You’ll need a new keyboard from later today…

Posted on July 1, 2010


…India’s taking over. The Indian Rupee (currently written as R or INR) is getting its own symbol, like the pound (£), dollar ($) and Euro (€). It seems astounding that every currency doesn’t have its own symbol, simply because we’re so used to it in our economy and our daily lives – but it’s worth remembering that we used to write 5l 9s 6d for pounds, shillings and pence.

Tonight the government end a 14-month contest to find a symbol for the denomination, which they hope will seal the rupee’s landing on the world economic stage. Given the rise of India in space travel, nuclear weaponry and as one of the world’s booming countries in an almost-global period of torpor, it seems increasingly likely that we’ll have good use for the symbol, whatever it ends up being.

However it’ll involve a lot of retraining; keyboards will have to be designed on the Indian subcontinent that accomodate the symbol. Hundreds of thousands of fonts worldwide will have to add the new rupee insignia to their cache of letters. Some of the entrants that didn’t make the final cut are interesting:

They started with 25,000; they’ve whittled it down to five. Here are the finalists:Design-wise, I think that number 2 is the most impressive to a Western eye – but that’s undoubtedly because it looks most like the symbols we’re used to. Whether there will be a geographical divide as to what people think most suitable will be interesting. I’ve seen people defend numbers 3 and 4 very strongly on the internet, and I think they probably capture the essence of India better.

Number one, to me, looks like a symbol for a semi-luxury hotel, and number five doesn’t really bear much resemblance to the ‘R’ that previously marked the rupee out.

What the government are looking for, as they’ve admitted throughout the process, is a symbol to legitimise their currency in the hope that they can make the rupee a valued tradeable currency on the global markets. For such a sea change in perception of economists (and the general public who rely on the economies working vaguely correctly in order that they can afford bread and milk) to happen and for them to accept a newcomer, you need something that instils confidence. It needs to be bold, it needs to be bulky and it needs to say ‘I’m secure: put your trust (and your money) in me’. The other four just look a bit wispy and waif to my eye. If you’re looking for a totemic symbol of trust and security, it surely has to be number 2.

But I could be very wrong. Which of the choices do you prefer and why? Or do you like some of the rejected options? Let me know in the comments below.

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