Financial Independence Card

Above image: Conceptual design to persuade users to avoid credit card debt.

This would be a real physical credit card, with electronic ink and an embedded chip to change its appearance according to the user’s financial state.

• The card begins with a personalized photo, chosen by the user, to provide a positive image.
• When the user charges things to the card, a portion of the card face is greyed-out to represent how close the user is to reaching the card’s spending limit.
• If the user is running a balance on the card, a portion of the face is blacked-out with heavy red letters saying “DEBT”, growing as the user’s running balance grows. It could also print the amount of money the user will have to pay in interest based on their current payments.
• In addition to being a reminder for the user individually, the changed face of the card would also cause embarrassment when the user pulls it out to use it, thus using social pressure for persuasion.
• The card could also give positive feedback when the balance is paid off, such as sparkling like gold the next time it was pulled out.


Google Transit

Using public transit requires knowledge of what buses or trains go where, when they go, where to go to wait for them, and how to connect from one line to another.  This was often too much even for locals to learn, much less strangers to a city.  Now it is all automatic, on your phone.  Making transit easier encourages more people to use transit rather than driving, and increases user satisfaction by helping avoid long waits and optimizing routes.  You can even navigate transit systems in languages you don’t speak, just by following the GPS dot to the right bus stop and looking for the matching characters on the bus.

In 2005, I wrote a blog post about how Google Maps should create an open API for public transit agencies to use, because at the time, the few transit agencies that provided websites for trip planning had to build them with expensive custom software, and they always had cumbersome UI’s, while Google had the best mapping UI on the web and gave it away free.  One of the commenters on the blog post was the head of IT for TriMet, Portland’s transit agency, saying they also wanted that, but had been unable to reach anyone at Google.  I knew people at Google, and through six degrees of separation connected them to map staff.  Six months later, Google Transit was born, serving Portland only.  Now thousands of cities around the world use it, and it has been renamed the General Transit Feed Specification to indicate its open-source nature.