Design System and Brand

Design brand animation
  • Client: Fortune 100 financial institution
  • Duration: 2014-2019
  • Role: strategic collaboration, branding, prototyping, narrative design and communications, interaction design, motion design, visual design
  • Goal: Create a consistent user experience across multiple products and touch points within Bank Retail space, while improving delivery processes.
  • Outcome: An enterprise-wide collaborative living system with numerous guidelines for consistent experience across hundreds of products and services, improved development and design processes, optimized delivery, improved design culture.

As I was working on the Branch Transformation project and leading efforts to create several products for multiple digital platforms, I’ve realized the importance of having a consistent user experience, which could only be achieved by standardizing our design language and creating a platform for collaborative iteration on our design patterns and reusable components.

Back in those days “design systems” weren’t as prominent and well-defined as they are now, we had to figure a lot of best practices through iteration and collaboration with our developers and product partners. This work started in parallel as an enterprise-wide project to create a global design library, as well as one of numerous bottom-up initiatives that many design teams started to improve cohesion and consistency within their own product ecosystems.

Globally, we’ve started with creating a set of fundamental guiding principles for our design language, the values we wanted our digital experiences to reflect. I have participated in a 2-day workshop with other lead designers, we’ve shared our values with one another and came up with a three design principles and a mission statement for our entire design team.

At the same time we’ve developed a local design styleguide for the products we’ve been working on in the Bank Retail space.

Our initial version wasn’t a design system in the current sense of the word—it was more of digital snapshot of our design language across multiple platforms: iPad and iPhone apps, interactive displays and ATMs.

Working in constant collaboration with our developers we’ve created a set of effective guidelines and reusable components that enabled us to iterate and deliver faster, while providing a much more consistent experience for our branch customers. In a bank branch everything—from signing into the lobby management kiosk to withdrawing money from an ATM—is a part of big customer journey.

Our styleguide included UI components, layout grids, colors, typography, iconography, and also motion design guidelines and material layers architecture.

As our design organization was growing and getting more mature, we’ve slowly started folding our local styleguides into a global design system. We’ve formed a steering committee that included lead designers and key product partners across the enterprise and continued iterating on our design language, while collectively learning how to manage enterprise-wide design systems.

We’ve taken on ownership upon specific aspects of our design language and the overall user experience. I’ve chosen to contribute into our animation guidelines and motion design language. I’ve written articles describing our guiding principles and created multiple visual examples, “do’s and don’ts” for all of our designers and developers.

As this work continued and our design system became widely socialized internally across the company, we’ve launched a dedicated team to support and further develop the design system. I turned my attention to creating an overarching brand for our design organization and take it public.

I started working on an identity system for our designers to strengthen our talent brand and improve our hiring processes, to further align our design team with the rest of the company, and also to help designers feel like connected to one another.

It was hard enough to achieve alignment between a couple hundred of designers, who usually tend to have strong opinions when it comes to visual design and branding. In addition, I needed to make sure our design brand would align with a corporate brand—to demonstrate our commitment to partnership and collaboration across the company.

It took a lot of research, conversations, meetings, iterations and collaboration, but we finally got there. And because it was a collaborative effort, we didn’t need much of the “big reveal”—most of the design organization already knew and contributed to developing the brand.

We’ve continued gathering feedback from all of our colleagues and partners, and kept iterating on the brand and all of our guidelines. And we started applying our brand and share it across the company and beyond, at design conferences, recruiting events and college fairs.

We’ve created stickers, brochures, business cards and also apparel for us to wear as a team. We wanted it to be inclusive, so we did a lot of research to make sure it would work for most of our designers, regardless of their age or gender. So instead of t-shirts we went with track jackets and socks—and they were a hit.

In fact, even now, a couple of years after leaving the company, I am wearing a pair of those socks as I’m typing these words.

The brand and the design system as whole lives on, and I’m sure it’ll get better and better in years to come.