Designs for delight

Company size

  • 10,600


  • Mountain View, CA


  • Financial services
  • Software

For years, Caitlin Flint’s mom did her taxes. As a design lead at Intuit, Caitlin wanted to help everyone feel the confidence she felt in her tax accountant mom doing this important job, but she (or her mother) obviously couldn’t help every individual get their taxes done. In her role at TurboTax, she’s applying this empathy and desire to help people at scale to ensure Intuit’s users have the confidence in their products that she had in her mom doing her taxes.

Caitlin, of course, is not alone at Intuit in her desire to use the power of design to stay hyper-connected with customers and develop products that not only give them confidence, but also delight them along the way. The team leans not only on customer empathy and customer obsession, but also on it’s storytelling powers to create experiences with impact.


For me, the biggest benefit of storytelling is what takes you from thought to action. Ideas and insights are great, but how do you create enough of a connective tissue through execution so intent stays in tact?

Lionel Mohri

VP of Design for Innovation Practices, Intuit

In addition to Caitlin, we spoke to Director of Experience Design Cesar Villegas, Design Manager for TurboTax Will Hansen, VP of Design for Innovation Practices Lionel Mohri, and Design Director for QuickBooks Online Joe Preston to learn more about how Intuit designs to delight.

One of the unique things about Intuit is that when you look at the overall company reporting structure, design doesn’t report into product management or engineering. It reports into design, all the way up to the C-level. To me, that’s an example that even if our ratios are way different, we have a seat at the table in terms of strategic decisions as a whole. We’re not just visualizing or producing the strategy. Design is often undersold in that capacity. I’m in meetings all the time where I see a designer raise a flag or bring up research or do a provocative prototype that really steers the whole business.

Joe Preston

Design Director for QuickBooks Online, Intuit

Building a foundation with design systems at TurboTax

On Caitlin’s team on the consumer side of Intuit (responsible for products such as TurboTax), she works with a range of product designers—from just out of school to experienced design principals—on the company’s design system. It’s an exciting exposure for junior designers; they get to see what’s happening in all the different products and how designers are approaching the problem, synthesizing information, and sharing the story back.

If this is a symphony, I look at the end-to-end experience. Will [Hansen] and Cesar [Villegas] look at how the drums kick in from a visual and animation perspective. Together, we figure out how to build this in a way that’s scalable and meets the customer at key touchpoints.

Caitlin Flint

Design Lead for TurboTax’s Foundation Design Team, Intuit

More senior designers think through the impacts of adjusting the many components and work at a systems level on the product. The design system gallery is a huge part of the product’s infrastructure. The team uses playbooks to not only document the component but also what the thinking was that went behind the work. Designers learn from what, in essence, are both strategic artifacts and plug-and-play assets.

Because Intuit is a parent company of strong ecosystem brands including both TurboTax and QuickBooks, the team must think about it’s design system in a broader context. One of their litmus tests for doing this is: Do we feel excited about the ability of what we’ve just created to express what’s unique about this brand and bridge the ecosystem? They ask this question every step of the way to determine if they have really seized the opportunity to address the customers’ specific needs, met them where they are in a specific context, and made their products more connected and seamless.

Storytelling with customer insights

Customer research is critical to building good products, but VP of Innovation Practices at QuickBooks Online Lionel Mohri says research is more powerful if it’s actionable and shared across the organization. It needs to go beyond the slide deck and plant stories in the company that go viral and become shared mindsets.

If you can create clarity through storytelling, it shapes strategy, action, and what you do for your customers. Because it’s connected to research, it’s believable and connected to what our employees are telling every day.

Lionel Mohri

VP of Design for Innovation Practices, Intuit

One of Lionel’s team goals is to bridge the gap between their internal brand and their external brand, and the biggest platform to do that is QuickBooks Connect, their annual global conference for QuickBooks. Lionel’s team is in charge of the keynote speech, as well as the environment design of the convention center.

This platform for storytelling enables them to galvanize not only the employees but also bring the customer to life and gives them very clear and concise messaging around what QuickBooks is doing in the world. This approach only works if it’s connected to research and customer insights.

Storytelling without customer insight fails. Storytelling becomes a translation of those insights.

Lionel Mohri

VP of Design for Innovation Practices, Intuit


1. Initial framing - The team works on making sure the project has a clear scope and aligns with business priorities.

2. Discover the “why” - Using deep customer empathy, the team synthesizes the problem and definition. Interaction design teams, visual design teams, and research teams partner on research to find the root cause of the problem. Storytelling is a part of the process throughout.

