Product design for a fintech startup

A fintech startup was initiating its offerings with employee family leave management, helping U.S. companies navigate complex legal and financial details that shift over time and vary from state to state. I led design for the self-help leave planner that employees could use to privately explore and determine leave options, and then submit them to HR when ready.

The challenge

What did employees need to know?

What might they want to know?

How would we remove the burdens of navigating a maze of leave options offered by employers, insurance companies and government and at the same time respect the intelligence of inquisitive and capable working people. Too little info could feel patronizing. Too much info could be overwhelming to expectant parents.

The work

I began with an introductory meeting with the founders and engineering team. It was important to understand their unique workflow and handoff expectations. Next came an audit of the existing wireframes and prototype, and immersing myself in founders’ user research.

As the project progressed, I initiated additional UX interviews to iteratively test and advance ideas and solutions. Wireframing was only needed in places where I made major changes to existing interactions. Because I was also establishing overall look and feel, the prototype was completely restyled and interactions updated while I simultaneously began scaffolding a design system.

In writing copy for the leave planner experience, we needed to strike a similar balance, somewhere between calming and authoritative. To that end, I led an accelerated voice and tone workshop with the founders to lay the foundation. I then documented our insights and applied them to the in-app copy.

Untangling complexity

The most interesting piece of this product design puzzle was the core planner tool. Expectant parents face very different leave options for pre-birth, post-birth (the time immediately following a child’s arrival), and bonding leave. This is where companies and states can vary the most widely, and where families need the most support (and privacy) to fine tune their plans.

We provided three widgets for each leave phase, each dedicated to its unique leave options. Choices users made were reflected in real time in a timeline window just below the widgets. They could review the timeline, and then go back and make adjustments as often as they wished, all privately, until they were ready to submit their plan to their employer.


With base structure for the design system and a working prototype, the deliverables also included assets, interaction patterns, and other documentation for engineering, as well as clear direction for a junior designer.

Because the prototype was also being used as a sales demo tool, I centralized all copy that would mention the prospective company name as Figma components on a separate page. This saved hours of picking through the prototype copy to customize the demo ahead of a presentation.

GSOC App Product: Cobalt Robotics

Above: the launched Global Security Operations Center (GSOC) app.

Cobalt Robotics is a security service powered by robots and human Robot Specialists working together. It’s a new way of using robots and a dramatically new way of doing security.

How Cobalt’s security service works

The ask

When the robot begins a patrol (step 1), Cobalt’s team of remote Specialists monitors it via a video feed and control panel.

Customers quickly let us know they needed something similar.

The work

Based on research the Head of Product and I conducted—sometimes together and sometimes individually—I designed the app for four key priorities: 1. urgent situations, 2. fast decision-making, 3. easy spacial orientation (i.e. where am I and what am I looking at?), and 4. function first (while maintaining our clean aesthetic).

In addition to interviews with security managers on-site and at our offices, I also dove deeply into industry norms by undergoing security guard certification and visiting working security operations centers.

Personas: C-suite Executive, SOC Manager, Security Guard/SOC operator

We learned about the kinds of information they were used to seeing, management’s backgrounds (often in military and law enforcement), and what features we could offer users highly trained in security, but not in robotics.

Wireframes were begun on paper. Shown here are some next-stage (but still early) concepts.

Beyond the essential functions, we also began to get a sense of the aesthetics that would reflect Cobalt’s white glove service, communicate credibility, and earn the trust of an industry that has no patience for flashy startups.

The results are an intuitive tool that delivers increasingly meaningful features as our customer base expands.

Customers can now remotely monitor incidents as they are happening at any time during the robot’s patrol hours. If an unusual or critical incident requires immediate action, customers can view video surveillance in real time to make better high-impact decisions.

Also, providing the ability to remotely experience Cobalt’s patrols is a powerful way to demonstrate the value of the service.

No actual customer locations are shown in these examples.

Proposed event modals.

My role

  • Research into workflow, backgrounds, worries and aspirations of the GSOC’s intended users.
  • Design of wireframes, and proposed app layouts, features and user flows.
  • Worked with engineering to clarify and determine technical requirements and security restrictions.
  • Created prototypes to review, finalize and test for usability and flow.
  • Designed and delivered final app layouts and visual assets.
  • Created illustrations of the robot, as well as nonstandard icons.
  • Documented any elements that furthered the evolution of Cobalt’s brand.

I underwent basic guard card certification at a training facility as part of my research. Scored top marks!

Sales Collateral: Cobalt Robotics

Sales Collateral for Cobalt Robotics

Cobalt Robotics is a security service powered by robots and human Robot Specialists working together. It’s a new way of using robots and a dramatically new way of doing security.

Since the company’s launch:

sales journey snippet
  • We’ve learned more about how to educate customers about Cobalt’s services.
  • We’ve introduced many new and improved features.
  • The sales journey is much better understood, but very long, requiring continuous touchpoints that evolve along with the relationship.

Our sales team provided us with a deep dive into the sales journey so that we could identify needed collateral to introduce our service, detail our features, and answer common questions—all in a visually cohesive set of materials.

