On Ephemera

Om Malik recently wrote about receipts as a design experience. He was writing about Square, the payments company, that is re-thinking the way people exchange currency. Square’s focus on design, particularly the receipt, is inspirational. They view commerce as a design challenge, not only the method by which a transaction happens but also the artifacts left behind from the transaction, the receipt.

In his post, Om quotes Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, on their approach,

One of the things that really excited us in the early days was the receipt, putting a very simple map on the receipt where the transaction took place, putting a business’s Twitter account, putting a big picture of what they just sold, a beautiful photograph of a cappuccino, just to make it feel like something that was a lot more tangible, and also a lot more focused around communication. In the early days we saw the receipt as this amazing, kind of often played down and often forgotten about communication channel. It kind of evolved our thinking, this is not about payments, this is about commerce, and the definition of commerce is the activity between buyers and sellers.

Back in the 90’s, I took a trip through pre-Euro Europe. One of the things that fascinated me were the receipts which I saw as vestiges of the experiences I had on my trip. The receipts were ephemera.

ephemera

I would collect the best ones and mail them back to my parents who kept them for my return. Om’s post reminded me of this collection so, over the weekend, I pulled out the old wooden wine crate that holds them and scanned a few to share.

As I pawed through the box of receipts, I ran across another box, a cigar box this time, filled with all the ticket stubs of every concert and sports event I’ve been to (as you can tell, I’m a bit of a hoarder of this stuff).

Each of these slips of paper bring back of flood of memories. While the ticket represents the details of a commercial transaction where money changed hands in return for an experience, important for record-keeping, they each expressed these details in their own unique way.

Each moment in time has been crystallized in time, a keepsake to be shared, a gift and celebration of a shared experience. I am thankful that Square is thinking of this in this age of e-tickets and am glad they encourage attention to this important detail.

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