First posted on the Chameleon blog 18/07/2013
Chameleon was recently invited to take part in an article to be featured in the Independent on Sunday magazine and on the Independent’s website. The topic of this article was a response to the news that social reformer Elizabeth Fry was to be replaced on the Bank of England £5 note with Winston Churchill.
This decision by the Bank of England would mean that there would be no women on English bank notes and the article was to argue that there are a number of women, both dead and alive, deserving of such acknowledgement.
Additionally, a petition against this decision had appeared on the petition platform Change.org and was beginning to get a lot of press.
The Independent article’s author had asked Chameleon, along with a number of other creatives and designers, to submit a suggestion for who we think would be a worthy candidate, with a view to providing a description and bank note artwork.
After some discussion, our suggestion of Emmeline Pankhurst was put forward and accepted.
Chameleon Managing Director Vicky Reeves provided the following description, which appeared in an edited form in the final article:
“We’ve chosen Emmeline Pankhurst as we feel she’s the most influential British woman of the twentieth century. As a charity specialist agency, we see Pankhurst as the ultimate campaigner.
The motto of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) she founded was ‘deeds, not words’ – Pankhurst demonstrated that only by acting can you effectively change British society. And she did – making an indelible mark on the UK.
Her main legacy was winning the vote for women in 1918 – but she was an incredibly powerful force who brought about other massive societal changes. When the First World War broke out, for example, Pankhurst halted militant action to focus on presenting a united front. They urged women to aid industrial production and encouraged young men to join the war effort: "Men must fight and women must work."
Social justice is just as relevant today as when Pankhurst was campaigning for women’s rights. She’s strongly associated with the movement and the broader issue of equality for all. While we have definitely seen progress in the intervening years the situation is still far from acceptable; for instance the amount of people still living in poverty in this country, wildly varying standards of education dependent on wealth and location.
As Time magazine put it: “she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back”.
With the words submitted all that was needed was the design, and with a deadline of a day and a half there wasn’t much time to waste.
I anticipated that among the other submissions to this article there were bound to be some wildly creative and artistic interpretations of the brief, which was very open, the only criteria being that it should be of bank note dimensions and include the usual bank note text. With this in mind I decided I would focus on creating a bank note that could actually be realised (you never know!).
I did a thorough investigation into Emmeline Pankhurst and the origins of the Suffragette movement. It’s a fascinating story, and one of the joys of being a designer is the wide range of knowledge that is gained in researching a variety of subjects in order to deliver on a number of different briefs. The Museum of London’s website was a particularly useful resource, featuring as it does over 1200 Suffragette related items in it’s collection. With the luxury of more time a visit to the Museum would have been extremely worthwhile but alas, a day and a half afforded me no time, despite the fact that the Museum is a mere 5 minutes walk away!
As I am, and have been for the last 15 years, primarily a digital designer, having the chance to create something of this nature was an enjoyable diversion from the usual. Also, as a Creative Director, having the opportunity to get my hands dirty is always fun!
The idea behind the design of the Emmeline Pankhurst bank note was to maintain a traditional approach to Bank of England bank notes using imagery, fonts and colours relevant to the suffragette movement and the Edwardian Era.
The design consists of the following elements:
The overall colour of the note is a subtle gradation of purple, white and green - the colours of the WSPU tricolour.
The main background image is from the 1910 Black Friday suffrage event, a controversial event which caused the Home Secretary at the time, none other than Winston Churchill, a certain amount of embarrassment
The portcullis device superimposed with a tricolour arrow was inspired by the Holloway brooch designed by Emmeline's daughter Sylvia Pankhurst and presented to ex-suffragette prisoners
The background on the right hand side is a WSPU poster advertising 'The Suffragette' weekly newspaper
The image in the top right corner is of a medallion containing a portrait of Emmeline and suspended from a tricolor ribbon
The main portrait is contained within an Edwardian style ornate picture frame to add a sense of Edwardian style to the image
"Deeds not words" was the slogan adopted by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 for her Women’s Social and Political Union and has been rendered in Century Gothic as an homage to the font styles of the Edwardian era
The other fonts used are Century and Edwardian Script again to illustrate the Edwardian style
Her signature comes from the inside cover of her autobiography 'My Own Story'
The bank note artwork was submitted within the deadline, and appeared in the Independent on Sunday magazine <photo> and on the Independent’s website alongside the article.
As expected, there were a number of artistic interpretations of a bank note, but also some more traditional executions, so the design sat nicely alongside those and did not look out of place.
One thing to note, you may notice that the note has the words “Bank of Independent” on it, this was due to a legal issue in using “Bank of England” on the designs. Personally I would have gone for “Bank of Ingerland” instead but perhaps that doesn’t reflect the Independent’s readership?!
The issue continues to draw attention in the press (including recent articles in the BBC, Daily Mail & The Huffington Post) and the petition has now attracted over 35,000 signatures, up from the 23,000 it had at the time of the Independent article at the beginning of June and Chameleon are proud to have been a part of this.