Next month I will be presenting the progress of my final project at the NC State Graduate Research Symposium to be held in the McKimmon Center on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. What follows is the abstract of the submission, which is still highly speculative since visual making has only just begun.

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Alberto Rigau
Graphic Design Master’s Candidate
College of Design

Advisors: Meredith Davis / Martha Scotford

In what ways can design address consumption induced behaviors and provide a set of tools to help consumers manage, control, and personalize fiscal activities?

Credit cards have become an essential financial tool for individuals and families. In 2004, the Census Bureau reported that there were more than 1.4 billion credit cards for 164 million cardholders—an average of 8.5 cards per cardholder, out of which 115 million carry a balance at the end of the month. In the pre–credit card era, households used a pay–as–you–go accounting system. Today, if there is no cash to fill up the car, there is always the credit card. Such a reliance on this payment method generates experiential patterns, more than often translating into family debt. This investigation studies behaviors and patterns associated with credit card use to identify moments in which design intervention can bring about reflective thought about spending habits.

Yiannis Gabriel and Tim Lang, in The Unmanageable Consumer, argue that our actions and experiences as consumers cannot be detached from our actions and experiences as social, political and moral agents. They claim that the fragmentation and contradictions of contemporary consumption are part of the fragmentation and contradictions of contemporary living. It is not the case that at one moment we act as consumers and the next as workers or as citizens, as women or men or as members of ethnic groups. We are creative composites of simultaneous social categories, with histories, presents and futures. The authors see consumers as central characters of stories, many times exhibiting varied behaviors, such as those of explorers, choosers, communicators, identity-seekers, hedonists, victims, rebels, activists, or citizens.

This research focuses on evaluating some of the ways in which design can address these consumption induced behaviors and on proposing a set of tools to help consumers manage, control, and personalize fiscal activities.

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