Collaborative Futures

For The Glasgow School of Art, Royal Bank of Scotland

This is an exploration of the future of finance and banks' future customers. It brings together research and speculation to deliver evidenced and actionable design recommendations. Banks are starting to see big changes in how people use money and understand their finances. Intimacy and trust have become a problem for many, perceptions of financial health are changing, and data experiences and digital services have a growing influence on customer behaviour. Collaborative Futures explores and responds to some of these issues.

To communicate research on emerging trends and how these might relate to people’s attitudes and behaviours towards banking in 2030, my team and I created a set of speculative banking experiences and tested them with current users. We translated our findings not only into credible design directions, but also into a set of design tools that can be used to build evidenced future scenarios and to support a user-driven design process at RBS.

Collaboration

Collaborative Futures is based on bringing together diverse perspectives to explore the future. The Glasgow School of Art team for example consisted of designers from a variety of countries and design backgrounds, including graduates in Design Innovation and Product Design, and final year students of European Design. The collaborative nature of this project also extended beyond the context of the studio, and throughout the project we engaged with a variety of experts and participants. We also worked closely with the designers at the Royal Bank of Scotland and repeatedly adapted our focus to follow up feedback or a new direction emerging from shared working sessions. This close and frequent collaboration and collective sense-making was important to move forward, and to understand how to communicate insights in a way the RBS design team could relate to and act on.

Step 1: User Research

First we conducted desk research focusing on current and emerging trends in the world of banking and beyond. We compiled our insights into a set of cards grouped according to topic area (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental) to enable quick access to the vast amount of topics we had looked into. These flexible cards acted as a referenced and rigorous archive as well as a playful tool to stimulate thoughts through the rest of the project, and were one of our main handovers to RBS.

In order to find out about current behaviour, we also conducted our own primary research using interviews and engagement tools. These tools helped us to spark conversations on personal finances without being too intrusive regarding such a sensitive topic. The visual results of these sessions were also popular with the RBS design team, as they allowed them to connect with real users' experiences at a glance. Overall we conducted over 100 interviews and tool sessions and our extensive user research was summarised in a 'fieldwork book'.

Overall we conducted over 100 interviews and tool sessions and our extensive user research was summarised in a 'fieldwork book'. Realising we had to find a practical and visual way for the RBS team to be able to quickly refer back to these insights, we grouped them into sets of behaviours or attitudes, which would later become personas. These are based on real evidence, and designed to quickly spark empathy and understanding.

Step 2: Speculative Design

Next we had to find a way to use our understanding of what is happening now, to consider where things might move next. Using our trend cards, we speculated about how emerging patterns might continue or change, and thereby created a thought-provoking vision of the world in 2030. Adding our user insights into this future vision, we imagined how beliefs, attitudes and values of current customers might develop accordingly and what effect this might have on their behaviour and choices. This way, we collaboratively built a future scenario and a set of future customers. They are grounded in research findings but also allowed us to explore and understand future opportunities.

Step 3: User Testing

To communicate our understanding of key shifts and how these might relate to people’s values, attitudes and behaviours towards banking in 2030, we created a set of speculative banking experiences. They are not actual propositions of services, but a way to explore how users might interact with their bank in the future. Creating simple prototypes to represent these interactions, we invited a diverse range of participants to try them. This allowed us to use existing behaviours to speculate about emerging forms of customer experiences for 2030. For example, to imagine and interact with Bitcoin and blockchain as a new currency, we designed a board game like tool where people's transactions are tracked and communicated to their network. A pound coin thus comes with its very own unique story and journey.

Another example is the ethical credit card - a bank card which only lets you pay if the product complies with your previously set ethical standards. If it does not, you have to use 'the dark side' of the card, but this might have consequences such as an extra charge or a post to facebook. This helped us to explore the idea of the bank as a very active mediator within the payment experience, rather than passive facilitator.

The last example is an interaction we named 'secret swap'. If you share a secret with your bank by holding it up against the murky screen, the bank will share one of its secrets with you in return. The saucier the secret, the saucier the reply. This interaction turned the formal branch experience of today on its head, and explored ideas around trust, privacy and data protection.

Step 4: Design Directions, tools, and methods

The last example is an interaction we named 'secret swap'. If you share a secret with your bank by holding it up against the murky screen, the bank will share one of its secrets with you in return. The saucier the secret, the saucier the reply. This interaction turned the formal branch experience of today on its head, and explored ideas around trust, privacy and data protection.