We can talk stocks and bonds later.Let’s invest in relationships.Introducing Wealthsimple Venture
The goal of this project was to design a living room experience for Wealthsimple that that would complement the company’s existing brand and address a real customer need.
“What is Wealthsimple?”
As a growing startup operating in the financial technologies market, there wasn’t a particularly large amount of awareness around the Wealthsimple brand and their service. None of the students in our class, including Akira and I, had heard of them before. We had to learn more.
Wealthsimple: Brand positioning and visual design language
After examining their positioning compared to existing competitors and noting the characteristics of their visual design and branding, we came up with the following brand attributes for them:
- AnalyticalTheir service uses algorithms and data analysis to help people make smarter investing decisions.
- SimpleThey employ a minimalist approach to branding and UI design, aiming to create clarity in the minds of consumers around investing.
- YouthfulTheir promotional materials employ bright, punchy colors to create a more youthful appearance than their competition.
- ApproachableBecause investing is something a lot of people are afraid or skeptical of, they use their visual design to feel as welcoming as possible.
- CharismaticBy using visually bold advertising using a somewhat casual tone of voice, they appear interesting and charismatic.
Designing a living room experience
Once we had a better understanding of Wealthsimple’s service and brand, we started to think about how we could create a living room experience around them. We interviewed several people to gain a better understanding of mental perceptions and uses of the living room space, and these were the two of our key insights:
- As a common area, the living room is a social place to meet friends and family“When I think of living room, I think of a place with couches where the whole family can gather”
- As a shared space, the living room is a place where people connect with the outside world.“I like that the windows give me a view of the outside – it makes the space feel inviting”
A small caveat – no-one’s interested in investing money.
Akira and I began this project aiming to create an experience that could promote responsible financial behavior, like investing, which is what Wealthsimple’s service aims to do. However, after talking to several more people about their perceptions of investing, we realized that none of them planned to dip their toes in the world of investing anytime soon.
- People felt that they weren’t at a “stable” point in their lives financially to be investing their money.
- People felt that they didn’t have enough knowledge of the field of investing to be making “good” money
These were two barriers that were very difficult to overcome with one designed experience. So – if people weren’t planning on getting into financial investments, what would they invest in? We decided to ask people what investment meant to them, and this is what we learned:
Venture – doing cool things with the people that matter to you
We came up with the idea for a service called Venture – a service that helps people invest in the relationships and people that matter to them through shared experiences. By trying out new experiences and spending time with friends, we think we can help people become closer with each other and grow as individuals at the same time.
Visual Language and Branding
As the primary visual designer on this project, I decided to used Wealthsimple’s existing color palette and typography as a base to create a cohesive visual brand for Venture. For Venture’s UI, I wanted to combine the existing simple design philosophy of Wealthsimple with more powerful, visually exploratory elements, designed to be an inspirational springboard for people to go out and spend time with the people that matter to them.
The Venture View – living room experience
We decided that our living room experience would have to complement Venture in such a way that it would encourage people to go and spend time with the people that mattered to them. We came up with the idea of a generative art piece that reacts to user’s behaviors – the Venture View – which was designed by Akira.
I also wrote code in Processing to prototype what our generative art might look like.
Move your mouse left and right over the black window to make the art more visible and animated.
Crafting a product story
For us to be successful, we had to set Venture apart from other “social” services – and also tie it into Wealthsimple’s existing business. To do that, we decided our product strategy would be to pilot Venture with longtime Wealthsimple customers and make it a limited invite-only service, so that the focus would be on the people who really mattered.
Things I’ve learned
Effective experiences are about designing to be visible and invisible
Through the process of iterating on our living room experience, I realized just how important it was for our experience to strike a balance between being boldness and blending in. I’ve learnt that sometimes, experiences can be designed to be so seamless and powerful that they become a part of people’s daily lives without a second thought.
“Aiming for the stars” is pointless if you can’t build the rocket
Within the confines of a classroom, it was natural for us to lean towards crazy and futuristic ideas. However, as designers, it wasn’t enough for us to simply have “great ideas” – we had to consider feasibility and longevity in terms of their execution. If we couldn’t convince our teachers that our experience would work in the real world, how would we convince our clients, bosses or the general public?
How would this technology we propose actually work in context?
Why is our solution better than [existing product or service]?
How will we keep users from abandoning or becoming bored of your experience?
Good design is at its most effective in the context of a compelling narrative.
During the initial phases of the project, we received a lot of critique and peer feedback about our ideas not feeling “believable”.
Akira and I realized that, along with our respective responsibilities to come up with realistic physical experiences and a solid visual and interactive design language, we also had to come up with a coherent, powerful narrative that tied these two together within a believable human context that people can feel empathy towards. This narrative became the central mechanic through which we communicated our idea, and ended up working in our favor. How you present an idea is just as important as the idea you present.