Design mirrors reality, and image helps to create reality. We find ourselves in the throes of a banking crisis; the way banks look has mirrored the change that led up to this:
Bank design is serious business, for it signals the seriousness of the institution. When money was based on gold, grand American banks such as J.P. Morgan (founded in 1895) and First National City Bank (founded in 1812) were reminiscent of the temples of Greece or cathedrals of Rome – solid, safe places to deposit hard-earned cash. The stately houses of finance were constructed of luxurious materials like marble, granite, bronze and stained glass whose inherent value spoke to the institution’s solemn commitment to take itself and your money seriously. These banks reflected an era when buying on credit was almost unheard of and debit cards hadn’t yet been dreamed up.
Now that money is plastic, banks are made of Formica, Plexiglas and Sheetrock. (By the looks of them you almost expect them to collapse.) Once built for the ages, banks are built for today.
Appearances reflect what’s inside. It matters.