Refreshing Plaid's brand


Noticed anything different about us lately? Sure, we’ve got a little spring in our step from expanding our institution coverage for Auth and Identity, but we’ve also launched a brand new website. Since this marks the debut of our new design system, we wanted to give you a peek into the whys and hows behind this effort.

Let’s zoom out a bit. 2018 has brought a lot of firsts for Plaid: in March, we launched our first lending-specific product; in April, we joined the CFSI Financial Health Network; in May, we made our first international foray by adding coverage for the largest Canadian institutions; most recently, we shipped key upgrades to our developer dashboard. These milestones are as much measures of our growth as they are reflections of the same mission we've had from the start: to empower innovators by delivering access to the financial system. In a year of both change and recommitment to our founding values, we wanted to take a harder look at how we represent our brand. What colors, typefaces, voice, and other design elements would represent these ideas? We started out by reassessing our existing design system.

Farewell to our old design system

The design elements we’ve been using to date were built for a different time. In late 2015, we were still relatively new to the fintech space and needed a look and feel that communicated how serious we were about the quality of our product. By grounding our design system in the visual cues of the finance world—navy blues, elegant typography, and fine lines reminiscent of the guilloche patterns you’d find on old currency or bank notes—we created a brand that felt professional... if perhaps a little too serious. Two years later, we were ready to start thinking of a new design system that would better reflect our values and where we were headed.

Our design system to date had us feeling… a little blue. It served us well but didn’t give us a lot of room to experiment and grow.

Showing our commitment
to developers

We’ve been developer-centric since day one—and we’re committed to maintaining the developer experience as a top priority even as we grow. So we set out to create an underlying structure for our designs that would feel more technical: crisp black and white backgrounds, clean typography optimized for legibility, and streamlined geometric shapes that feel like modular building blocks. But we also needed to convey the passion that both we and our developer customers feel about building faster, better products. That’s why we contrast structured elements with organic brushstrokes and pops of bright colors—a reference to the ingenuity and energy it takes to build, test, go back to the drawing board, and build again.

Our new design system contrasts elements that feel highly technical with ones that feel unexpected and dynamic.

Using illustration to make fintech less daunting for end-users

According to one study, more than a third of Americans lose sleep over financial issues. While Plaid could never claim to have a bulletproof solution for this, we do believe firmly in the CFPB’s assertion that innovation in fintech has substantial potential to benefit consumers. From our own interviews and research, we also know that part of the problem is that finance can often feel overwhelming or abstract to the average person—or even to a developer who might be thinking of creating a new financial product. As we developed our new design system, we decided to feature illustrations that visualize the benefits of having a more open financial ecosystem. Consistent with the rest of our designs, Plaid’s illustration style is meant to strike a balance between feeling rigorously structured and yet approachable.

Our illustration style starts with geometric black-and-white elements. We then add color and small organic details to add vibrancy.

Where we’re headed

Of course, the website is just a first step in a much larger effort to refresh our brand. Going forward, you can expect to see more...

  • Updates and improvements to our website
  • Detail about our design process and what we learned
  • Examples of the new design system (beyond just the website!)

For the time being, you can check out the new plaid.com to see our design system in use. We’re excited to debut it and hope you like it too.

Join us!