By conducting interviews with engineers, account managers, and existing Cobalt customers, I worked with the head of product and the marketing team to compose stories that were both technically informative and emotionally captivating.

Service robots, and cobots (robots that work closely with people) in particular, are so new that a huge part of the work is educating our audience. Every marketing project is an opportunity to collect more feedback, and for the brand to evolve along with our customers.

Isometric illustration: the Cobalt Robot

Favly, Inc. Brand

When I began at Favly, makers of a new social referral app, there was already a first-round website, a nearly-complete iOS version of the app, and a logo. While there was a rough styleguide, the logo and its uses had evolved since it was created. All resources were now focused on the iOS launch.

For more details about my product design work for this company, see Favly, Inc. Product.

Brand Discovery

To create a system, a coherent visual identity, and to begin delivering materials that would best serve our goals, I began with a brand discovery process, and spoke with each founder to get a feel for their vision. The resulting document—The Favly Story—was not only a valuable resource for myself and new hires, but was added to the fundraising arsenal.

Brand Discovery Document for Favly, Inc. created by Penina S. Finger


Once I had confirmation from management that The Favly Story reflected the company’s principles and vision, I began the first draft of the styleguide. This was a more conventional document, but I used excerpts from the Story to reinforce the reasoning behind various style rules, such as the use of gradients and copy tone.

Multi-platform Design

With the beginnings of a system in place, my design team revisited the company’s marketing materials and landing pages, as well as the product itself. In print, on the web and in mobile app environments, we generated visuals that are a dynamic balance of consistency and vitality.

Other fundraising support included a deep overhaul of the slide presentation to reflect the app’s core ideas with greater clarity and professionalism.

Email design and notification strategy

One of my most challenging projects was working closely with the Director of Marketing, the planning and implementation of about fifty emails. Most of these were critical moving parts of the product, and an indispensable step in earning new users to grow our traction. Tight on resources, I designed a simple base template and commandeered wall space to map and track the emails. We co-planned, co-wrote, and co-strategized every piece with the intent to maximize the potential of these touchpoints.

Community Identity

No surprise (to me) that our corner of the world was among those designated by Mayor Eric Garcetti to be a Los Angeles Great Street.

As a member of the Pico Great Street Collaborative and the PGSC Urban Design Committee, I’m drawing from the neighborhood’s diverse social and architectural identity and contributing design input to facets including signage, infographics and grant applications.

My strategy has been to first lock on to the existing Great Streets visual identity, and then gradually evolve that toward reflecting Pico’s unique qualities. This allows the initiative to leverage public recognition as support and funding are developed, and more importantly, to listen carefully: it’s both our pride and our challenge to be one of Los Angeles’ most culturally and racially diverse communities.

The infographic below was adapted for use as a poster in participating shops, as an online outreach tool, and as a supporting document in grant applications.

Infographic by Penina S. Finger

Because this is a volunteer project, I am delivering assets as the need arises, rather than as a pre-packaged system. All the better to allow a complex identity and its future vision to be discovered, defined and redefined over time.

Schematic neighborhood map illustration by Penina S Finger

TOK Media: Digital Product Design

TOK Media produces live discussion, networked polls, and content platforms that publishers can embed into their existing websites. The concept was well developed, but needed the UI to accommodate its next round of feature updates. Also, to give it the credibility that would help sell it to publishers, it needed a more polished look and feel.

As project lead, I worked with the founder and lead developer. In addition to their detailed notes and numerous meetings, I researched existing paid content models and participated in the TOK platform to understand the product and user behavior.

I wireframed interactions for the multi-platform experience, produced many, many interactive prototypes, and then nailed down visual details with Photoshop.

One of the more interesting challenges was finding a way for poll users to scale the number of voters they could view. The example below shows the two most extreme views—as few as a dozen voters and as many as 1,216 voters (color-grouped by their vote).

eCommerce: ModelMayhem Shop

The ModelMayhem Shop taps a range of commerce partnerships, offering products that are relevant to the industry, as well as specifically to the MM community. These include:

  1. Simple affiliate-style partnerships, such as an MM-branded Nextag feed
  2. Comp cards and headshots, for which I designed a variety of templates, as well as the interface for product customization and order/transaction flow.

I’ve done extensive UI/UX work for features throughout the ModelMayhem website, including a completely new subsite, Modelmayhem EDU. Contact me for project details.

Headshots style browser

ModelMayhem shop website and interaction design (headshots browser)

Comp card style browser

ModelMayhem shop website and interaction design

Transaction flow: enter cc info

ModelMayhem shop website and interaction design (transaction sample)

Marketplace placeholder

ModelMayhem shop website and interaction design (Marketplace placeholder)

Social media posters: Café Picfair

A selection of social media posters created for a neighborhood café.
I took the food and kitchen photos, researched the others, established the brand tone and wrote/found the copy.

Kitchen Morning, social media poster for a neighborhood by Penina S. Finger

Kitchen Morning, social media poster for a neighborhood cafe by Penina S. Finger

Soul on fire, social media poster for a cafe by Penina S. Finger

Blueberries, social media poster for a cafe by Penina S. Finger

Make things not war, social media poster for a cafe by Penina S. Finger