Visual Explorations – Oscar's Lingo

Visual Explorations – Oscar's Lingo

Every brand has a visual language that is used to construct it’s identity. At Lingo, a visual asset manager for teams, we’re fascinated by the stories behind these visual languages. Because of this we’re interviewing some of the amazing brand’s in our community so we can share their visual voice with you! The next customer we’re profiling today is Oscar, a friendly, honest and personalized health insurance company with some pretty hilarious ads. 

You guys are doing an incredible job using design to simplify the headache of picking out and understanding healthcare. Walk us through what the industry looked like before Oscar? (eeek, scary to think about)

Before the Affordable Care Act took effect, the health insurance industry wasn't incentivized to be consumer-friendly. In the last four years, we’ve seen a real shift in  branding from insurance companies, and a new breed of  features/apps being built that appeal to consumers. From the beginning, Oscar was built for consumers. The experience we provide our members through our products and member services are simple, clear and honest -- and we hope that over time, the industry will move in the same direction. It's easy to attract consumers with a funny commercial, but the real impact lies in the way we help consumers navigate our healthcare system more easily.

How would you explain Oscar’s visual language and how you guys developed it.

From the beginning, Oscar has always been focused on being simple, clear, and honest across our member experience, and especially our visual language. But we've noticed that over the past few years, other brands have started to use similar brand attributes, making it harder for Oscar to stand out. That's why we've started to evolve our brand, creating a design system that will give us the ability to scale over time, getting a consistent message across a variety of mediums (from our mobile app to our billboards), while also allowing the spirit of Oscar to stand out.

In the end, we want the Oscar experience to carry our brand and make sure it translates clearly to everything we do.


How do you guys use Lingo?

We use Lingo in a few ways. The first is how I suspect most teams use Lingo. We have all our brand assets compiled in one place, so colors, fonts, logos, illustrations, icons, etc. That helps us pull down assets quickly, onboard new team members, and get a high-level sense of the system. The second way, which may be less conventional, is as an auditing system for our product. We're going through the process of refining our design system in the product, so we wanted the ability to have all of our screens in one place to see where inconsistencies were happening. Essentially, we just took a screenshot of every screen that's currently live (yes, it took awhile) and uploaded it into Lingo. From there we sat down and attached a link to the original design file to each screenshot and tagged all the screens. We used multiple tags on each screenshot so we can always search for larger features/pages (E.g. profile) or small components (E.g. lists.) This allows designers to scan through our design system at a bird's eye view. When someone's designing a screen that has a map, all they have to do is type map to see how we’ve used map interactions across all our apps. Having the ability to pull back quickly and look across our design system has proven to be incredibly powerful.


How has it been incorporated into your team’s design workflow?

We use Lingo for a few different purposes, so it fits into our workflow at every stage of a project. Depending on what we’re working on, we may start by throwing in a bunch of inspiration into our boards. This helps give visibility into people’s thinking when they approach a particular design problem. As we get into design, we use it for pulling down commonly used assets (icons, illustrations, photography, etc.) and also to check if there’s any redundancy in our design system. After a new feature goes live, we try to make sure every screen is in Lingo.


How do you guys see your visual language growing over the next five years?

Simplicity will always be core to the Oscar brand and experience. I don’t see us ever getting away from that. What we’ve seen in the last few years is that sometimes you can reduce things down too much and it creates uncertainty for a customer -- and healthcare can be complicated. So we're keeping things simple, but incorporating much more contextual information for people throughout their experience. (or something like that). I’d hope that five years from now we’ll be in a place where we’ve built trust as a brand and we can be bolder with our simplicity.

I also think in the next five years the Oscar experience will continue to push outside of a user's app. The design team at Oscar will have to start thinking—more than we do already— about how Oscar looks and feels outside of the traditional tech space (phones, tablets, laptops.) That might be a physical space or any number of other things.


What are your must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?


Designing Design by Kenya Hara. The central thesis of Hara’s book is that in order to engage in the act of design we must examine, feel and understand our man-made environment.

Vignelli Canon by Massimo Vignelli. You can take Massimo’s rules on design and easily apply it to product design. His words are an extension of his design and follow one of his most notable quotes, “good design is timeless.”


Julie Zhuo on medium. She writes about design, management, product, and everything inbetween. I personally find her POV refreshing. It’s always approachable and grounded in experience. Intercom writes about a pretty wide spectrum of things. I particularly enjoy the product and design teams articles.


ReplyAll: Not really a design blog, but their stories dig into internet oddities so it’s a great listen for any curious person.

Startup: Again, not really a design blog. Startup talks about challenges of working at a growing tech company. In the most recent season they shifted into more personal vignettes of some notable startups.

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