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How TrueLayer built a close-knit design community

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

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.

In a recent Medium post, Mirta Rotondo, VP of Brand & Design at the UK fintech TrueLayer, shared her inside story of how the company managed to build a strong and loyal design community.

Here is how.

Design org mission - TrueLayer's mission is to increase open banking adoption by creating a more open, modern and human experience.

How do they get there? - By establishing a positive, memorable and recognisable experience for those who interact with TrueLayer's brand.

How do they make this real? - By following their purpose, shared values and design principles.

When it comes to delivering results, striking balance between alignment and autonomy is incredibly important. Though finding the right balance often isn’t easy. Mirta Rotondo, VP of Brand & Design at TrueLayer

The beginning of TrueLayer's design story

It all started back in 2017 when there was no such thing as a 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." says Mirta.

She continues...

"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."


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TrueLayer's design values

TrueLayer’s designers are…

Contextual - see the big picture.

Continuous research helps them deliver better solutions even faster. So if they don’t know something, they ask. If they don’t know how to do something, they learn. If they do know, they share.

Data driven - make fact, not assumptions.

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-centered products.

Collaborative - get more insight.

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.

Always improving - do, learn, iterate then excel.

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 improve our products.

TrueLayer's design principles

TrueLayer design is…

User-centred - design for people.

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.

Essential - simplify complexity.

Less is more. Doing away with redundancies and distracting elements delivers higher engagement, greater usability and better aesthetic. Creating a more seamless experience.

Consistent - build intuitive experiences.

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.

Scalable - think long term.

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 from TrueLayer's design 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

Structure 🏗

Objective Values 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.

Action You 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.

Question TrueLayer discovered 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.

Icon Last but not least, make them visual. Associating visuals with your values is a great way to keep them fresh in your mind. 😉


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Usage 🧐

Once you have your values and principles, it’s time to actually start using them. The best way to do this is to ritualise them within your daily workflow.

Technical reviews

By asking the questions attached to each value or principle, designers can independently sort through initial doubts and better assess their own work.

Performance reviews TrueLayer realised that it's super valuable to integrate their 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 them 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.

Longevity ⏳

The final thing they 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."

Mirta concludes.

"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. 🏦 🤗"


About TrueLayer: TrueLayer is a London-based fintech that helps banks to use the data made available through Open Banking regulations. Its investors include Chinese tech giant Tencent, early Spotify investor Northzone and Singapore’s Temasek. It has raised more than $70m in funding to date.




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