Humanity at work: Gusto brings a new brand to life with Figma

Morgan Kennedy

From selling and repairing bicycles to roasting coffee and delivering fitness classes, small businesses empower local communities everywhere, creating jobs, sparking innovation, and injecting revenue into the local economy. When small businesses thrive, people thrive, and that’s where Gusto comes in.

Launched in 2012 as ZenPayroll, Gusto serves more than 100,000 small businesses, helping them take care of their hardworking teams by automating and simplifying payroll, benefits and human resources. 

While Gusto’s customers love the platform, the company didn’t feel that its brand truly reflected the human experience of how Gusto serves its customers. The time was right for a brand refresh that would unite the company in its brand awareness, product development and customer experience efforts.  

This is a look at how Gusto used Figma to create a top-to-bottom brand experience that’s all about people.

Believing in the (re)brand

To help it reach even greater numbers of small businesses, Gusto needed to grow its brand awareness. But before it started addressing awareness issues, the Gusto team realized that the timing was ideal to rethink the brand and align everything from the logo to the platform around a unified brand philosophy and approach.

“We believe that your brand is not something owned by a marketing department or a brand design team,” says Micah Panama, creative director and head of brand design at Gusto. “It's the sum of the experiences that your users have with everything you do.”

Once company stakeholders bought into the rebrand effort, one of the biggest challenges the design team faced was getting the entire company on board with the project. “Shipping the brand meant getting 1,000 people across the company aligned on what the brand is, believing in it, and then taking it to the world,” says Panama. “That’s why it was critical for us to have everyone using one tool throughout the effort, where they can see what’s being developed, communicate with each other, share ideas, and take ownership.”

Read more about the new Gusto brand in this article from Tomer London, co-founder and CPO at Gusto.

Inviting non-designers into the process

Gusto used Figma as a core tool throughout the rebranding effort for everything from mood boards to billboards, typography to user interface design. “When we first started using Figma, it was the best tool for designers we'd ever used,” says Panama. “But it quickly became a collaborative presentation tool for all the teams working on the rebranding, including the content team, product marketing management team, acquisition team, and others.” 

As a collaborative tool, Figma helped the brand team build effective communication with all the stakeholders throughout the project. “What's interesting about Figma is that people can actually see things happening in real time,” says Panama. “It exposes stakeholders to how design works, which I think helps build empathy and understanding of the value of design.” 

Namhee Koo, head of product design at Gusto, sees the communication and collaboration within Figma as critical to creating the right experience for Gusto customers. “We believe that having our internal teams really closely connected and working together makes our designs better and creates a more cohesive brand experience for our customers,” she says.

“With Figma, people outside of design can see how the ‘sausage’ is made and what we are doing. With features like commenting, it’s easy to have a dialogue right there in the file rather than in some silo between two people on email or Slack.”

One team, one brand

For Panama and Koo, it was important that product and brand were equal contributors to the rebranding work. To achieve that, they organized joint brainstorming sessions and workshops with the product design and brand teams to work through the color palette, typography, and starter templates exemplifying the new brand in the product.

“Using Figma to build things together meant that we were all aligned and moving forward in one direction,” says Panama. Will Tsui, product design lead at Gusto, highlighted a moment when the culture of collaboration really came to life. “A designer on our Design Systems team led a working session called Refresca with the whole team, along with real Fresca refreshments. Everyone worked together in Figma to apply elements of the new brand to the different areas of our product experience. As we walked through our brand starter template, it was so powerful to see everyone’s cursors following along."

Based on the initial brand guidelines and the working sessions, the product team began creating a new user interface kit to apply to the Gusto platform. Tsui believes that Figma was instrumental in facilitating the translation from brand to product. “Our goal was not just to represent the new brand throughout the product experience. We wanted to go above and beyond by choosing special moments to bring the brand forward in inspiring ways,” he says. In having the two teams equally involved in the early stage of the rebrand, the process of applying the new brand to every aspect of the product experience was seamless.  

Scaling design efforts across products

Another goal of the rebrand was to align on how designers would work together and build the supporting systems that could scale with the company. As Panama puts it, “we needed a system of record for what our product should look like.” To create this system, the product design team built a UI kit using Figma libraries and components, which was informed by the guidelines from the brand team.

For Koo, the brand refresh was the perfect opportunity to build a foundation for design consistency and align all of its product design around the new brand. “We wanted to create a design language that's more consistent, accessible and usable and build that into an updated design system,” she says.

Rebranding 120+ webpages

Natalie Schoch is a designer on the brand team at Gusto and was the lead on redesigning the company’s website as part of the rebranding effort. “Rebrands can be messy and complicated. They have a lot of stakeholders and moving parts,” she says. 

She believes that Figma made a big difference in keeping everyone informed and aligned throughout the large redesign effort for the 120-page Gusto website. “My favorite thing about Figma is its transparent and collaborative nature. It helps keep everyone up-to-date on designs and allows them to understand why decisions are being made,” she says. “It can be really valuable to give folks access to our design process.”

Giving everything the Gusto touch

Despite the massive amount of work required to rebrand the company from top to bottom, the design teams believe that it was worth it. “What makes me most happy is when I hear someone outside the company say that something is so Gusto,” says Koo. “That type of brand recognition is hard to achieve, and it makes me proud that we delivered a rebrand that is true to us as a company and resonates with our customers and prospects.”

“Designing in the cloud and collaborating using Figma is instantaneous. I can’t imagine doing something of this scale with traditional tools.”