Project Four

Artisanal Currency and Buy Local Palouse Campaign

Is paper money still relevant to our economy? Read Do You Have Change for a Bowie? to find out.


The technological environment in which we reside suggests that printed materials like paper money, bound books, and hand-written letters may soon fall completely by the wayside, to be replaced by online banking, tablet reading, and text-messaging. A more optimistic view may be that formerly practical printed material can now be reserved for specialized uses, motivating specific actions which may benefit our culture and society to counteract some of the drawbacks of digitization. Can the advent of digital culture enable us to reinvent a new roles for print culture? As graphic designers and students of digital culture and media, we will ask this question in the context of printed money, beginning by considering this reading: Do You Have Change for a Bowie? The Advent of Artisanal Cash and watching What’s Minted in Berkshire County Stays There: Finding Reward in Local Currency.

Let’s imagine that Pullman-Moscow has decided to institute a regional currency, for use only in the exchange of products and services in the Palouse region, in the spirit of the local currency issued by Berkshire County in Massachusetts. Our class will break into five groups and each group will be assigned a local business to study. Each group will be charged with the design of a double-sided artisanal bill (bill denominations will be assigned: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50). The design should visually celebrate and explain what the business provides to the community. The bills should be considered both collectible items as well as practical units of currency that will promote local spending. In addition, each group will be charged with designing a web-appropriate diagram or visualization that can creatively chart the overall dollars spent in the (imagined) Buy Local Palouse campaign, as well as the popularity of the program at each participating business.

Note: This project requires students to create new and unique designs. Identity designs, such as logos, and advertising materials for the participating business will not be part of the project.

To prepare for this project, we will read, study, and discuss excerpts from Douglas Harper’s sociology book “Working Knowledge: Skill and Community in a Small Shop” (Berkely, CA: University of CA Press, 1987. Pgs 1-15, 24-73.). You should draw inspiration from Harper’s intensive study of Willie and his repair shop. Plan to make multiple visits to your business over the course of the semester and get to know what happens there through a process of photo elicitation interviews. For more on photo elicitation, see Harper reading pg 12 (pg 8 if going by PDF pages).

We will work on this project step by step throughout the semester, beginning with intensive visits to and documentation of businesses. Each group should develop a positive and comfortable working relationship with your main contact person at the business you are assigned. The imaging and design skills we develop in our other projects this semester are meant to build towards your final designs for the Artisanal Currency project.

Here is an overview of what you will be doing in the coming months:

  • As a group: Get to know the specifics of what is produced or accomplished at your business, from both a visual and a sociological standpoint. Engage in photo elicitation interviews.
  • As a group: Using your notes and photographs from the photo elicitation process, design a set of shapes that can be used to represent what is produced or accomplished at your business, as well as its value to the Palouse community. Consider how these shapes may be used in a diagram or visualization, as well as on your artisanal bill design.
  • Distribute shape designs to the class (everyone will use these in their web-appropriate diagram or visualization that charts the overall Buy Local Palouse Campaign).
  • Individually: Design the front and back sides of artisanal currency
  • Individually: Design a web-appropriate diagram or visualization that charts the overall Buy Local Palouse Campaign
  • As a group: Decide which individual designs are the strongest for final presentation. Make refinements as a group.
  • As a group: Prepare a final presentation of your designs for the last week of class. Make sure to include some documentation from the photo elicitation process.

Specific steps, assignments, and details will be added here and handed out in class as the semester progresses.

Field Trips

Later in the semester we will visit Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections at Holland-Terrell to draw inspiration for this project. They have an interesting collection of historic currency from countries around the world.

Historic German currency, Donated by Ed Carver, WSU Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections