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Blue Pill or Red Pill

Adrian Heuberger: Excerpt from a speech at the 3rd International Banknote Designers Conference (IBDC) in Montréal 2014

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Morpheus in Matrix (1999) directed by the Wachowski Brothers, produced by Warner Brothers


As banknote designers, we are often told that one of the most important criteria for our design is that people are going to accept it as the new design of money.


But what can a designer actually do to increase the chances of a new design being accepted by the public?

I think the answer is quite simple: The designer chooses images of things that are already accepted – in the hope that these things somehow transfer their acceptance to the design.


But what could the motifs be that are already accepted?

I think the answer is again quite trivial: What is known and familiar is more likely to be already accepted than what is unknown and new.


A design imitating the reality that is already accepted is a design that the public is more likely to accept.

There seems to be the following deal: The design offers space for the good old surrounding reality and what it gets in return from this reality is its acceptance by the public.






With respect to acceptance, we have a clear preference for the blue pill. The acceptance of the design is more probable if it does not depart from reality.

Another very important criteria banknote design has to meet is security.


What can security design do to meet the criteria of security?

Banknote design can only prevent the danger of counterfeiting if its technology is one step (or two steps) ahead of consumer technology. And this means: Security technology has to evolve faster than the evolution of consumer electronics. Thus, the only secure technology in security design is the technology that has not yet established itself in the daily reality that surrounds us.

So, the relation is the exact opposite: The more established something is in our daily reality the less secure it is.

There seems to be a deal here, too: The design offers space for what has not yet established itself in our everyday reality and what it gets in return from this “not-yet-reality” is: security.






With respect to security, we therefore have a clear preference for the red pill. For, only the red pill goes beyond our daily reality, whereas the blue pill makes us stick in it.

Banknote designers have to take both pills.

In the case of acceptance, we believe, the emphasis clearly lies in the integration of reality! With regard to security, we believe, the emphasis lies in the exclusion of reality instead! As banknote designers, we normally have to fulfil both criteria: acceptance and security. So, banknote designers have to take both pills together.


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