skip to content

Born 1983 in Macclesfield, England. Austin is a researcher at the Royal College of Art, Design Interactions department and co-founder of the FOM design awards.

His work takes an experimental approach towards design; often leading to the development of new methodologies that generate alternative perspectives and challenge the status quo.

To think of money as simply an exchange system belies the true extent of its history and the influence it can have on the way we think and behave.

The Future of Money Award is designed to act as a platform between the financial industry and creative practitioners. Giving designers and artists a chance to present their ideas to an audience of financial payment experts and industry leaders. Arguably there has been no greater time of financial uncertainty than today and no greater need of fresh ideas and imaginative insights.

The competitions website

In conjunction with Consult Hyperion

Sponsored by Alaric


In today’s consumerist society it can seem as if money conceals our true identity – our clothes, our house, our car have become status symbols, which communicate financial success. What we can afford often defines us in the eyes of others and the objects we own act as a veneer that can obscure our true selves.

In recent years, our relationship with money has started to move beyond facilitating our personal identity (through material ownership), to our identity becoming the new money. For example, creditors are beginning to analyse a person’s behaviour via social media networks, to determine the likelihood individuals will repay loans. Mobile payment apps are utilising biometrics (face recognition, fingerprints) to create secure payment methods. Electronic money is combining with our individuality and this trend is likely to continue, as smart phones become ubiquitous payment methods, which harbour large amounts of personal information.

Currently all technological advances, which have brought money and identity closer together, have been add-ons to the existing monetary system. What if this technological progression continues and identity actually became money? What would this system look like? How would it work and how would value within this system be derived?

The FOM award invites creative practitioners to imagine a future world where identity has become the new money. We are looking for either hopeful or woeful visions of this monetary future, which explore the social impact of this technological trend.

Previous design briefs: 2011 to 2014


Crime whether we like it or not, is a driving force behind a large proportion of technological ‘progress’; this is especially true regarding money. In 1817, a burglary at a British dockyard led the government to start a competition, challenging locksmiths to invent an unpickable lock. The result was the Chubb detector lock, and it remained ‘unpicked’ for 33 years. In the past, adding another lock, or increasing the wall thickness of a safe was the obvious solution to deter theft.

However, as our money becomes completely electronic new crimes will undoubtedly be committed, which take advantage of the technology itself. Perhaps if we could imagine what crimes might happen, we could start to think about how to prevent them.

What financial crimes could be committed within a completely electronic marketplace?

We invite creative practitioners to employ a speculative design approach and design a future monetary based crime. A crime which utilises a loophole, a social convention or specific technology.


Since the creation of the first electronic payment system (the Western Union wire transfers based on the telegraph system back in 1870) money has steadily been transforming from a physical object to an electronic entity. The next stage of this process will focus on our pocket change, replacing metal coins and paper notes with electronic technologies; such as contactless, “near field” communication and microchips.

New monetary innovations, like most advances in technology, cite speed and efficiency as the main engine for change, with the goal of reducing costs, increasing productivity and therefore driving economic growth. Although these very practical goals are necessary, they can sometimes overgeneralise the complexities of our human condition and overlook more subtle idiosyncrasies which are at play while we deal with our personal finances.

We invite creative practitioners to employ a speculative design approach and imagine new electronic payment systems (based on real technology) which could help instill an increased awareness of our personal finances. Could new monetary technologies help facilitate a more meaningful financial transaction? What if our emotions could be expressed through our financial transactions? Will quick and easy payment systems inevitably lead to an increase in debt?


Money can simply be understood as a representation of goods and services, as such there has always been a constant arms race between the people who print currency and those who copy it. New technologies are constantly developed and implemented in order to keep ahead of the counterfeiters / hackers and help retain the value within objects that (materially speaking) are valueless.

Intricate illustrations, watermarks and foil have been used to make banknotes as secure as possible, although with the advent of home printing this old technology is at a crossroad. What does the future hold for hard currency... What if paper were replaced with plastic? If the watermark was substituted with a microchip? And the illustrations replaced by electronic displays? Such advances in technology would change the designer’s constraints and allow for a completely new system of trade to be developed.

Creative practitioners from across the UK are invited to submit a design, based around a proposed ‘smart banknote’ system, a potential replacement for existing paper notes. Your vision isn’t limited to a specific medium, but should be based around the technological specifications/limitations of the smart banknote system.