Group research project exploring people's attitudes towards an emerging cashless economy and finding opportunities for design.

Team: Steve Cheung, Anna Meddaugh, Arotin Hartounian.

80% of Americans carry less than $50 in cash on a daily basis, and almost 50% carry less than $20.

With the development of alternate currencies such as Bitcoin, we wanted to explore what attitudes or values are common among individuals who choose to limit their involvement with the Traditional Banking System.

Qualitative Research


We interviewed several people who have made conscious, educated decisions to limit their involvement with the traditional banking system, either by not using credit cards or by investing in cryptocurrencies such as BitCoin and Ethereum.

Our subjects included business owners, employees, independent contractors, and a student.

Generative tools used for interviews

We pursued out research objective using three generative research tools to aid in excavating underlying emotions and motivations through laddering interview techniques.

Image Deck
Interviewees are asked to select from a deck of cards that were selected for their provocative imagery from the game Dixit.
Tradeoff Exercise
Interviewees were asked to place different sized cards within two regions, with colors and size restrictions.
Object Story
Interviewees were asked to illustrate a story with the provided physical materials.

Generative Tool 1: Image Deck

Knowledge goal: Understand how they see themselves

Prompt: Choose one card that represents how you see your money, and another card that represents how your money see's you.

Generative Tool 2: Tradeoff Exercise

Knowledge goal: Understand their motives

Prompt: Imagine your ideal life. Select one card of each color and arrange them to fit within the grey boxes.

Generative Tool 3: Tradeoff Exercise

Knowledge goal: Understand how they see the world.

Prompt: Assemble any of these objects to tell the story of an individual's experience with the traditional banking system.

Analysis + Synthesis

We used a number of analysis tools to complete a series of diagrams to illustrate our findings. This helped us visualize and consolidate our data, from which we were able to identify 3 major themes.

Analysis Tools

  • Affinity Diagram
  • A.I.+ P.O.E.M.S.
  • Ethnographer's Questions
  • Social Order
  • User Experience Journey Map
  • Bordieu Framework
  • P.N.S.T.I.O

Theme 1: Meanings of Money

We found a spectrum of what money meant to people, ranging from Freedom to Greed.

Money gives the individual freedom in decision-making.
Money affords security for individuals and their loved-ones.
Money is a representation of the energy expended during work-performed.
Money is a physical representation of idea of value.
Recognition by society as a participant with "skin in the game".
Power + Influence
Provides a means of power and influence over others.
A representation of the greed within our society.

Theme 2: Perceptions of Traditional Banking System

When it came to the Traditional Banking System, our interviewees displayed a lack of trust and predict possibilities of failure.

Proxy for trust
To our group of interviewees, it is well understood that the bank acts as a proxy for trust, in place of personal relationships
The system is seen as too complex for those uneducated, whether by design or by accident.
Distrust of the system
There is a current of distrust of the system by our group of interviewees, stemming from both personal experience and acquired knowledge.
Collapse of the system
There were repeated mentions of the imminent collapse of the financial system.
There are common concerns about increasing economic inequality, which feeds directly into the idea of collapse.

Theme 3: Importance of Community

Community, whether local or national, were of importance to our group of interviewees.

Debt to society
Feelings of indebtedness to society for previously built foundations, infrastructures and institutions of our current civilization.
In relation to commerce and the exchange of resources.
The values and importance of personal relationships and how these motivate our participants.
Banks are inessential
Our interviewees don't see the Traditional Banking System as an essential part of their community.

Insights + Opportunities

From the research, we identified 5 pairs of Insights and Opportunities with the potential for further design exploration.

Pair 1

Repeated failures of the Traditional Banking System have created expectations of continued and future failure without accountability or consequences.
Encourage banks prioritize stability over profits. A possibility is to link perfornce to level of profit permitted.

Pair 2

Complexity of the Traditional Banking System is creating a population of consumers who feels powerless, fostering negativity.
Raise overall economic competence across the population for a better informed (and further empowered) citizenry.

Pair 3

The Traditional Banking System has served as a proxy of trust in place of personal relationships.
Take advantage of social media and networked infrastructure to reintroduce personal relationships and social social accountability into the sharing of resources.

Pair 4

Individual trustworthiness is difficult to establish without existing credit history.
Create new channels to augment current credit scoring system for establishing trust, giving a more comprehensive picture of character.

Pair 5

Community stores and exchanges value of a non-monetary nature, such as altruism, compassion and civility.
Create a "Social Credit Score" that takes these non-monetary values into account, to supplement or replace current credit scoring system.