Interview with Jeremy Lefèbre, Head of Design at Bitwala GmbH

Jeremy Lefebre Head of Design

If there’s one thing about banking, it’s that it’s an industry that is almost never associated with an enjoyable user experience. The same applies to crypto services, an inherently convoluted sector, where business is hot, but the UX is not.

We sat down with Jeremy Lefèbre, Head of Design at Bitwala to discuss everything from the challenges of designing for finance and blockchain, to creating a smooth entryway for people new to crypto, forming user habits and promoting trust in the upcoming Bitwala accounts.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do at Bitwala?

Hey, I’m Jeremy. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a living both freelancing and as an in-house designer. I worked on some exciting individual projects freelancing before Bitwala, but there’s really no substitute for the feeling of achieving something much bigger within a cohesive team. I’ve found that here at Bitwala.

Here I’m head of design. Working in a startup, that means being a competent generalist, and a problem solver. I overlook design for both the product and the marketing teams, so as we scale, my primary responsibility is to ensure the user enjoys an excellent and cohesive experience across all user touch points.

What does your typical day look like?

The day generally begins with a languid stagger in the general direction of the coffee machine, then the consumption of a tasty brötchen. After these bodily essentials are ingested, I’m a marvel of biological efficiency. Crossing todo’s, booking meetings, distilling wireframes, and more. But the peak is short-lived. Suddenly its lunch - after which a fast familiar juggle commences.

Many out there believe that online banking is a drag and find that anything crypto-related is difficult to understand. What are some design challenges that you face at Bitwala?

I think people are tired of the old banking experience. In 2018, many industries have moved on, yet the financial sector lags conspicuously behind. Solutions are of course emerging, as seen with the influx of fiat-based Fintech startups.

These are a massive improvement but they’re still restricted within the old systems. It’s our ambition to dissolve these barriers as much as possible and offer users who are looking for a redefined and reshaped crypto banking experience a smooth entry point. This is a big challenge, in which design has a lot to contribute.

Bitwala, together with its partner bank, is relaunching to offer online bank accounts soon. Can you share with us a bit about what users can expect from the upcoming Bitwala banking experience?

Sure. Previously the worlds of Crypto and Fiat have been totally incompatible. Users had to traverse a great divide, it was a cumbersome, awkward experience.

”It’s our goal with the relaunch to completely bridge this divide, and provide users with a seamless fusion of the two worlds. 21st-century banking demands both. This “fusion” will be baked in from the foundation up, as opposed to a series of external patches. It’s a really exciting opportunity, and I think our users will really notice the difference."

What principles does your design approach combine to make Bitwala’s UI/UX more user-friendly and interactive?

I’m still a passionate advocate of the adage “form follows function”. Especially within our industry. Minimalism, without being sparse. Bold clarity, without being brash. I don’t like superfluous ornamentation but at the same time, the essentials shouldn’t be cold and hard. A celebration of the essential. Like the chair.

What are you most excited about with this relaunch?

Being with the team from the very start has been great. We learned a huge amount, incorporating these lessons into regular tweaks and new features. However, one of the side effects of constant iteration is the inevitable accumulation of both technical and design debt. To have the opportunity, with the same great team, with the same base knowledge, to rebuild from the ground up has been an extremely rewarding experience. It’s especially rare in this industry and I think you can feel the buzz in the team.

What/Which designer/product have significantly inspired you in designing a beautiful, intuitive, and impactful user experience from start to finish at Bitwala?

It’s difficult to name one. I think it’s really important to draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources and mediums. I think all creatives are really composers using the building blocks of their respective medium. In that sense, I try to consume interesting and original compositions from across as many industries as possible; from cuisine to music, film, everywhere.

But in a more pragmatic sense, it’s, of course, important to keep the tools sharp within one’s specific industry. I’m constantly reading up on both Design and Fintech. I’m a huge fan of the design podcast High Resolution.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself!

I once snatched an infuriating fly clean out of the air and discarded it safely out a nearby window.

What does your design setup look like?

Most of my day is spent in Sketch. There I brainstorm, gather research and develop ideas. It’s also where I create mockups & prototypes. Aside from that, I collaborate in Invision, and use the Adobe Suite for image and print work. Occasionally - when nostalgia strikes, I’ll whip out a pad and pen and have a scribble.

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