Ulster Banknotes

Going vertical

Needing a new banknote, Northern Ireland’s Ulster Bank came to a reliable team.

Just as with the Royal Bank of Scotland, O Street have taken on the creative and graphic design roles for a new set of polymer banknotes. We again worked with speciality printers De La Rue and service designers Nile. Grab a cuppa and see what these new notes are all about.

Sketch of a butterfly

The broad theme of the currency is the natural beauty of Northern Ireland; the connection of its land and people. Northern Irish creatives Colin McCadden and Lisa Smyth (at shesaid) were enlisted to help us craft the design of the note and make sure an authentic personality came through.

Front and back of Ulster Bank 20 Pound Note


These are the first vertical notes to be introduced in the UK and Ireland. This vertical format allowed us to break one canvas into multiple landscapes.



Designed as a family, each note tells a different story. The £5 is ‘passing place’; the £10 ‘growing place’; the £20 ‘dwelling place’ and ‘working place’ the £50. Of course, details are the visual currency of banknotes, so we left no stone unturned in seeking out the best Northern Irish contributors. For the wonderful botanical illustrations on the front, we turned to the deft talents of Abigail Bell of PETAL-studio. When it came to the typography, we looked to Jason Smith at Fontsmith to help craft the numerals.

The five-pound note harkens to the sea and migration. It features wildlife, fuchsia, Strangford Lough and a family beach scene. The warmer-hued ten-pound note nods to the land’s rich agricultural history. Irish hares, draught horses, rolling fields and the guelder rose are prominent.

The following note in the series, the twenty, celebrates urban life through people and music, red brick buildings and decorative tiles. Nature comes in the form of the Hawthorne and the slippery eels of Lough Neagh. The fifty is the last in the series and looks to tell the story of industry and technology central to the region’s development. The plant is spikey gorse, partnered by the intrepid pine marten and the reverse has a circular motif which deftly links flax production, rope making, genetics and digital technologies. A common feature of all the notes is a little butterfly, the Cryptic Wood White, which is only found in that part of the world. So, after taking several years to bring this series of banknotes to life, we’re honoured to have rolled up our sleeves for the good people of Northern Ireland.

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