Dig through any man’s pockets, and you’re sure to find a wallet—a trifold chunk of leather that’s gone mostly unchanged since the rise of credit cards in the 1950s. Yet as NFC invades our phones to take over the payment industry, we’ll have less and less scraps of plastic to carry around. Will the wallet die? Not quickly. But it will certainly transform.
Astro Studios spent a year rethinking the next generation of wallet—one that’s beyond the credit card, but still holds an ID, cash, business card, and, sure, any last looming credit cards in your pocket, too. What they came up with is , a multi-tiered wallet hand-stitched from a single piece of leather. It’s thin in the pocket but heirloom-quality in the hand; the vegetable tanned leather options invoke a grandfather-approved design that certainly brings to mind the mantra, "what’s old is new again," and Astro Studios is the first to admit it.
"We feel that this project, and lifestyle design in general, is about understanding relevance rather than pure ‘innovation,’" Astro’s John Moreira tells Co.Design. "We looked at innovations but found the best choice was to make a simple, functional product that provides a home for all your necessities but is less about frequent access (phones take that burden) and more about secure storage. The details in execution are where the time goes: hidden stitches that control card depth. Overall dimensions that work in balance with material properties for the right amount of grip on cards. … You just have to feel it."
In other words, to distinguish an analog wallet in a digital marketplace, Astro played to the medium’s strengths and designed the most tactilely satisfying experience they could. It’s a smart approach, even if, when the focus is "security," deploying an NFC-blocking material would have been more prudent.
"What is interesting to us is that many objects outlive their traditional ‘function’ because they have a value that is outside of features that can be listed on a box," Moreira writes. "Cell phones are arguably the most practical way to tell time, always present, automatically adjusted for time zone and daylight savings time … yet the wrist watch industry is alive and well, and this is because choosing to wear a watch … says something about the wearer."
And in the case of wallets, that "something" will likely be "my freaking government still makes me carry around an easily-forgeable state ID in an era when I can pay my mortgage with my mind."
[Hat tip: Core77]