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Principles of bank note design

We asked Canadians to comment on our principles for bank note design. Read the highlights of this consultation. You can also review the key elements of the bank note design process.

Highlights of public consultation

In 2014, the Bank of Canada reviewed the process it used to select, develop and design the visual content for the Frontiers series bank notes. This work resulted in the development of set of principles of bank note design and Canadians were invited to comment.

Of the nearly 2,000 Canadians who participated in the consultation, 80 per cent of respondents said they supported the principles. There was considerable interest in how bank notes reflect Canada. Many respondents commented on gender equality, multiculturalism, and Indigenous representation. Others contributed ideas around including images of iconic Canadians, activities, achievements, and landscapes.

The Bank’s response

The Bank thanks all those who contributed their ideas. It is clear that Canadians are interested in being consulted on the visual content of bank notes, and the Bank is committed to including their input. As such, the principles are now embedded in the design process for bank notes like these:

The next bank NOTE-able Canadian

  • Learn how the selection process for the portrait subject of the $5 note will unfold.

Vertical $10 bank note featuring Viola Desmond (2018)

Canada 150 commemorative $10 bank note (2017)

Principles of design

In developing and designing new bank notes, the Bank is guided by the following principles. They serve as the foundation upon which the visual content (theme, subject matter and images) for new notes is developed and may be augmented with additional criteria.

Security is paramount

The Bank is committed to supplying Canadians with quality bank notes that are readily accepted and secure against counterfeiting. Security is paramount, and visual content must support the chosen security elements. In practice, the need for robust security features imposes limits on the design elements.

Functional and recognizable

Bank notes must be functional and usable in automated banking machines (ABMs) and other cash-handling machines. They must also be recognizable as Canadian notes and readily accepted as a means of payment. Certain visual elements may be retained from one series to the next to support these goals.


The design supports the Bank’s commitment to providing blind and partially-sighted Canadians with an effective suite of accessibility features so they can recognize bank note denominations.

Official languages

In accordance with the Bank of Canada Act, bank notes are printed in both English and French.

Reflect Canada

A series of bank notes is a unique opportunity to represent Canada. Each series depicts new visual content so that, over time, the diversity of Canadian society, culture and achievements are celebrated. Bank notes:

  • promote Canada and Canadians - our values, culture, history, traditions, achievements and/or natural heritage;
  • are clearly identifiable as Canadian through the use of symbols, words or images;
  • are meaningful to Canadians today and for years to come; and evoke pride and confidence in Canada.

Broad appeal to Canadians

Bank notes combine art and technology. They integrate visual content with security features and functional requirements resulting in aesthetically pleasing bank notes that have a broad appeal among Canadians.

The process of designing bank notes

To satisfy these principles and provide additional clarity about the process for designing new notes, the Bank takes the following key elements into consideration.

Role of the Minister of Finance

The Bank of Canada Act states that “the form and material of the notes of the Bank shall be subject to approval by the Minister [of Finance].” As such, the Minister of Finance is consulted throughout the process.

In addition, the Bank consults with relevant experts, organizations and government departments to ensure that the chosen subject-matter elements are appropriately depicted.

Consulting with Canadians

Now more than ever, Canadians wish to be consulted on matters that affect them. The Bank recognizes that in order to design bank notes that have broad appeal and reflect Canada, we need more input from Canadians. Therefore, we will consult more openly and with a larger number of Canadians on the development of visual content for new bank notes (theme, subject matter and images), while applying the criteria developed for the note in question.

The Bank will conduct broader and more representative consultations by using a variety of approaches (both qualitative and quantitative) and by leveraging new technology, where appropriate. We will invite more Canadians to contribute ideas toward the selection of bank note images. We will ensure that a representative cross-section of Canada’s population has an opportunity to provide feedback.

The Bank will also consult with Canadians to determine their appetite for changes in the established conventions regarding bank note design (e.g., whether the portrait subjects should change).

The Bank will report back to Canadians on the results of any consultation to ensure greater transparency around the design process.

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