Spot the difference: Observations on the visual identities and website designs of the digital banking sector

Monzo debit card image

Russ Welch

Lead Creative

Posted on June 18, 2018

We’ve recently been researching the brands and website designs of a cross section of companies leading the burgeoning digital banking sector – currently shaking up the industry by connecting with a new generation of mobile-first consumers.

So how do they approach their visual identities? Pretty much all are stylistically marking their difference from traditional banking models but, maybe surprisingly for pioneers and challenger brands, they are doing so in an almost identical way to all of their competitors:

The use of bright and contrasting colours, not normally associated with the financial sector, is widespread. As is the use of Spotify-inspired sans-serif type.

And what of their websites? Again, there is very little point of difference visually. As shown, hero images of a smart-phone and debit-card are omnipresent. It is also common for them to follow an Apple-inspired, long scrolling homepage with small, bite-sized blocks of copy and generous amounts of white space.

So does it matter that there’s little to differentiate them? They have certainly been successful so far. A large part of the digital banking brand must surely be people’s experience of using the app itself; having desirable features and it’s ease of use. This user experience is the digital equivalent of customer service in traditional models. With that in mind, maybe it’s not surprising that so many lead with an image of the app.

However, as digital banks become more established and the concept of mobile banking more normalised then it will inevitably seem odd to lead with a picture of a smart-phone; it will just be accepted that banking is done in that way.

Also, as successful app features are adopted across the sector, apps will become more homogenized and, as in every other sector before them, when the products are the same it is the brand that will make the difference.

Currently it doesn’t seem that any of them have a brand capable of standing out from the crowd.