On his LinkedIn page, Brent Dixon says he’s “a designer, educator, and musician—in no particular order.” He’s not a stickler about such things.
Dixon emphasizes the importance of design to credit unions “because it’s a way to show they care about people. I want to overcome the idea that design is solely about making something look aesthetically pleasing when it’s really about making things work beautifully.
“It’s melding form and function into seamless interactions. At the credit union level, it includes taking something logical—such as budgeting—and joining it to something
emotional—money. It’s about making something that works well in addressing both, whether it’s banking products, a website, or branch design. Delight and happiness are tools used to design good credit union experiences.”
An example of good design research comes from The Cooperative Trust, a young professionals group Dixon founded while working with the Filene Research Institute. He oversaw a variety of project types, including one involving unbanked and underbanked consumers.
“Despite their fear of financial institutions, many of the people we met with were more on top of their finances than banked people,” he says. “They can’t afford mistakes.”
That research project led members of the Cooperative Trust to develop Tru Circle—a pilot program inspired by “village banking,” which is used in many developing countries. “At no risk to the credit union, a group of five friends or family members contributes a set monthly amount into a common account,” explains Dixon. “When a member requests a loan, the group must unanimously approve it. The transactions help borrowers establish credit histories.”
The Cooperative Trust enables young credit union professionals to design and prototype products and services that are relevant to young consumers. “It’s OK to positively disrupt the system,” says Dixon, who’s now pursuing a master’s of fine arts degree.