This has been my primary project for the past 2 years. I was hand-picked out of a 100+ designers in the company to lead the design and experience of the entire project.

Leading this project required me to flex a wide range of design disciplines:

Low-Level Empathy Research
Product Definition
Competitive Analysis
Use Case Definitions
Rapid Conceptual Prototyping
Usability Testing
Information Architecture
User Flows

Hi-Resolution Screen UI
Hi-Res App Prototypes
Icon Design
App Store Marketing
Animation / Transition Design
Final Production-Ready Artifacts
Marketing Microsite
Apple Pay Card Art Design
Presentation Design

some backstory...

Around a year before the iPhone 6 launched, Apple gave us a call. The call went something like this…

“Hey, so, guess what? The iPhone 6 is gonna have an NFC chip. Customers will be able to make payments with the new phone.”

“Cool. About time.”

“We want you to be 1 of our 5 launch partners. We’ll need your credit and debit cards to work with Apple Pay on day one.”

“Cool. Ok bai.”

So, after a couple visits to secret dungeons in Cupertino, shady campus escorts, and bit of Apple-nerd excitement, we were given a seemingly simple task to make Apple Pay work for new iPhone 6 users. The onboarding would go something like this:

1. Johnny buys new iPhone 6
2. Johnny adds his Capital One card to Apple Pay
3. Johnny then has to call Capital One customer service to verify he’s not a fraudster
4. Johnny’s credit card is now activated in Apple Pay
5. Johnny buys stuff with his phone

All we really needed to do was make sure customer service was trained to take these Apple Pay verification calls. Nothing else. So, you can obviously see where the primary pain-point is. If you happen to enjoy calling customer service centers, please stop reading this now – there are plenty of people at Capital One, Comcast and DMV who can’t wait to have a chat.


We started thinking about this digital-to-analog-to-digital onboarding experience. How could we make this a complete digital experience? How could we give our customers an option to verify their cards without calling in?

So, we told Apple that we wanted to include a second verification option: an app. This would provide an option for our customers to download our app, verify their card, and be on their way – no need to call and wait on hold.

As the other banks were working to barely meet the minimum requirements, we were taking a human-centered approach from the beginning to create the best possible experience with the cards we’ve been dealt.


Once we decided to build this “verification app,” we though deeply about the context in which customers could use this app and how we could enhance their payment experience. We saw an opportunity to leverage the mobile platform and Capital One’s big data to enhance this new digital transaction experience.

We decided to design this app with a focus on taking flat, plastic-only experiences, and transforming them into rich transaction experiences that truly add value for our customers.

research & testing

We live and breathe Design Thinking here. So we dove deep into our human-centered design process to uncover the latent needs around the entire transaction experience.

50+ interviews with customers to uncover latent needs around the transaction experience

Interviews focused on how they think about their credit card, spending habits and credit card rewards

Additionally, pulled in multiple learnings and insights from a variety of internal research projects

research themes

After talking to customers, we clustered our findings into 3 high-level emergent themes:

Customers check in with their accounts frequently because they believe they believe financially responsible people should not be surprised by their spending.


Make it easier for customers to stay on top of their spending by proactively communicating recent purchase status and unusual activity.

Customers don’t really believe that an institution that benefits from their being in debt might also have their best financial interests and concerns in mind.


Provide simple and transparent fraud resolution and rewards redemption. Avoid messaging that sounds like marketing.

Not all transactions are created equal. Keeping physical and electronic receipts is often a inconvenient workaround for remembering important purchases.


Help customers easily distinguish purchases by enabling them to mark and quickly return to them. Integrate receipt information.

ideation & Prototyping

With those themes in mind, we started to ideate and rapidly prototype tons of low-fidelity concepts around this framework. We validated a handful of concepts…


Once we validated these concepts, we focused on framing the ideal experience, based on our learnings and the use-cases we were solving for. Given that the primary use case was during the transaction experience, we ultimately focused on speed and simplicity. This was an “on the go” experience, as opposed to a “sit on the couch and play” experience. We weren’t looking for the user to spend long amounts of time in the app. We wanted to let them do a quick check-in, make sure everything’s cool, and let them be on their way with no worries.


With the focus on speed and simplicity, we carried this theme into the design of the interface. Our mantra was “Simplicity, deference, and no fluff.” Every element of the UI, from the card art to the iconography, was there for a specific, singular purpose. We stripped away every layer we could, so our customers could get to the information they needed immediately, without distraction.

We tested a variety of layouts, visual styles and interactions. And then we tested some more. Ultimately it came down to 2 simple variations. A skeuomorphic, apparent version, and a slightly more abstract version. The 2 UI concepts tested very well, but ultimately, the more straightforward version won out. Displaying the skeuomorphic card art created immediate context with the customer, letting them familiarize themselves with the app at a much quicker rate. Customers did not need any explanation with this version. They enjoyed exploring and discovering the app hierarchy with their already preconceived mental models. We had a winner.

The Designer's Curse

Once you ship it, all you can think about is fixing it.

Experience is iterative. It’s non-stop. I’m constantly prototyping, testing and trying to design better ways to do things. I can’t stop. And, as much as I’d love to show you how we’re progressing on this project, I can’t share pre-release versions with you. But, stay tuned. One day, I’ll be completely happy with the product. Probably when I’m sleeping with the fishes.

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