SEP 2019 – APR 2021


Auden is a fintech startup, dedicated to responsible lending and helping people manage their money. I joined in September 2019, when the company had no design function to speak of.


  • The absence of a design function meant the customer experience was being driven and designed by the engineering team;
  • The our core product was difficult to use and non-compliant;
  • There was no design system or even assets to work with;
  • Nothing in development had been validated with customers;
 and lastly,
  • Departments were siloed, meaning the push for change was difficult to achieve. For example, a new brand was being developed with no product input for digital.


In the first month, I spent a lot of time with product, engineering and content leads to understand the product streams, drawing out service blueprints and customer journeys on walls to demonstrate design as a process and bring people together for conversation and collaboration.

This led to conversations with the CEO and CTO, who had different ideas on how to improve the product – most notably using a driving license to verify ID and run a credit check. I took this as an opportunity to showcase user research and, working with our new research lead, we set up and ran Auden’s first lab testing session in our second month.

It was an important milestone, as it validated and disproved some ideas and set Auden on a path to regularly using user research to influence its product. We adapted, as many did, to remote research in 2020 when Covid hit.


At the same time, the Marketing team was developing a much needed, new brand identity with a London agency. Their focus was on advertising, not how it behaved in the product.

I worked closely with the agency to mould the visual identity, stress test the brand elements and ensure it could translate to the digital product and pass accessibility standards. We’d learnt from testing that customers often feel anxious when applying for short-term credit and in response to that, we changed the core colour to one perceived to be more calming and reassuring. Note the evolution here, from orange to blue:

It also served as an opportunity to start reimagining the product design, gather more feedback from users and start to influence the product direction.


With several product streams to cover, we needed to grow the design team. It being my first time recruiting a new team, I wanted to grow the team slowly and with purpose, enabling each individual to settle and contribute to our ways of working.

We grew into a healthy team of five experienced, generalist designers; important, as being a startup, things could change quickly and we needed a breadth of skills.

To foster better collaboration, I brought copywriters into our design meetings and crits, and pushed for design to report into Product, which opened doors for me to take part in recruiting Product Managers.

We became a close team, but of course, we had different perspectives and lots of debate. Some of which we struggled to resolve.

We needed guiding principles. After a lot of desk research, workshops (which I led) and some excellent copywriting support, we came up with product design principles distinct to Auden. One of which you can see here:


We developed our own design system, which I’ll admit is a lot easier to achieve with a small design team. However, when working with a large engineering team, it is still an essential piece in the design ops puzzle and, led by our Senior Designer, enabled us to build a coded version using Storybook.

Our influence grew, so much so that we teamed up with our CPO and successfully pitched a financial health concept to our senior leadership team, which was subsequently formed into a new product stream.

And by Spring 2021, we started to see the fruits of our labour come together, with a new website and loan product going live, and work continuing in the money management space.


I thought I could take a democratic approach to leading the design team. That informed debate would always lead us to consensus. But I soon realised I couldn't make that work and the team were looking at me to be decision maker. I worried about making the wrong decision or for showing bias towards certain people.

But ultimately, I recognised no decision was worse, upset everyone and stalled the team. I learnt to be more bold and accept the consequences. These weren’t life changing decisions, and the team was mature and we moved quickly onto the next thing.