Slideshow July/August 2009

Currency Exchange

Michael Bierut analyzes the world’s best and worst banknote designs

Japan / 5000 Yen, 2003

Japan’s banknotes begin with the same basic ingredients as western currency. But these elements come together in a way that suggests contemplative minimalism. The images help: the ¥5000 note features 19th century female novelist Ichiyo Higuchi on the front, and a field of irises on the reverse. The result is elegant and restrained.

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