Patrick Stevenson Keating, Reciprociti Bank

Can we design a new relationship to money? Reciprociti Bank imagines how we might use the banking process to re-shape our understanding of 'value' in society

British designer Patrick Stevenson-Keating, founder of Studio PSK takes on the financial system in his new work commissioned by the Design Museum. This year’s residency program featuring four up and coming designers focuses on the theme of disruption. In Reciprociti Bank, Stevenson-Keating reimagines a banking process that encourages users to think more about their purchases. 

"We have a very rigid view of economics, money and finance I think," Stevenson-Keating told Dezeen. "It's a system we all interact with every day but because of its ubiquity it has become very passive. I was very interested in this idea about money and finance, not just being a tool for buying and selling but also for shaping society more generally." He created Reciprociti Bank as a way to inspire people, not simply to spend more money, but to think actively about where their money goes and what they spend it on.

With its own bank note, debit card and cash dispenser, his imaginary bank installation invites interaction. A cash machine enables users to withdraw fake money or insert real cards to have their most recent transactions displayed in the gallery. Instead of a traditional keypad, the ATM uses motion-sensors to reference hand gestures used in the stock market and even requires the user to manually dispense fake currency with a lever. Another machine displays the user’s balance in the account in proportion to an inflated balloon, while fake branding asks provocative questions about wealth as it relates to current economic problems.

The designer took inspiration from an experimental currency used in Austria in the 1930s. The currency was taxed, so the value of tender decreased the longer it was kept. "It was a way to stimulate spending," the designer said. "I thought that was fascinating, that the actual design of the bank note itself could influence peoples' spending behaviors. That was the seed of a lot of the ideas."

Stevenson-Keating’s Reciprociti bills are similarly designed to hold a value that fluctuates with time and location. Printed with fine graph lines across their surface, the ATM machine reads the currency to determine its worth, which persuades or dissuades spending in particular areas based on specific moments in time. As people become increasingly removed from the tangible aspects of currency, Stevenson-Keating’s installation asks us to rethink - not the value - but the meaning of money in the post-digital age.