any remaining indication of the authorship of the submitted designs, applied a random three-digit number to each draft design and kept in his safe-keeping a list showing the attribution of numbers to the designs. The notary then sent the designs to the EMI on 24 September 1996.

At all subsequent stages (involving the jury, the EMI's Banknote Working Group, members of the public and the EMI Council), the draft designs were identified only by their respective three-digit numbers.


5.1 Composition of the jury

The members of the jury were renowned experts in marketing, design (including industrial design), and art history. They were selected by the President of the EMI from a list of candidates submitted by the national central banks. The members of the jury (see annexed list) were completely independent of the national central banks and of any printing works involved in the competition.

The jury met at the EMI on 26 and 27 September 1996 under the chairmanship of Mr. Hanspeter K. Scheller, Secretary General of the EMI.

5.2 Role of the jury

The members of the jury appraised all the designs and recommended two shortlists: the five best sets of designs for the "Ages and styles of Europe" theme; and the five best sets of designs for the abstract/modern theme. The principal criteria for their appraisal were creativity, aesthetics, style, functionality, likely public perception and acceptability (in particular the avoidance of any national bias and the achievement of a proper balance between the number of men and the number of women portrayed on the banknotes).


Public perception was taken into account by consulting 1,896 individuals throughout Europe by means of qualitative interviews. A distinction was made between two groups of interviewees: professional cash handlers (e.g. bank cashiers, retailers, taxi drivers) and members of the general public. The public consultation exercise was organised by EOS Gallup Europe and carried out in fourteen EU Member States by major companies based in the relevant countries. A detailed questionnaire was prepared to this end and colour copies of the short-listed draft designs were shown to each interviewee. All the interviews were held in the period from 7 October 1996 to 13 October 1996.


The selection was made at a meeting of the EMI Council on 3 December 1996. The EMI Council had at its disposal:

  • the five designs for the "Ages and styles of Europe" theme and the five designs for the abstract/modern theme;
  • all other draft designs;
  • the advice of the jury;
  • the results of the public consultation exercise carried out by EOS Gallup Europe using the ten pre-selected design series;
  • the technical advice given by the EMI's Banknote Working Group on the printability and resistance to counterfeiting of the ten pre-selected design series.


As a standard procedure, the first draft designs (sketches) of the euro banknotes needed to be adjusted and refined before being fully fit for origination and printing.

This included a careful reworking of all the design features. For the architectural features it was necessary to ensure that there was no national bias; the European map needed to give an appropriate representation of Europe.

Furthermore, the security features had to be incorporated in order to ensure that the authenticity of the banknotes could easily be checked by the general public as well as by sorting machines.

In June 1997 the EMI Council endorsed the revised designs.


The President of the EMI selected a jury comprising fourteen independent experts from the EU Member States to advise the EMI Council after the close of the banknote design competition.

The members of the jury are listed below:

Nicholas Butler, expert in industrial design; Professor in the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, Chairman and Managing Director of a graphic design company, London.

Gérard Caron, expert in marketing and advertising; Chairman/Managing Director of a graphic design company, President of the Pan European Design Association, Paris.

Henrique Cayatte, designer; member of the Associação Portuguesa de Designers (Association of Portuguese Designers), Lisbon.

Guido Crapanzano, expert in communication; Rector of the Istituto di Scienze della Comunicazione (International Institute for Communication Sciences), Milan.

Wim Crouwel, expert in graphic design; former Director of the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

Mary Finan, communications expert; Managing Director of a public relations company, Dublin.

Bernhard Graf, Director of the Institut für Museumskunde (Institute of Museum Science), Staatliche Museen (State Museums), Berlin.

Martin Hoffmann, Art Director of a television company, Luxembourg.

Gunnar Jansson, expert in communication; Professor at Uppsala University, Uppsala (Sweden).

Mary Michaïlidou, art historian; Director of Relations between Greece and the EU, President of the Greek Section of AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d'Arts/International Association of Art Critics), Athens.

Baron Philippe Roberts-Jones, art historian; Permanent Secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Belgian Royal Academy of Science, Literature and Art), Brussels.

Santiago Saavedra, expert in design and graphic arts; President and General Manager of a publishing company, Madrid.

Yrjö Sotamaa, expert in industrial design and art; Rector of the Taideteollinen korkeakoulu (University of Art and Design), Helsinki.

Angelika Trachtenberg, psychologist and communications expert; Managing Director of an advertising company, Vienna.

  1. [1] The EMI's Working Group on Printing and Issuing a European Banknote is composed of the Chief Cashiers of the national central banks and the General Managers of printing works owned by central banks within the European Union.


European Central Bank

Directorate General Communications

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