Jist, a clever concept to reduce overspending—a UX case study

Ignacio Allendesalazar

Project time

  • 2 weeks in 2017. Working as a 3-person group.
  • 5 days in 2019. I reworked and refined the concept and wrote this case study.

Our brief: to film a promotional video

This concept came out of a 2-week-long group project on my 3rd year of Industrial Design at Northumbria University.

We needed to create a concept that helped users reduce overspending. The main aim of the project was not the concept itself, but to explain it through a short promotional video. Thus we never spent enough time refining the design.

My role

  • I was involved in Research, Ideation, Development, UX Design, UI Design, Industrial Design, Video Storyboarding & Final Presentation.
  • I was not involved in Branding, Filming & Video Editing.

Why the rework?

I always liked the concept and thought it was a shame we couldn’t take it further. This is why, almost 2 years later, I’m using an interview for a UX position as an excuse and motivator to polish it and add it to my portfolio.

Let's get into it:

Design context ?

Contactless cards and online shopping sites make payment a breeze.

But studies show that the use of contactless can increase spending 8 to 10% by making it harder to monitor our spending.

Source 1 / Source 2 / Source 3

What does spending in the digital age looks like?

Problems ?

1. Digital payments effectively reduce the perceived value of money, promoting overspending and impulse purchases.

2. There is no easy way to be on top of your finances, even more so before the actual purchase.


How can we set an immediate reminder before purchase?

Where is the best place to set an immediate reminder of what we are spending?


Wallets for both men and women (purses in the UK) are the perfect places to display some kind of reminder:

  1. It’s the one thing we check before making a purchase.
  2. We all carry them everywhere, always easily accessible.
  3. They have a standard size for both men and women.

User concerns:

Money and finances are sensitive areas to design around.

I identified some user concerns that were taken into account when designing the final solution.

Ideation and design

This was, after all, an Industrial Design project, so we investigated ways to introduce reminders on the wallet:

The final Industrial Design

Meet Jist,

Jist lives in your wallet, together with other cards. It conveniently displays the gist of your finances —hehe get it?— so you can quickly know if you can afford that new pair of sneakers before you buy them.

Jist fits in a standard card slot

Why this solution?

  • It fits inside nearly any wallet’s card slot.
  • It offers a long display area without adding much bulk.
  • Leaves plenty of room for a battery.

Technological feasibility

  • An E Ink display has proven a great solution due to its small size and low power requirements.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy would be used to connect the card to a smartphone app.
  • A light sensor could be used to detect when the wallet is open, optimizing energy usage throughout the day.

There are three main sections Jist could display. This could be customised by the user through the app at any point.

1. Budget — the MVP (minimum valuable product)

Maintaining a budget is proven to be the most effective way to control and reduce spending.

We used paper prototypes and questioned users to figure out what budget would be more useful.

  • A daily budget was discarded as an option. Spending can vary widely from day to day thus it’s too volatile to be useful.
  • A monthly budget is a much more reliable indicator, but it would prompt people to overspend at the beginning of the month and feel frustrated by the end of the month. We included it as one of the secondary displays.
  • A weekly budget will be the main indicator displayed. It’s enough time to be reasonably reliable and predictable while being short enough to encourage saving from the first day.

2. Account balance

Although users seemed most interested in accessing their account balance through the card,

  • Research showed that displaying the total account balance number is not necessarily an effective way to control spending.
  • Privacy was also a concern. Many people felt uneasy about having their account balance openly displayed, even inside their wallet.

We decided to introduce the Account balance as a secondary screen that can be accessed by tapping the card.

3. Latest transactions

The idea to have the latest transactions came from a user and seemed very popular.

Receiving notifications of other account movements was also popular (Spotify subscription, standing orders, payroll…)

We decided to introduce Latest Transaction as a secondary screen that can be accessed by tapping the card.

I’m a big fan of taking notes of my thoughts as I sketch. I use colours to describe different things.

Stickers can be a great way to inform about budget goals in an instantly understandable and more engaging way.


The user needs to know if she is over or under budget at every point during the week.

I explored ways to transmit this information in a way that is instantly understandable thus adding minimum friction.

Solution: Using emoticons to transmit important information at a glance

Why emoticons?

1.The user can, at a glance, knows if she is on budget ??, needs to be careful — ??, or is over budget ☹️?.

2.Emojis transmit this information faster, more playfully, and can arguably create a stronger emotional response, reinforcing positive behaviour (see user research down below for more on this).


  • Creating an engaging experience through static icons. E-ink displays don’t have a great refresh rate, therefore, the icons will need to be static.
  • Creating stickers that work in a small (82mm x 10mm), 4-bit monochrome display.


I researched different gamification characters. The screen restrictions meant I had to look for simple small characters.

User research

I showed and tested this solution with 6 people.

  • All 6 quickly understood the concept once I explained that it represented their budget situation ?
  • 3 really liked the emojis on its current form. 1 liked the idea but didn’t like the look of the emojis. 2 didn’t like the emojis and preferred the use of a line as an indicator.

Conclusion: emojis show promise, but finances being such an important and delicate topic, much more thorough user testing would be needed to be confident that it’s the right solution.

Final solution

Jist’s emojis change depending on the message

There are two ways to control Jist:

Double tap to move through the screens

We found tapping was the best way to quickly flick through different screens. It’s actually pretty fun.

You can tap through the wallet for added convenience

Use the smartphone app to access more options

Just like a smartwatch, Jist displays the gist of your finances — hehe, get it? — The Jist app would be used to access more detail information and set up the card.

What has changed since 2017?

  • Digital banks like Monzo are greatly improving the control and access users have over their finances with instant spending notifications, in-app budgeting, and automatic spending categorisation. This is pushing the whole industry forward.
  • Contactless mobile payments are also becoming more widespread, eliminating the need to open your wallet altogether.

Do these innovations make Jist obsolete?

I would argue they don’t.

  • Contactless mobile phone payments in 2018 (Apple Pay, Google Pay…) account for only 6% of all UK retail transactions (Source). This suggests that wallets will still be with us in the short and medium term.
  • Jist offers the huge advantage of informing users at a glance before the payment is made. This is crucial when trying to control spending.

I imagine Jist working together with your banking app

Jist, connected to your banking app, could provide real-time, relevant information to make informed purchase decisions BEFORE the actual purchase.

Working in a talented and motivated team is pretty awesome

This is a pretty obvious one for many but definitely worth mentioning as is the thing I remember most about this project.

It wasn’t my first or last time working with a great team, but it’s always surprising how powerful it can be to work on a team with good chemistry. These are the best improvements I found:

  • Increased quality of work. Many of my favourite projects have been solo ventures, but I can clearly see that when working in a good team, the quality of the work rises exponentially form bouncing and building on each other’s ideas.
  • Learn better and faster. I’m relatively new to design, so every new project provides a huge challenge and learning opportunity. I find this is amplified when working in a team, as I not only learn from my own research and experiences but also from those of the whole group.
  • Just good old fun. Working with like-minded, motivated designers on this interesting, fast-paced project was just plain old fun. The fact that it was it was a low-pressure uni environment made it more relaxed, but in my experience, this can also translate to high-steak projects in the workplace.

Let me know how you liked it:

  • 1 ?= didn’t like the article
  • ~20 ??= pretty good
  • 40+ ???= really liked it!

Author: Ignacio Allendesalazar

Collect by: uxfree.com