Design>> Design Lab



In December 2007 I was brought to the United States by the CEO of a credit card company that exclusively served the small business market. My goal was to help the company see the world through the eyes of the customer and to demonstrate how Advanta could reveal its innovative spirit and intelligence to its customers and prospects. We created an offsite Design Lab that became a unique innovation playground to explore both evolutionary and radical strategies to revitalize the brand. Our inside/outside team was made up of employees and design strategists. The walls themselves were a constantly evolving canvas so that we could live inside of the target market, the brand, the aspirations of the company, the competition, and the future. Numerous employees from across business functions came to the lab. We became an active and trusted partner, collaborating from the early stages of strategy to the final stages of design. We created a dynamic workspace within the conservative corporate culture, a place for honest and open conversation, a place to dream about the future and a catalyst to make change happen.

Situation Analysis:

In May of 2008, Advanta Corp. was the 7th largest issuer of MasterCards in the world. The company was the only credit card issuer exclusively serving the small business market. With 1.25 million customers, Advanta was acquisition-driven. The engine of its marketing efforts was direct mail, designed and created by outside agencies.




For more in-depth goals: deliverables, method, positioning click here.


Visual Audit:

To know where you are going, you need to know where you have been.

Visual_Audit We created this wall as a snapshot of Advanta’s communications. To view the entire wall click here.


The small business owner:





To view a full image of the “swirl wall” click here.


Cultivating connection:

The interactions at the Lab were designed around the idea of inside/outside collaboration, starting with the composition of the team (Advanta employees and external consultants) and extending to the steady stream of visitors.

Conversations helped to inform our work, to direct our efforts and to share our vision. Visitors sat and conversed in the orange chair. We liked our guests and conversations so much, we decided to make the chair our symbol.

Visitors Visitors at the Design Lab


Four customer experiences:

There is power in communicating consistently across all marketing channels.

After three months of working in the speed of light we were ready for our big presentation. We showed two evolutionary and two radical strategies for a revitalized and unified brand experience. We demonstrated it by rethinking and redesigning key touchpoints: the card, the welcome kit, the statement, the homepage and a direct mail piece.


Friendly Evolutionary approach – Friendly click here


classic Evolutionary approach – Classic click here

Radical approach - Essential Radical approach – Essential click here

Lifstyle Radical approach – Lifestyle click here



Speaking through the clutter:


To demonstrate the real world impact of a redesigned customer experience, we created an installation using two virtually identical desks. The only difference between the two desks is the appearance of the Advanta communications.

Approval letter and Welcome kit: Before and After Approval letter and Welcome kit: Before and After. click here for more


Customer experience – the first 30 days: Before (PDF) and After (PDF).


The game plan:

After the final presentation, we switched the focus of the Lab’s energy from the hypothetical to the real. Our new mandate was to work on two new initiatives, Premier and Leap!, and apply the lessons learned to Advanta’s core. In essence, we were scouts, exploring uncharted territory and bringing our findings home.


Premier status:

Premier status: Our goals Premier status: Our goals

Welcome kit to the new program Welcome kit to the new program. For more samples in a PDF format click here.


Leap goals Leap goals

Leap_jumpimg Leap! created a kinetic culture. Everyday, people came to work excited about making a difference in the lives of each customer.


Leap! band-aids:

The first attempt to communicate differently was acknowledging mistakes. This program was designed to give back to our most valued customers. By creating a dialogue with customers, we established a more transparent relationship and opened the door to a brand new experience.

Some of the most important issues included reprice, CLI declines, authorization blocks, rewards redemption issues, overlimit/late fees and a general ‘oops’ for miscellaneous issues. Some of the most important issues included reprice, CLI declines, authorization blocks, rewards redemption issues, overlimit/late fees and a general ‘oops’ for miscellaneous issues. For more samples in a PDF format click here.


Leap! look and feel:

The chosen direction for the look and feel was constructed to convey LEAP!’s commitment to consistency and clarity.
Each communication demonstrates LEAP!’s unique positioning in the industry and highlights that the LEAP! product is professional grade. The predominate color for all LEAP! Communications was charcoal grey. Yellow was used judiciously
to call attention to essential information.


User guide | Employee cards User guide | Employee cards. For more samples in a PDF format click here.

<< Back < previous next >