Design at TrueLayer: our shared principles and values
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Design at TrueLayer: our shared principles and values

Our secret sauce for building a close-knit design community

TL;DR: Designing for fintech isn’t easy. This fast-paced market throws up new challenges and countless complexities every single day. With demand high and quality a must, discover how designers at TrueLayer find balance in the world of open banking.
Hey. I’m Mirta, VP of Brand & Design at TrueLayer. 👋I lead a diverse team of talented designers who work across all functions of the organisation. Together, our aim is to disrupt the boring, old-school image of finance, and inspire others through interesting and intelligent design. Because we think banking is cool. 🤘Here’s how.

🎯 Design org mission

Our mission is to increase open banking adoption by creating a more open, modern and human experience.

🚶‍♀ How do we get there?

By establishing a positive, memorable and recognisable experience for those who interact with our brand.

🛠 How do we make this real?

By following our purpose, shared values and design principles.When it comes to delivering results, striking a balance between alignment and autonomy is incredibly important. Though finding the right balance often isn’t easy.

A bit of backstory

Back in 2017, there was no such thing as the Design function at TrueLayer. It was just me, Desislava Genova, Nicki Clark and Adobe. Actually, that’s not strictly true. There was that half-baked library of Sketch components — which would eventually evolve into our killer design system, Prisma — too. I’m proud to say that since then, the team has seven-x’d in size and has a seat at most TrueLayer tables.But scaling wasn’t easy. As the team got bigger, everything started to move faster. Delivery expectations grew and things got, well, messy. We were being pulled in different directions by business demands, and doing the work of 10 with just three.It soon became clear that we needed to reorganise. To create an environment that increased everyone’s independence while keeping teams aligned and engaged. Simple enough, huh?So Desi, Nicki and I sat on the third-floor bleacher and began discussing ways to do this. Discussions became messy notes. Messy notes became slightly less messy notes. They became messy documents…Then before too long (read: actually months later), we had something. Four shared values and four design principles. An ethos for us to design by. A way to shape our creativity, minimise indecision and keep our north star squarely in sight.

Our shared values

TrueLayer’s designers are…
Why are we doing it?Continuous research helps us deliver better solutions even faster. So if we don’t know something, we ask. If we don’t know how to do something, we learn. If we do know, we share.
What directed your decision?By using data to drive our decisions, we can really understand how designs perform. And by turning those results into insights, we can hone our ability to build truly user-centred products.
Can you use some help?We take risks and own what we do. But we look to our team for insight and new ideas, rather than relying solely on ourselves. Because talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.
Have you incorporated feedback?Whether we’re building new products or updating existing ones, end users, clients and colleagues are our eyes and ears. Feedback and testing are paramount to improving our products.

Our design principles

TrueLayer design is…
Can anyone consume it easily?Our design recognises cultural diversity and human values. By putting people at the centre of everything we do, we can create better performing products that work for everyone.
Can you get rid of something?Less is more. Doing away with redundancies and distracting elements delivers higher engagement, greater usability and better aesthetics - creating a more seamless experience.
Have you introduced a new element?We use Prisma components and follow our design primitives and Gestalt principles. All to keep friction away from the user experience and make new features feel natural.
Is this design saving your future time?We design to solve future problems, not today’s tasks. So our products need to be able to evolve and adapt, easy to update and quick to implement. To keep us ahead of the curve.

Key learnings

So what did we learn from this journey?When it comes to creating a set of team values and principles, there are three key things to focus on:
  1. structure
  2. usage
  3. longevity

1) Structure 🏗

ObjectiveValues and principles need to be associated with clear objectives. And these objectives need to align with your organisation’s mission.Like: Be data-driven so we can design more human experiences.ActionYou should also make your values and principles actionable. Think of the objective as the why and the action as the because.Why should I be data driven? Because we want to make facts, not assumptions.QuestionWe also found that it’s useful to associate simple questions with each value or principle. This gives teams a foundational review process that they can apply to their work before they reach out for further feedback.For example: What directed my decision during this particular project? I specifically needed to reduce the bounce rate on this page and designed around this requirement. We can use the bounce rate as a metric to understand how the new design performs.IconLast but not least, make them visual. Associating visuals with your values is a great way to keep them fresh in your mind. 😉

2) Usage 🧐

Once you have your values and principles, it’s time to actually start using them. We found that the best way to do this was to ritualise them within our daily workflow.Technical reviewsBy asking the questions attached to each value or principle, designers can independently sort through initial doubts and better assess their own work.Performance reviewsWe found it super valuable to integrate our ethos into performance reviews, too. During one-to-ones with their teams, design leads provide feedback based on each value and principle. This approach gives us immediate insight into which areas the designer is exceeding in, and which areas need improvement. The results help managers nurture talent and provide designers with the tools and guidance they need to grow in their role, as well as to set clear expectations on delivery.

3) Longevity ⏳

The final thing we learned is that values and principles are not set in stone — they evolve along with the team and wider company needs.At TrueLayer, we have iterated on ours multiple times and we’ll keep on doing that as we continue to grow. You see, we want our values and principles to be empathetic and truly represent the people using them, so it’s vital that we revisit them at set intervals.Today, three years after their inception, our design values and principles are shared by more people than ever before. They’ve become essential to aligning our ever-growing team, especially as we’ve expanded internationally and continue to work remotely. And in times that we’ve felt isolated, they’ve provided a guiding light to keep us inspired.That’s the sort of balance we need to achieve our mission and make banking a more open, modern and human experience. 🏦 🤗

Written by

VP of Brand and Design
By fostering collaboration across disciplines, Mirta has led the development of TrueLayer’s brand, product experience and design system. She has shaped her career around an empathetic approach to design that puts people first.

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