Partners in design

Company size

Headquarters

Industry

  • Insurance

We all know the jingle “Nationwide is on your side,” which has been around since the 1960s. Less obvious is the behind-the-scenes design transformation at the large insurance and financial services company in the past few years, led by people like Heidi Munc, Associate VP of User Experience at Nationwide.

Nationwide was founded in the 1920s, and like many institutions with a long history, it has faced some challenges as customers began to expect digital access to their products and services. Heidi began her tenure at the company as a Director of Interactive Visual Design in 2006, and as she worked her way up to AVP, she helped transform the way the company thought about surmounting these challenges. They could design products that took the company’s motto to heart—by using tools like design thinking, they could better understand the needs of the customer and truly be on their side.

Nationwide+
InVision

We had to get good at communicating the value of design for survival, because it’s easy for a team this size to get lost in a company as large as Nationwide. And we truly believe in the power of involving non-designers in the design process.

Heidi Munc

AVP of UX, Nationwide

One of the ways that Heidi and her team achieved this was by making design more transparent, through co-creation of a customer experience framework. They’ve also been able to bring engineers and business partners into the design process early, and communicate the value of design through design thinking workshops.

As much as possible, when we’re in the discovery phase, we try to have our business partners and developers in the room with us for design sprints.

Heidi Munc

AVP of UX, Nationwide

Process

Project kickoff

Depending on the type of project, the kickoff can be large and formal, or happen organically in the agile team space. Sometimes business partners come to the team with a project defined, at other times the UX team discovers a need for a product or feature through research.

Defining the problem

Frequently problems are presented in a business-centric context. UX must provide the customer lens. UX strategists and design researchers then work together with business leads to further define the problem before design cycles begin.

Iteration 0

Early iterations consist of using design research to dig further into the problem and uncover opportunity areas. Then they stand up the team that will be designing and building the product. Researchers stay involved throughout the process to test possible solutions with users.

Bringing in engineering early

They bring engineering partners into the design process as early as possible.

Engineers are a more creative bunch than people sometimes give them credit for, and if you bring them in early and allow them to be a part of the creation process, they are so much more invested in it...they’ll spend the extra sweat to get it right.

Heidi Munc

AVP of UX, Nationwide

Prototyping in the browser

Creative technologists design in the browser as much as possible, helping them understand their work in context and minimize handoffs.

Heidi talking about the co-creation process.

Org design

A centralized team structure keeps all designers in the same team in a shared space. Some refer to this as the “agency model” or a “center of excellence” as other teams come to the centralized design team for their services—much like the way a client would approach an agency. Centralized design teams work in a shared studio space where work can be posted and discussed regularly, which helps designers grow in their craft.

Design at the top

Nationwide’s UX team reports into the SVP of Digital, who reports to the CMO.

Design in the middle

UX team consists of interaction design, experience strategy, design research, visual design, content strategy, creative technology, and client services roles.

Pros

  • Frequent feedback from peers fosters growth and engagement
  • Easier to create a unified user experience across products and platforms
  • Centralized teams can create a grand vision for a product, and build a design culture

Cons

  • Design can be opaque and less collaborative across functions when it’s centralized
  • Designers may leave important collaborators like engineers out of the ideation process in this structure, which can create political conflict
  • Design teams are often disconnected from technical requirements when they’re isolated from engineers

Tool stack

How Nationwide uses InVision

  • Prototyping
  • Socializing design
A lot of our project management tools are home-grown by Nationwide developers.

Heidi Munc

AVP of UX, Nationwide

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