Finance used to get a free pass when it came to style. Banks, brokerages, and asset managers worth hundreds of billions of dollars issued client statements looking like spreadsheets with logos slapped on. Design seemed to be something other industries focused on, not finance.
But the industry seems to be getting the gospel and buying into the fact that customers expect more design from their financial products and services. Apple took commodity products like the computer and mp3 player and turned them into consumer devices with an aesthetic that wasn’t shared by competitive products at the time.
Now, everyone is upping their game and finance is no different. We’re beginning to see beautiful, fashionable financial products, tools, and apps.
Here’s a list (with a few gag gifts mixed in) of some of the design innovations creeping into the financial world.
Credit cards with personality
When you’re out with a client or on a date, you don’t want to whip out a lame credit card. That’s so…plebeian. You need something distinctive, something that says, “hey, I’ve thought about how I look when I pay my bills.” Companies like Card.com have licensed images and plenty of fashionable options to match your style.
Beautiful payment platforms
Remember when ecommerce was fun but checking out was the pits? Stripe has not only done an amazing job simplifying the payment process, but it looks great, too. Gone are the days of checkout and invoice tools that look like glorified spreadsheets. We’re in an era where design matters in finance — payment tools, finance apps, credit cards, and customer statements issued by banks. It all matters.
The annual report gets a face lift
Especially for publicly traded companies, the annual report traditionally represented a boring, old regulatory filing. Sure, some firms put a nice cover on and maybe some glossy pages at the beginning of the report, but for the most part, there wasn’t really anything fashionable there. Consumer brands issued nicer looking reports, but the internet provides new ways not only to communicate with shareholders, but also to do it beautifully. Take leading early stage fintech investor Google Ventures, for example. The company issues a yearly report (here’s a recent one) that is part educational, part interactive, and part marketing. You can browse through it quickly or drill down on particulars — like sectors the firm has invested in or on specific companies in their portfolio. Expect to see more communication tools that will enhance investor communication to emerge in the future.
A gift that keeps on giving
As most of finance has been digitized, something’s been lost along the way. I mean, who doesn’t have a single physical share laying around of an old blue chip stock that you got for your bar mitzva from a family friend who was stock broker? Anyway, there’s also something magical to those old certificates and a company called GiveaShare make it easy to gift a stock to a friend or family member. There are other services that make it easy to gift stock but this one comes with a framed plaque the proud recipient can hang on a wall. Like golf? Hang up Callaway. Like tech? Mount a share of Apple in your study.
Stock charts as art
If trading is indeed an art form, it probably deserves some wall-space in your living room. That’s exactly what Sarah Meyohas thought when she painted a series of paintings she calls Stock Performance. The one above? It’s the chart of the New York Stock Exchange (before it was acquired by ICE). In this case, the artist is intrigued that the chart represents both a individual stock and the exchange it’s traded on.
“This line is a self-reflexive existence,” the artist wrote on her website. “It is the stock market subject to its own critical analysis. As the price fluctuates, the stock exchange is valued through the very means of that which is being valued. It is creating its own image, attaining its own concept in self-revelation.”
Bonus: Drink like a (Wall Street) boss
Once you’ve closed the deal, don’t celebrate with just a another whiskey glass! You want something that both feels good in your hand and looks good with your colleagues. These Bull and Bear Whiskey Glasses are sold by a company called Bull Market Gifts where they have, as you can imagine, lots of gifts for the financial pro. My favorite is a replica of a ticker tape machine.
Bonus: Money hits the bank, light up that Cohiba with your…calculator?
I’m not sure this is a real thing and if it’s not, it should be. Maybe. This vintage 80s Casio calculator fits inside a real, working lighter. So, when you’re done crunching the numbers and the money hits the bank, you don’t have to scramble to find a way to light up your stogie. Just hit C and click.