While digital currency is on its way to becoming a palpable reality, and central banks are in different stages in replacing physical money by digital money, it is in no way clear when they will get there – even if the current Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt accelerated the journey. In migrating from the physical to the digital, there are lots of open questions, including but not limited to, the community of banknote and security feature designers.
Instead of guessing at possible answers, in this article we would like to make the points that the path to digitalization:
Banknote and security feature designs are an iterative process. This is equally true for the digitalization and optimization of daily processes and workflows. Digital functionalities are entering all walks of life – and the current Covid-19 pandemic has hit the accelerator not only in generating a significantly bigger public acceptance for these functionalities, but also and very importantly, in adapting our business to a changed reality.
For KURZ, digitalization has become especially visible in the way that artworks for diffractive security features are created today. Our designers have evolved into highly skilled experts for transforming requirements voiced by the central bank customer into a sophisticated digital design.
The process of devising a surface-applied security feature has moved away almost entirely from physical work and entered the digital realm. The constant to and fro of information between central bank, designer, sales and R&D, which in the current situation is nearly 100% digital itself, is enabled by a digital design process. Looking at the example of KURZ, a strongly secured online messaging system allows for design drafts and intermediate artworks to be safely transmitted from the designer to the customer for corrections and approvals.
Given that no two projects are equal and that every single design has to be created based on highly individual requirements from the central banks, including different images, visual security effects and combinations of effects, this ongoing exchange is extremely important. In this, working digitally not only facilitates this exchange, and makes it possible to implement changes along the way more rapidly, but also to transfer milestones from the physical to the digital world. KURZ has successfully established a fully digital approval process for artworks and production samples.
For an design approval, the finalized design file, as well as supporting materials such as detailed effect visualizations, can be transmitted to the central bank by a secure messaging system. Once the design has been approved, a first master shim is produced. While previously, physical samples were manufactured to demonstrate the end product to the customer, KURZ has now ramped up their digital capacities to offer a viable alternative. We are able to propose a new generation of highly advanced, perfectly detailed digital animations – which illustrate to the customer precisely how a security feature produced with the master shim will look. The perfectly accurate animation is also made available to the central bank via secure messaging system, and can be used as the basis for approving the master shim.
The central bank customer benefits from a much faster and much easier process. Arguably, it is helpful if the customer already has a certain level of experience with diffractive security features. On another note, these digital data are a perfect starting point for a customer to incorporate into his public relations materials, for example when creating a marketing campaign to accompany the launch of new banknotes. The animation is perfect for use in a video clip that explains to the end users how to examine the visual effects of the banknote security stripe.
The advantages of this brave new world are evident: optimized demonstration of the effects and its visual impression, increased flexibility, speedy and secure data exchange, reduced travel cost. Indeed, it replaces the need for travel altogether in the current pandemic – but maintains the full capacity to interact for both the supplier and the central bank customer. It goes without saying that no security compromises are being made in preserving the ability to interact – the digital environment for working with sensitive, confidential design data is perfectly secured.
On the digitalization path, the designer’s role has evolved into one of a highly proficient expert, who shoulders even more responsibility than before in creating sophisticated security features that respond to the customer’s requirements and talk to the general public. Working exclusively digitally requires a very elaborate skill set. In the case of KURZ, the designers have evolved not only into highly skilled experts for transforming requirements voiced by the customer into a sophisticated digital feature design, but also into veritable consultants. Among a myriad of complex and partially mutually exclusive visual effects that the KINEGRAM® technology platform offers, and responding to needs that are sometimes articulated less than clearly, they are able to select the optimal effects and translate them into a tailor-made security solution for each and every customer. See below, the example of the KINEGRAM COLORS® security stripe on the new 20 Pound English note, which beautifully illustrates this.
In his work, the designer has to allow for the fact that the digital work on the screen is not suited for accurate reproduction of the physical product. Scale, proportionality and visibility of optical effects pose complex challenges. Therefore, the skilled designer will make certain adjustments, to ensure that during a digital approval process, the customer will receive an artwork and an animated design which will give them a perfect impression of how the end product will look.
Hence, the designer must be able to optimize the results of his work in such a way that every artwork and every animation is vividly realistic and truly self-explanatory. He must grasp fully the complexity of the design process, and must see himself as managing a project instead of rendering a design service. In this, it is vitally important for him to understand his project from the end customer’s perspective. At the same time, he must work in close liaison with the banknote designer, ensuring a smooth and visually attractive integration – or differentiation – of the KURZ technology and the overall banknote.
This interaction is greatly facilitated by digital processes and systems, benefiting in turn from greater flexibility, speedy exchange and optimized possibilities for visualization and explanation. Arguably, digitalization thus leads to a significant improvement in the design process as well as an increase in banknote security.
In order to facilitate the close collaboration between designer, banknote designer and central bank customer, aided greatly by digitalization, it is extremely helpful when these parties enable each other to gain an advanced understanding of their mutual realms of work, and when they openly and trustfully exchange information among each other. Taking the example of KURZ, the designers are equipped and ready to work closely with external banknote designers in transmitting information on visual effects and how to make these ‘come to life’ digitally. We gladly provide help and support in optimizing the digital display and animation of KURZ security features, to ensure their attractive and correct visualization, and to assist their integration into the overall note design.
Banknotes will be around for an unforeseeable future. Therefore we must all continue to ensure that the design process is not being reduced to comply with budget restrictions, with a pretense of reducing the burden on national budgets. Strong and well-designed security features remain a key factor in protecting currencies from counterfeiting and manipulation. To the best of our knowledge, this will still be the case for many years to come. In the meantime, relying on a digital workflow has important benefits for optimizing and streamlining the banknote design process and the collaboration of all involved partners. Beyond that, digitalization also allows us to easily bring in expert opinions on feature design, plus effect selection and overall banknote design concepts. With security features such as those produced by KURZ being an essential element of banknotes, their design process has been optimally adjusted to our increasingly digital environment – and in the transition from the physical to the digital, the role of the designer has more significance than ever.
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