We decided to record a year end special of On the Grid. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it with Dan and Andy.

Episode 24: 2012 in Design [recorded December 29th, 2012]

It’s our year end special. We discussed the events and issues that effected and shaped design this past year. We focused on three: The evolving relationship between design and technology, changes in publishing, and the flat design vs. skeuomorphism debate.

If you want to see other topics and links we considered, including Crowdfunding Product/Industrial Design and the Evolution of Email, check out the post on our subreddit


A discussion about Digital Authenticty on Episode 14 of On the Grid. This is my favorite episode we’ve recorded so far.

Episode 14: Flatline [recorded October 3rd, 2012]

This week we spend the entire episode talking about authenticity in digital design.

On the Grid subreddit

The Flat Design Era

What is your take on honest design for the screen? Leave a message with your thoughts at (973) ON-GRID-2, email mail at onthegrid.co or tweet #onthegrid.


I recently wrote a guest post for one of my favorite design blogs, Humans in Design

A paper banknote featuring a national icon, a denomination, and the countless details that assure us that it is indeed valuable: It’s the interface that has served us well for centuries.

However, we all know that soon enough physical currency will be a distant memory…


Another episode of On the Grid. I get more excited as the show continues. Be sure to subscribe or leave iTunes feedback.

Episode 7: Squaring Up [mp3 link released on August 29, 2012]

This week we talk about a redesign proposal for Wikipedia, Beck’s sheet music album, making rates public, and Square’s deal with Starbucks.

Wikipedia Redefined

Wikiweb App

Quora Feedback on Wikipedia Redefined

Beck to release album as sheet music

Making your rates public

Starbucks Adopts Square

I was listening to an episode of 99% Invisible about the design of physical currency, and I couldn’t help but think about what else money could look like. So with that, I present the internet with another completely unsolicited redesign project…

On US Federal Reserve Notes 

There is a charm and depth to the design of American paper currency. It looks like it’s been built over a long period of time, it features numerous historical references unique to the country, and it instills a sense of stability. Of course these are all things that one might look for in the design of a bill. But by no means would the design be considered good to a fresh pair of eyes.

Taking another look

My attempt at a redesign involves a functional look at currency, and tries to break from the burden of historical precedent, where useful. After some thought, the most important elements seem to be: amount/ability to differentiate amount and security (beyond the basic requirements of course).


Most people can tell the difference between bills by reading the amount or noticing the illustration of the president/iconic figure associated with that amount. These work fine for the most part, but don’t allow for quick judgments, and also don’t consider the visually impaired.


Color is one very quick way to differentiate two unlike bills. By assigning every amount a color, in a prominent way, a faster judgement can be made. By making each color a custom metallic Pantone color, an extra level of security is added. You can’t match a custom Pantone with 4 color process. You certainly can’t even come close on your inkjet at home.

Tactile Features

For the visually impaired, I imagine physical currency must be very difficult. A 1 dollar bill feels the same as a 100 dollar bill. By adding engraved (raised) type for both the numeric and written amount, a quick touch can tell the difference between two bills.

The notch feature is another way to quickly identity a bill. Just find the placement, and you know what you have in your hand. Additionally, this feature can be used for machine reading. While I haven’t added it to the design above, the use of braille was certainly a consideration as well.

Finally, something that a digital image can’t show: paper. My first thought was that cotton paper continues to be the best option, but perhaps the change in paper stock paired with different Aqueous/UV coatings for each amount would allow for one more level of tactile difference. Smooth uncoated, textured uncoated, silk coated, dull coated, semi gloss, or gloss could be assigned arbitrarily.


I’ve kept the width of bills the same width as current bills, so that existing physical infrastructure that reads banknotes could continue to function, but the height has been cut to 3.6 inches, as no more physical space is required. While this is admittedly somewhat arbitrary, cutting the size does saves paper.

Size could be used as one more measure of differentiation, but perhaps unnecessary with other methods previously stated.


Beyond previous methods mentioned, I’ve also added features that are purely for security.

The fine-line printing pattern is currently in use in US bills. The pattern above however, would be randomly computer generated during every print run, using a program like Processing, based on a proprietary formula. The pattern could always be traced back to the print run.

Microprinting is also currently in use, but by printing the entire bill of rights on every banknote in America, every citizen suddenly carries their rights with them almost everywhere they go. More symbolic than practical.

Inscribed security thread would be the final layer of security.

No President?

By removing an iconic American from the bill and adding back the motto “E pluribus unum,” the design focuses on the power of all Americans, not just one.

Shouldn’t we be moving away from physical currency?

Actually, yes. This purely hypothetical exercise, and is just that: an exercise. I do believe that the future of currency doesn’t look anything like paper money. It probably looks a lot more like Square.

With all being said, I would be interested to hear about any oversights in the design described above. What contraints on the design of currency may have been glossed over? What lessons can be learned from the currency of other countries? What problems have not been solved?


On the Grid - Episode 5 is online. Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing us on iTunes. It really helps. If you haven’t yet, please do.

Episode 5: Build, Destroy, Build [mp3 link released on August 14, 2012]

This week we discussed file systems, putting your ideas into the world, simplicity vs. complexity, and destroying your work for the sake of greatness.

Mountain Lion’s New File System

What’s with the anti-directory movement?

Postbox gives up on Mac Store

Apple’s Genius Ads

dot Mail app

dot Mail post

Imagine the most beautiful scene ever…

Make your users do the work

Email us at mail at onthegrid.co, call us at (973) ON-GRID-2, or tweet hashtag #onthegrid with feedback or topic suggestions.

We also really appreciate the iTunes feedback. It helps the show a lot, so please rate or us leave a comment if you haven’t.


On the Grid - Episode 4 is up. We had been recording a few weeks in advance, but we’re looking to be more timely, so our backlog is being released right now. Expect a few extra episodes in the coming weeks.

Episode 4: Free Doughnuts [mp3 link released on August 11, 2012]

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Sparrow Acquisition

Apple patents disappearing vertical scroll indicator

Jack Daniels Wrote What Has To Be The Nicest Cease-And-Desist Order Of All Time

Why I prefer a featureless app

The Cost of Free Doughnuts

If you have some thoughtful feedback, leave a comment here, email us (mail at onthegrid dot co), or even call us if want us to possibly play your comments on the show: (973) ON-GRID-2

If you want to share a topic, tweet a link with the hashtag #onthegrid