Custom numerals for the Ulster Bank five and ten pound notes

Tamasin Handley Custom fonts
25 May’18

Edinburgh based service design agency Nile and Glasgow designers O Street approached Fontsmith founder Jason Smith as they were working with Ulster Bank to design new £5 and £10 notes. The ideas for the notes were based around the concept of ‘living in nature’ with an unusual upright design. Jason, who was born and bred in Northern Ireland, was perfectly placed to design the custom numerals to complement the note designs.

Nile had run workshops in Northern Ireland and established key themes for the bank notes. Visual references of the sea, migration and agriculture were used to highlight N.Ireland as a place people pass through and a place of growth.

Jason Smith said: ‘There is so much thought and involvement from experts as well as the general public in the design of banknotes, it was fantastic to be part of it. For me personally, it’s one of those projects that my family back home will actually be impressed by’.

Jason’s Mum happened to be on a weekend trip in Northern Ireland at the time and agreed to help us with some field work. She took some pictures of traditional lettering styles seen on signage and the milestones around the loughs and country side in the places she passed. The numerals used in roadside milestones caught our eye and formed the inspiration for our design. We started with the number ‘5’, sketching ideas by hand then refining them on screen. Once we had crafted the ’5’ we moved onto the ‘1’, ‘0’ and ‘£’ exploring different routes. We tried various layered designs that included the sketches in the background and some technical aspects of drawing type. The end result is a clear and modern numeral that has a nod to traditional stone lettering on the roadsides and milestones of Northern Ireland.

David Freer Founding Partner at O Street said: ‘Jason and I first worked together when he had just set up Fontsmith. He was a natural choice when we wanted authentic Northern Irish insight and type excellence.’

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