Whilst working at Visa in Singapore around 2012, our Co-Founder Ben Soppitt heard about a bank in the US that was experimenting with unusual materials for their credit cards, including bamboo. This was a radical departure from the usual plastic and ignited an interest in card materials and design.
Jump forward to 2019 and few if any of these new materials had come to market. When it came to designing the Unifimoney credit and debit card, we knew we wanted something different than the standard plastic or the increasingly prevalent metal card. We searched hard for anyone who could help identify the mythical bamboo card, but it turned out to be more myth than reality.
However, in researching alternative materials, we got in touch with Judy Vigiletti at MasterCard. She introduced us to CPI Card Group who had been developing a number of alternative card materials including Second Wave, made from Recovered Ocean Bound Plastic. We loved the innovative option and saw the potential to turn the card into something more: a way to help support the ocean environment. We joined forces with The Ocean Foundation and entered into a partnership through which our customers would help support The Ocean Foundation each time the cards are used.
A Brain to Match
We made it a priority that both the debit and credit card would be NFC enabled, so the card could be used for tap-to-pay contactless payments at merchants that support it. This has become the dominant way to pay across much of the world and the US is slowly but surely catching up. We wanted our customers to have access to this innovative option in how they access and use their money.
Any new card or material has to be approved by the payment networks and we were asking for NFC, which required a new chip that had not yet been certified by the networks. So, a significant rush was put into place to secure the necessary certification from Visa in time for the Beta launch. Luckily, through a mix of persistence and established relationships, Visa gave the go-ahead and we hurried on our way. That gave us the card material, chip, and network certification.
A Distinctive Look
We now needed to design the actual card. We had already mocked up a rough sketch thanks to a contractor on Fiverr.
At this point, Megan Anthony at CPI took over and brought her significant experience to solving our brief for a beautiful card that was simple, sophisticated, and had a distinct texture and feel, while avoiding the typical design cliches — “i.e. black”. After several iterations, we ended up with a card design that used a new paint colour base called Magic Blue. Magic Blue only looks magical and blue in natural light, which means there was no way to easily show this except in real life on an actual card — so we had to trust in Megan. She also suggested a spot gloss for the repeating U pattern which we also agreed to.
We received the first cards this week and they exceeded our expectations having both inner and outer beauty.
We spent a few hours today trying to photograph them to capture the distinctive look. In the end, we had to leave the studio and its expensive lighting and go into the sunlight to try and capture the magical blueness.
We think we finally got it.
We are already looking to continue to evolve our use of innovative card materials and are fully committed to choosing materials and processes that minimize environmental impact and maybe do a little good too.
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