Rs. 2,000 can’t buy you imagination
Above all, the new Rs. 2,000 note is completely unimaginative. Instead of using this opportunity to reimagine Indian currency design (perhaps even global!) – the design of the new note is unremarkable in every way. All our notes have Gandhi on them (putting others might be too controversial) – but could we have at least been more imaginative with the aesthetic of Gandhi’s portrait?
No Functional Improvements
One of the highlights of the Prime Minister’s announcement of the new currency regime was to implement new security features that would make it difficult for counterfeiters to make fake notes. Apparently, the RBI didn’t get that brief. A few days later, RBI officials have clarified that the notes have no new security features – since there wasn’t enough time (To all the designers reading this – even the Central Bank of our country has impossible deadlines – it’s not just you!). As most designers are painfully aware, the lack of actual features has never stopped the marketing department from making tall claims.
UX: Does it work?
This point is probably outside the scope of a purely visual design critique – but as someone who believes that design runs much deeper than the visual, I ask two questions: “Does the new note fulfil its stated purpose?” and “Does it work well with the rest of the system?” – this is the most fundamental way to determine if a design exercise has achieved its goal.
While demonetising the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes and thereafter, the Prime Minister has explained the purpose of this move in the following ways:
1. Remove “Black Money” from the country
2. Move from a “Cash Economy” to a “Cashless Economy”
3. Encourage Digital Transactions
We also know that:
1. In the “non-black economy” – cash is usually used for small transactions, while large transaction are usually carried out using cheques, online transfers etc…
2. “Khulla nahi hai” (“I don’t have change”) is a refrain everyone hears at least once a day.
If this is the context, the answer to both questions (purpose and system) is NO:
1. A higher denomination note is suited only for “storing” money – not for everyday transactions that most people engage in using cash – buying groceries on the street, snacks, beverages, local train / bus ticket, cab fare…
2. A study of the system will tell us that there isn’t enough “change” in the system to facilitate the easy use of the Rs. 2,000 note for everyday transactions. A Rs. 2,000 note is useful if your purchase is over Rs. 1,500.
3. More importantly, the Rs. 2,000 note encourages payments in cash, thereby defeating the objective of moving to a cashless economy – unless of course the RBI and the government expect Inflation to go up dramatically enough to make Rs. 2,000 equivalent to the Rs. 1,000 note it replaces!