Everything we do starts with insight. We centralized design research about four years ago … [It] used to sit in actual product teams, but we realized as we’re becoming one ecosystem, how customers are the glue that holds it all together.

Lionel Mohri

VP of Design for Innovation Practices, Intuit

3. Going broad - Next, solutions—from “mild to wild”—are explored through a spectrum of designs that vary from the familiar to the new and different.

When we were doing the visual design refresh, we knew what we were trying to solve for, but we wanted to really push the limits. We have customers who have been using our product for 20+ years, so we know we have to be cautious, but we’ll iterate and do it wild to see how far we can push it. In the end, we always kind of come back to the middle.

Will Hansen

Design Manager and Visual Design Lead for TurboTax, Intuit

4. Narrowing + experimentation -Solutions are narrowed down, and rapid experiments are run, varying from quick, small teams to highly orchestrated rapid experimentation.

We’ll have 10-15 customers break out into multiple teams with different initiatives, and we’ll all rapid prototype together. It’s a day-long event where we’re doing video and recording it with customers.

Will Hansen

Design Manager and Visual Design Lead for TurboTax, Intuit

5. End-to-end review - At checkpoints throughout the process, end-to-end reviews are done on printouts.

We used to do E2E reviews on screens or on devices. By printing it out, it allowed us to stand back and look at the entire system. By just turning your head, it’s all right there.

Will Hansen

Design Manager and Visual Design Lead for TurboTax, Intuit

6. Refine and iterate - Once the right solution is identified, further refinements are made. The mantra is “Evaluate, Iterate, and Curate.”

7. Implementation - Along the way, design works closely with the development team to make sure they can implement the experience and that the feature/project is scoped properly. Once they’ve iterated until they get to the point they have something they can solve for, they supply all the right assets to move into production and ship the feature.

Org design

A hybrid approach, which is common in large enterprises, blends multiple organizational models and runs different models in parallel. In hybrid structures, an organization might position designers in a temporary cross-functional team to work on a focused project with a clear deadline. When they’re done, they return to the centralized design team.

  • Design at the top: Chief Product and Design Officer Diego Rodriguez was brought on in 2017 and reports to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brad Smith.
  • End-to-end structure: The team is structured without a division between product and marketing, so that experiences are more seamless for customers.
We’ve purposely structured ourselves so there’s no line between product and marketing. When you’re selling software as a service, a lot of the separations of what was marketing and product come from more traditional business models. That’s not how our customers experience what we produce, so we made the call to purposely structure teams end to end.

Joe Preston

Design Director for QuickBooks Online, Intuit

Another common hybrid model strategy is to distribute designers in cross-functional teams but pull them back together for design reviews, stand-ups, and fireside chats, which helps designers maintain peer connection even when isolated teams are dominated by engineers.

Many large companies position the design system team as the hub of design culture to which embedded designers return for discussion about creating a unified customer experience across platforms and products.

Pros: Provides flexibility to tailor org structure to meet the immediate needs of the teams and the organization.

Cons: Hybrid org structures can get complex. It can be hard to operationalize process when teams are organized in diverse ways.

Intuit has a unique hybrid structure; it is not one design organization, but rather federalized among the product teams on the consumer and small business side. This helps ensure that the designers working on those teams have a strong connection to the users of the product. They also aren’t afraid to experiment with different structures to optimize relationships as teams grow and shift.

Our organization structure is very unique, and there are always optimizations we’re looking at. In a lot of companies, goals change every year. We develop our big bets that we’re going to invest in to achieve those goals, and with that, you have to really look at your org structure to make sure it’s optimized to achieve those goals. We’re always tweaking.

Joe Preston

Design Director for QuickBooks Online, Intuit

In addition to experimenting with structure, assigning more than one designer to a team where possible gives them the ability to overlap and learn from each other.

We talk to designers over at Facebook, Airbnb, Uber, and often when they assign a resource they just have a product designer. A lot of our visual designers have a lot of appetite to learn more interaction design and vice versa. We’re also getting to a point where we’re trying to curate our design system, to make sure things like buttons, etc. are universally consistent.

Cesar Villegas

Director of Experience Design for TurboTax, Intuit

Tool Stack

How Intuit uses InVision

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Socializing design concepts internally
  • Customer feedback
  • Real-time collaboration
InVision makes rapid prototyping that much simpler. We use it to gather both internal input as well as customer feedback and to be able to prototype without having to commit engineering resources to do so. It’s a quality multiplier, and it drives greater exploration, efficiency, and visibility.

Leslie Witt

Head of Design for Intuit’s Small Business Design Group, Intuit

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