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The Story Behind the Marcus Design Evolution

Head of Design Page Schmucker explains the changes Marcus has made to its design system and how it will impact the way we serve customers.

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Marcus has experienced a lot of change over the last few months. 

If you’re a customer, you might have noticed that things look much different around these parts.

We refreshed the website to give it a cleaner palette. Our typography has changed, too. We introduced a new illustration style. Oh, and we even launched an app.

Leading this design evolution has been Page Schmucker, the head of design for the Consumer and Investment Management Division. Page joined Marcus in May of 2019 from the agency world and also served as an adjunct design professor. We spoke with Page about her design background, the changes Marcus has made to its design system and how it will impact the way we serve customers.

How did you get into design?

Page Schmucker: I’ve always been creative, making things and tinkering. I really gravitate towards form, I sculpt, hand-build ceramics, knit, watercolor, and bake. Before I worked in design, making things was always a creative outlet and hobby from my day job. Early days, I worked on the tech side as a customer service representative supporting applications that my team built; we didn’t really have designers on the team then. It was technology, product managers, and that was it—but it was still something we practiced, even without the title.

I would go and sketch out ideas from what I heard from customers, and work with the tech team to lay out what a fix or improvement could be based on what we heard. Looking back on it now, it was agile and iterative design and build before agile had caught on. This was also my first experience in human-centered design; I just didn’t know it at the time.

A rebranding project peaked my interest and made me realize it was time for a change. It was the most excited I had been about any of the work I had been doing and I knew it was time to follow that excitement and passion. I left that job and went to design school to get my Master’s in Service and Design Management. The program, and field, felt like the perfect intersection for me: solving complex problems with design while helping people. I feel fortunate to have always worked with very creative and talented people. 

What drew you to work at a financial institution?

PS: I’ve spent a good part of my career so far at agencies and consulting and I loved my time there. I feel fortunate to have always worked with very creative and talented people. We were solving really challenging problems, with great teams and clients, but at the end of the day we had to walk away and go on to the next project.

The Building Blocks of the Design System

It all started by looking at the marks that are distinctly Goldman Sachs and distinctly Marcus, and identifying our commonalities that could be the foundation of the new identity.

We realized quickly that the square is a cornerstone of both brands that could draw connection between them, and be a strong, literal building block. 

When we were sketching things out, it was funny that the colon was essentially two Goldman squares, and we thought, ‘there’s something here.’ So we started to push on the geometry of it and it ended up becoming the atom that spread throughout the visual identity. So that was the idea for the square – one box becoming two and the idea that the colon was the conversation with customers. And having that square, the perfect square, be the foundational point.

When I took a step back and looked at where I have been most fulfilled, it was when I could see the work through and help it grow. Being able to point that problem-solving muscle, that design-muscle, at a problem long-term, that is a relevant pain point for so many people led me here—the opportunity to use design to help and have an impact long-term was what did it.

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What were some inspirations for the evolution of the Marcus design system?

PS: Marcus is bringing consumer banking into the future, and in order for that to shine through a visual identity we had to think outside of the realm of existing design systems that banks leverage today. If we wanted to truly be future thinking, we knew that we needed to use design as an agent of change to bring forward a unique minimal interface stripped of that bloated user experience that banks often have. We wanted to design something no one had seen before.    

This was truly a team effort, the biggest inspiration for us was getting outside of a banking mindset and looking out into different industries to see what people care about and are gravitating toward. Then design off of that instead of designing as a bank first. We were really designing as a consumer experience first. Everybody really brought their unique lens, looking at products across industries helped us bring forward a bold color palette, unique data visuals, and a utilitarian typeface that converged into a future-facing design system.

Introducing a New Illustration Style: Paper Cut

When we put it in front of customers it felt delightful but relevant, which we really didn’t get with the other explorations that we had done. That’s when we started to push that illustration direction.

Part of what we wanted to do with it in the app – in particular with the visual identity – was bring in motion because paper cut visuals have a whimsical quality, especially as they move. They start to bring the brand to life. The team took that and ran with it, which meant a lot of explorations to figure out the right motion speed and content.

On a personal level, where do you draw your design inspiration from?

PS: I find my personal design inspiration from a few places. Despite wearing black most days, I draw a lot of inspiration from color and the effect that it can have on experience and how we feel. I try and keep a lot of color around me at home and in my environment. I also try and keep art and artifacts around me that are beautiful and evidence of expert craft and process. Most tiny, functional things inspire me, because they require a different attention to detail. A favorite artist is Matt Hebermehl. His art has visceral energy, freedom, color, and scale. Erin Wilson is another favorite. Her quilt squares are incredible studies of color, craft, and composition. They are a really interesting interpretation of a traditional art that highlights the heritage in a modern way. As far as artifacts go I swoon over ceramics, like Heath, certainly a fan favorite. I love that the elegant, simple design, craft, and utility all come together in something so enduring. My love for them started with a pair of bowls my husband and I inherited from a dear family friend and I’ve cherished everything since. While these are not digital experiences, they are inspirational points of reference and are good reminders of the impact art and design can have when we look to what’s around us and understand what makes us tick.

Other Design Explorations

We explored some modern 3D-rendered approaches that we put into some early prototypes, and we got looks from customers that said, ‘Sorry, this is a banking app?’ It was visually missing the mark.

We walked it back in and did some really emotive line drawings to see the other end of spectrum; completely hand-drawn, really simple and clean. Because it had the same values that stipple had. We put that in front of people and it felt too playful. The artistry of it wasn’t necessarily coming through in the way that we represent our values. People thought it was cute but asked, ‘Why is it in our app?’

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.