CASE STUDY

Nano

A Currency Symbol to Champion Economic Equality and Opportunity

BACKGROUND

The world is in the middle of the next digital revolution, and cryptocurrencies have challenged how we think about and utilise money.

As we edge closer into a cashless society, moving from physical cash to cash-replacements raises risks. Notably, for the 1.7 billion+ people without access to a bank account, going cashless is not an option. Moreover, in doing so, we further widen the financial inclusion gap and deepen economic inequality across the developing world. 

Enter the nano—a new digital currency, with a difference.

Unlike traditional cryptocurrencies, the nano is intended to be used and recognised as real money—just like the British Pound or the American Dollar. 

Only, it’s purely digital, open-source and free to use. 

By not being restricted by any financial institutions, e.g., being backed by a bank or other economic body, you don’t require a bank account to use it.

It’s 100% virtual. So, nano has no physical form—there’s no cash, coins, or notes to handle or own— you don’t purchase it like a cryptocurrency. 

In other words, you don’t invest in nano—you don’t buy nano—it’s a simple currency exchange. Making it also inflation proof.

Finally, as the exchange is entirely digital, it’s incredibly environmentally friendly. 

At a glance
  • Nano has no tangible or physical money, cash or coins
  • It’s not backed by a commodity or a bank
  • Nano is open-source and free to use

The Brief

Create a campaign strategy to launch nano with an accompanying currency symbol positioned as the world’s first truly global currency. 

As a digital currency, the nano doesn’t belong to any country. It is classified as a  ‘supranational’ currency. Therefore, its ticker must start with an X as specified by ISO_4217 requirement as set out by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).  In addition, ISO 3166 rules ‘X’ can’t ever be assigned to the start of any official country code.

To accompany the new alphanumeric code—XNO—nano urgently needed a currency symbol that could be used worldwide.

Key Requirements for a New Currency symbol

  • Needs to be unique and clearly distinguished from other established currency symbols
  • Should follow established design and structural principles of established currency symbols
  • Needs to be easy to replicate—both digitally and by hand
  • It should reflect the core mission and ethos of equality, technical excellence, and value

The Challenge

Currency symbols aren’t created every day.

The last time a currency symbol was created was the euro (€ )in 1995.

 

There were 32 initial designs for the euro’s currency. The final decision consisted of several rounds of short-listed designs and a public survey, which eventually narrowed the choices down to two.  The European Commission decided internally on the final euro design which is what is used everywhere now.

Read more about the euro here.

New digital currency signs are even rarer, and the nano is very much a first-of-its-kind. 

As with all things pioneering, there was no well-trodden path to follow. 

No global standard or ISO requirement existed for currencies that could guide the design process.

Because the nano is intended to be used as real money, its sign needed to sit seamlessly alongside other global currencies (like the $ dollar, £ pound and ¥ yen) in form, function, and denomination.

We also discovered that because the Nano Foundation and the nano shared a name, this blurred the boundary and purposes between the two. Therefore, they needed clearer delineation – not only in terms of design but also in language and narrative. 

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Our Approach

Where to start when creating a new currency symbol?

First, we needed to understand and define preexisting currency design guidelines.

Then, we could create guidelines specifically for nano.

 

We took a deep look at world currency symbols; how they were generally constructed, and subsequently used, across various ecosystems. 

We also dove into current cryptocurrency symbols—namely Bitcoin—which started its journey as a logo before it evolved into a currency sign that (eight years later) joined the Unicode library.

 

Since the symbol needed to be ubiquitous and well adopted, we investigated numerous implementation methods and applications to enable:
  • nano users and supporters to easily use the new currency symbol, and therefore increase its adoption
  • nano creators to track the use and adoption of the new currency symbol

We discovered and determined an important prerequisite for designing a new currency symbol:

a currency sign is not a logo –  and vice versa.

It seems a minor thing, but it changes the approach, the design requirements, and the parameters the public will need to interact with it.

A currency sign is defined as “a graphic symbol used as a shorthand for a currency’s name, especially regarding amounts of money” (Wikipedia).

Currency symbols are used as references and therefore, need to be replicated easily across a variety of digital and print mediums, including text messages, emails, and currency exchange platforms to name a few.

    Currency Symbol

    currency symbol or currency sign is a graphic symbol used as a shorthand for a currency‘s name, especially in reference to amounts of money.

    Wikipedia

    Logo

    A logo is a name, mark, or symbol that represents an idea, organization, publication, or product.

    Thought Co

    What We Delivered

    Designed and documented the new nano digital currency symbol, with easy distribution in mind.

    A sign of equality and opportunity

    The new nano symbol is constructed of the Latin capital X and the equals sign (=), which sets the symbol apart from other digital and cryptocurrencies – all while reinforcing its place alongside traditional currency symbols.

    A sign as easy to use as the currency

    We helped create three ways for users to easily access and use the nano currency symbol:

    1. Get the nano currency kit: https://nano.org/currency
    2. Create a keyboard shortcut in your device’s preferences
    3. Use a font that supports the fallback Unicode (such as Open Sans) and copy and paste the symbol, Ӿ)

    A Marketing Strategy to Launch the New Symbol

    Campaign concepts, stakeholder presentations, Wiki excerpts and how to position the new symbol – tagline “Spend, Send and Accept”

    A Plan for the Foundation

    Through the project, it. became clear that The Nano Foundation needed to separate itself from the currency “nano” as the non-profit foundation that supported its inception, in order to …

    We worked with the team to brainstorm and create concepts for a new name and brand. 

    The name that emerged: “The Opportunity Code” which they’ve said will be set in motion in 2022. 

    Throughout our research, we discovered further interesting facts about currency symbols that helped guide us.

    Most currency symbols in use today usually use Latin or Cyrillic letters and strokes.

    For example, the euro symbol uses the Greek letter epsilon (Є) and the first letter of Europe. It also has a marked up “ideal” version illustrated by the creator. But it still gets misused, as do most currency symbols. Sometimes we write them with a single stroke, sometimes with two.

    Currency signs are sometimes shared between countries.

    For example, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan share the ¥ symbol.

    Not all currency has, or needs, a symbol to be exchanged.

    Another surprising fact, as the Russian ruble did not have an official currency symbol until 2007 and the Indian rupee did not have a symbol until 2010.

    Currencies are not proper nouns

    This was an "aha" moment, as we had previously been dealing with nano as a proper noun. We realised that currencies aren't capitalised but are rather referred to in lower case within sentences.

    A symbol does not need to be in Unicode to be official.

    Other currencies have replaced characters for their own. For example, some mobile phone companies initially issued an interim software update for their unique SMS character set, replacing the less-frequent Japanese yen sign with the euro sign. Subsequent mobile phones have both currency signs.

    Insights

    As a project, this was by far the most challenging, yet the most rewarding we’ve done in a long time. Without a roadmap or rules for creating a currency symbol, we had to carve our own path and create our own guidelines based on well-known and widely used currency symbols. We knew that in order to be taken seriously, the nano’s currency symbol had to stand up next to the dollar, pound, yen, etc.

    When we stumbled on the story of how the Bitcoin symbol finally made it into the Unicode after 8 years, it shed a whole new light on what we were trying to achieve and the difficulty it proposed.

    Working with the team at The Nano Foundation was brilliant. They’ve got such a great passion for bringing financial equality and opportunity to the world, and especially to those who are underserved in developing nations. The stories we heard broke our hearts, and gave us the same passion to make the nano currency more ubiquitous and used globally.

    – Josh Chesney, CDO

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