IMG_6595 © 2011 Neil Clavin. All rights reserved.


This is a concept proposal to the The Dollar ReDe$ign Project. The goal of the project is to ‘to rebrand the US Dollar, rebuild financial confidence and revive our failing economy. ‘ The proposal is to give the dollar back to the US citizens to fix it themselves – making it open, local and trackable. Its called the ‘us’ dollar.

Open dollars

Open dollars will be printed on demand for flexibility and convenience at reduced cost to user.

Print dollars will be produced with a home computer and printer. A special paper and printer cartridge are used. The special paper contains a writeable RFID tag and a ‘smart label’ of biothermal ink. The special cartridge prints the design to the paper and also writes data to the RFID tag including the value and encrypted authentication codes. Writing to the RFID tag triggers a change in the colour of the ‘smart strip’ eg. green for one dollar, gold for one hundred dollars etc. Smart label technology is already developed for labelling food and pharmaceuticals.

Once a dollar is printed and activated the value is withdrawn from the users bank account and transferred to the note. For example if a user prints fifty dollars the same amount will be deducted from his bank account. Its like having an ATM at home.

The dollar may be re-deposited in one’s bank account by scanning the QR code with a mobile phone camera. Scanning the QR code checks the authenticity of the note with the US Federal Reserve. The note can then be deactivated and the value deposited in the user’s account. The smart label reverts to a multicoloured strip. The physical note has no monetary value until it is reactivated.

Prints are a hierarchy of fixed visual elements, digital codes and customisable areas. Fixed elements are the US flag, a QR code, the value, serial number and the URL. Editable elements are the image, a free text area and an area for ‘badges’ to add additional value.

The dollar is designed for usability and accessibility. Prints are accessible via serif fonts, large type and sound files stating value. Numbers in corners allow users to see value without needing to view the whole note. A colour is assigned to each value. All text is printed black on white for high contrast for colour blind users. All text is a minimum of 18pt, ranged left and well leaded for visually impaired users. The RFID tag carries sound files denoting the value of the note. An RFID reader as used in toys  or even a small speaker as used in musical birthday cards may be adapted to this purpose.

Open dollars will be customisable to create local or even personal currencies.

Of course users can select and print  classic dollar designs carrying the portraits of Washington, Lincoln, Franklin etc if they do not wish to customise.

Users can customise areas of the dollar design to make identifiable local currency for example local Seattle dollars with added value in the metropolitan area. Users can customise areas to make personal currency for gifts, promotion or sheer vanity.

Open dollars will be participatory, democratic and action orientated

Any uploaded designs are available to all for re-use under a creative commons licence. In this way non-designers can also benefit from customised currency. It is hoped that inventive and beautiful designs will be printed more often, have greater circulation and promote a meritocracy for good design. A similar model can be seen today with crowdsourced T-shirt printing services like Threadless.

Distributed printing reduces production and transport costs and environmental impact. Currently it costs the Federal Reserve about 4 cents to produce a note in addition to transport and distribution costs . It is hoped savings can be passed on to users by printing dollars at home, for example a person may be able to print a dollar at a cost of 99 cents at home. Currently dollars are printed in only 2 locations: Washington DC and Forth Worth, Texas. Distributed printing builds resilience in system against disasters and reduces carbon footprint of a dollar for transportation.

Local dollars

Local dollars will support local community economies

Local dollars will be set to parameters to support local values and influence behaviour . Parameters can be set to connect unmet needs with unused resources. For example participants in a local recycling scheme will be paid in local dollars providing discounts on surplus vegetables. Parameters can be set to encourage more local purchases by giving the note greater value within a local area. ‘Transition’ communities positioned between city centres and out of town shopping areas suffer from a loss of local economic activity. Local ‘transition’ dollars with higher value in the immediate area can bolster the local economy.

Of course the local dollar will continue to be valid currency throughout the rest of the US at a basic value.

Set parameters to strengthen community relationships

Local dollars will carry greater value within a community boosting trade. Users can increase value by printing discount codes for local businesses on the dollar, embedding higher local buying power and hidden bonuses and exchanging dollars for time instead of money

Local dollars will identify communities locally and nationally

Communities will be identified  via custom images, symbols, maps and signs, name, location, slogans, embedded sounds and hidden symbols and images

Trackable dollars

Trackable dollars will provide control and motivation for spending while maintaining privacy.

Users can opt-in to track the ingoing and outgoing flow of bills from their wallet or purse. A user can voluntarily register for a ‘Personal Spending Tracker Card’. The card contains a RFID tag which ‘reads’ how much physical currency is within the user’s wallet. The card tracks how much money leaves the wallet, where, at what time and the type of purchase. The user can monitor his personal spending online. Details of personal spending remain private – only viewable by the registered user.

Trackable dollars will show spending on a private personal  level to control spending.

Individuals can track categories of personal purchases to control and refine spending patterns. For example a user can track spending between categories like leisure, groceries, transport, social and fixed costs to better control budget. The user can fine tune the categories to limit spending on certain luxuries by printing custom dollars which may only be exchanged for a particular item eg. $60 of ‘coffee dollars’ per month. Users may view a map of spending by location and perhaps take measures to avoid areas where they may spend to much or focus on areas which offer better value.

Trackable dollars will show flow of money between local business and spending trends.

On a local level users can see anonymous spending trends within their community. One can see where the key ‘trade routes’ are in the local area. This can help identify new local business opportunities based on the patterns of spending. For example a flow of money between the local gym and bakery may suggest that people exercising at lunchtime go to buy a sandwich at the bakery before returning to the gym. Perhaps a mutually beneficial agreement could be formed between the two businesses where the bakery could sell sandwiches at the gym.

Users may also track their personal spending patterns against anonymous trends in the community. Am I spending to much money on leisure? Am I paying to much for transport? What are the alternatives?

A view of the local flow of money provides a feedback loop to refine the parameters of a local currency. Does the local currency encourage the economy we want to have in our area? How might we adjust the parameters?

Trackable dollars will show flow of money on a national level identifying trends and needs.

National spending patterns show what is valuable for local communities and show opportunities for trade between communities identifying surpluses and needs. Again one can compare personal spending against the national trends.


A collaboration between Heather Moore of The Shape of Things, Jan Schroeder of Minds and Makers and Yasmina Haryono.