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Branding the future

In the last ten years, six republics of the former Yugoslavia earned, along with their independence, new paper power. Unfortunately, all six missed the chance to reflect new identities through the design. Well thought out concept and good design were scared off by handicapped fonts, unsatisfied faces, and creative restrictions—no sign of women, youth, or the 21st century. Only complete creative impotency.

The use of visual vocabulary in this case should, for each independent country, suggest distinct cultural history and national ideology. Following that principle, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a playground for poets, paranoiac Macedonia searches for its identity, Yugoslavia is a super star of improvisation, its people sexually obsessed ( fold 20 in half), Slovenia would love to be part of the Western Europe offering their line up of clean cut intelectuals, and Croatia, like a kleptomaniac, “borrows” a design of some other currency (compare the DEM).

Therefore, the spectrum of colorful bills looks sad and already seen-before. The lack of creativity and courage for experimentation clearly shows that, under the oppression of the last decade, the former Yugoslavs’ right brains have not shown much of resistance.

When it comes to the choice of visual elements used, all former republics have employed a similar stale process of choosing figureheads from the political and literary sphere. The most devoted to that clich´┐Ż proved to be Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Konvertibilna Marka, of whose twelve bills, including the versions for Republika Srpska, have set aside ten positions for writers. This limited representation makes that country seem like a depot of literary people, as if that is only kind of people that are born there. In the group represented are Mehmedija Mak Dizdar, Skender Kulenovac, Antun Branko Simić, Muzam Ćazim Ćatić and Ivo Andrić.

All the writers are “pushed” through the decorative abstract form, which calls on the memories of monuments that were mass produced in the golden years of communism. Moreover,the bills and the partisan like gases as well as the colors, have the flare of the same. The fonts selected for the numerical value of each bill are skewed and sad looking, making them hard to read and, consequently, inefficient and cumbersome as a form of currency. To make the experience more troubling, the bill that features the most well Bosnian writer, Nobel prize winner Ivo Andrić, is out of print due to a printing mistake. Besides choosing the writers, they might have selected better photographs of their chosen writers, thereby avoiding the look of Meša Selemović, which, due to bad photography, or to the bad choice of glasses he is wearing, looks like he walked straight off of a beach.

The nervous consumer in a long line of an even more nervous cashier, would be most satisfied in Macedonia, where the details in their bills, the Denar, are taken to extremes, so you can be killing time analyzing and reading. But besides developing the details, Macedonia is lagging behind in understanding the value of a solid concept, which prevents the bills from functioning as a unit. By choosing such divergent subjects as a headless Egyptian torso of goddess Isida, antique death mask, Mother icon, poppy flowers, and graphic of a Holland artist from 16 century, are not capable of uniting the bills in a coherent whole. Besides the antique and religious details shown on the bills, no one being after the period of 16 century, no real people from current history are featured. No doubt, Kosta Racin and Goce Delcev, two of the most well known figures of Macedonian modern literature would have not been very happy if they knew this fact.

In the last year, Yugoslavia has launched new bills, marking a major step in the monetary world, after the overload of work during the hyperinflation of 1993-94. Its new design has proved to be very dry and void, proving once more that there is more to graphic design than a few quick tricks in Photoshop. The most interesting would be to find out the selection process for the faces featured on the Dinars. Exactly how did Nikola Tesla jump from the five dinar to the one hundred, and therefore appeared on two bills at the same time (old five dinars are no longer in print but still in circulation ). Also, we can’t fail to notice the two hundred dinar bill that shows Nadežda Petrović, who is one of only two women that grace the bills of all the former republics (the second being Ivana Koblica, Slovenia, 5000 Tolars ). It is even more interesting that Nadežda Petrović and Ivana Koblica, both painters, got the bills second to value in their own countries.

Out of the whole bunch, the best designs came from Croatia. Their borrowed designs, via the lifeless historically important male, suggest the hard work and ensuing accomplishments they left behind. Kuna

Slovenian Tolar bills follow the same “one face-one bill” strategy. According to the design style they implemented, it seems they are not so comfortable in the waters of visual trends.

As for Montenegro, since its national bank functions as “an independent institution in charge of monetary policy that is grounded on the Deutsch Mark as a monetary unit, until the introduction of the EURO as a uniform European currency,” it seems we are left with nothing to comment on.

In short, creativity and the art of graphic design in all six states awaits better days. Though, at the end of story, I would like to point out an interesting and somewhat cheerful viewpoint to this not-so-positive outlook. As the countries of the European Union are losing their long-struggled-for integrity and identity under the sweeping power of the Euro, all the ex republics, like true outsiders, get to keep their identity no matter how unnourished it looks.

According to the prognosis of their economic and political status, they might have bought some time to mount a comeback through another graphics redesign of their paper currencies.

Reference links:

Bank of Slovenia
Croatian National Bank
Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina
National Bank of Serbia
Central Bank of Montenegro
National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia
By kuma on Apr 1, 2002 in

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