subdirectory_arrow_right Swedish Kronor Symbol. What happened here?
Something quite obvious, but not so publicly discussed.
Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic crowns do not have an ISO Currency Symbol. I first realised this when designing layouts for e-commerce and menus. There are so many ways of communicating the currency symbol that it’s quite hard to choose one. Here are a few common ways.
When you look into other common shortenings it does not get any easier. Yes, you could use SEK, DKK, etc., but those are technical ISO codes used primarily in the banking world.
What exists today?
The most common and the official shortenning to date is the kr combination, which consisissts of two letters.
- commonly accepted
- it’s not a symbol
- you have two type in two symbols (micro-timing)
- does not distinguish the diverse currencies
While kr is the official symbol, it actually consists of two letters. Even the kr shortcut on the apple keyboard actually prints out two letters as a shortcut.
It is commonly perceived as a symbol, but when we look at currency symbols worldwide, the crowns do not have an everyday standard.
Some distinctive symbols out there
- ؋ – Afghani
- ₦ – Nigeria Naira
- ₽ – Russia Ruble
- ៛ – Cambodia Riel
- ₡ – Costa Rica Colon
- € – Euro
- ₪ – Israel Shekel
- ₭ – Laos Kip
- ₮ – Mongolia Tughrik
- ฿ – Thailand Baht
- ₴ – Ukraine Hryvnia
- ₫ – Viet Nam Dong
- ₲ – Paraguayan Guaraní
- ৳ – Bangladeshi Taka
- ¥ – Japaneese Yen, Chineese Yuan
- $ – Peso* / Dollars*
- ¢ – Ghana Cedi
- ₩ – Won*
- ₱ – Peso*
- ﷼ – Rial*
- £ – Pound*
- ₹ – Indian Rupee
* – used by multiple countries
What are symbols for?
To simplify visual communication and to create an international recognised standard.
What makes a good symbol?
- Simple graphics
- Different from other symbols in the alphabets of the countries used
- Prioritising the intuitive understanding among the local users, instead of the global market
- Easy to hand-write
- Type-foundry friendly (can adapt to diverse typeface design)
- Mononuclear (a mark consisting of a single grapheme)
- Takes up little space
- Single weight
- National value
Who creates symbols and what’s the process?
It looks like different countries tackled this question differently. The ₹ (Indian Rupee) was created through an open national competition; The $ (US Dollar) was apparently first created in Spain and is shared with the Peso as well as with many other “Dollars”; The € (Euro) was designed in an internal process by the European Commission; The ₽ (Russian Ruble) was initially co-created by an anonymous alliance of design studios and type-foundries. I’m sure that each symbol has it’s own unique story.
By the way, the ₽ (Russian Ruble) has an insane story. As far as I know, it was first created by a few design studios as a side-project. They registered the ISO standard and started implementing it in their work and typefaces. The design spread, Apple introduced it to the keyboards, the public picked it up… then there was a symbolic competition and the central bank just took it in.
How could the Swedish Symbol be created?
While open competitions are democratic they do come with some complications. The public vote may not necessarily choose the best design from a technical point of view and may not satisfy some of the parties involved (Government, Central Bank, the Royals, other international institutions).
Then there is also a very sensitive topic around the Author. Most governmental symbols do not have the artist mentioned publicly. Have you ever seen a bank note with credits to a person? I can only think of Snøhetta with the Norwegian bills. Also, since the best design is usually extremely simple there may be a question of who thought of it first.
Competitions can have their complications (if the process is bad), but it’s still not nice to have it as a purely inside job by the authorities.
This is a super interesting topic and I’m sure that there are thousands of opinions on the design process (not having a symbol is a valid one too, btw). A sample processes could look like this:
- Set technical requirements (panel of experts)
- Announce public & anonymous submissions
- Panel of experts selects the best options that fulfil the criteria
- Experts and relevant stakeholders vote
- Final public vote
Could this be a project run by Swedish Institute + Riksbank + King Carl Gustaf (it’s still a crown, right) or could this start of as a collaborative side-project by the creative industry in Sweden?
In either case, I’m curious which Nordic country may do this first, if the Euro may replace the kr one day all or if the choice among kr, KR, :-, etc… be always on the designers plate.