Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at <a href="http://99percentinvisible.org">99percentinvisible.org</a>.<br/> A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at <a href="http://radiotopia.fm/">radiotopia.fm</a>.
March 4th, 2011
Episode 20 of 257 episodes
A few years ago, journalist Douglas McGray learned that the largest chain of check cashing stores in Southern California, Nix Check Cashing, was being bought by the nation’s largest credit union, Kinecta. The credit union thought it had something to learn from the check casher about how to reach out and serve the poor. This was curious. McGray’s impression was that check cashers (and especially payday lenders) were predatory, the bad guys, and that credit unions, especially one dedicated to serving the poor, were the good guys. This proposed sale made McGray look at the whole situation with fresh eyes. I highly recommend reading Douglas McGray’s New York Times Magazine article all about it. It’s excellent. I, of course, was drawn to the design aspects of the story. Check cashing stores can feel very odd when you’re not used to them. Quite simply, they are often designed to look and feel more like a corner store. The furnishings are sparse, and the information is on signs— big, bold and clearly presented. Banks, on the other hand, have a design legacy of carpeting, heavy desks, suits, and pamphlets that are hard to parse. If you were to start over and design a financial products retail location today, which model would you follow?