Chief Design Officer interview: Forging ahead with design

Getting to know Capital One’s new Chief Design Officer

Earlier this year, Daniela Jorge joined Capital One as Chief Design Officer to continue to build and accelerate a world-class design function that delivers value for our customers and the business.

With more than 20 years of design leadership experience, Daniela was most recently Chief Design Officer at PayPal. In her new role, she is leading the strategy and advancement for how Capital One’s Experience Design organization brings insightful, human-centered and data-informed design decisions to the craft of design and its application to products, platforms and experiences across Capital One. Following are excerpts from a conversation with Daniela during her first few months at Capital One.

You bring extensive design and design leadership experience from leading companies including PayPal, eBay, Intuit, Yahoo!, Kodak and Kaiser Permanente. What made you want to join Capital One?

The design community is a relatively small one and Capital One has always been on my radar. Apart from some of its most iconic products and experiences — from the Capital One mobile app to Venture X, Capital One Travel, Auto Navigator and many others — the company was always exciting to me because of its forward-leaning approach to data, technology and innovation. Experience Design runs through all of this and so much more.

It’s also true that the Capital One culture is one of incredibly smart, humble, collaborative and caring associates – all united in wanting to do the right thing for our customers in support of their financial journeys. The opportunity to be a part of this community, coupled with the ability to apply world-class design research, insights and craft to these experiences that touch more than 100 million customers, was incredibly inspiring for me.

Are there any formative moments from your life or career when you realized you wanted to become a designer?

I decided to pursue design in 7th grade. I knew I wanted to do something creative and was leaning towards advertising, which was a popular creative field at that time in Brazil (where I grew up). 

My dad was an editor at a newspaper and he'd get new cars to test drive. At the end of the process, he had to send his feedback. I always had opinions about the design of the cars. I remember one time I was in one of those cars with my family and I was sitting in the back. My knee kept hitting the button to open/close the window. I said out loud, "Why would they put the button right here? Didn't they realize this would happen?" That prompted my dad to ask if I had thought about studying industrial design. I had no idea what that was but started researching it as soon as we got home. 

I fell in love with this idea of thinking about the function and the form of objects around us. At 14, I signed up for a week-long industrial design lecture in the evenings, which had all of these famous Italian industrial designers as lecturers (my best friend also signed up for the series and we soon discovered that all of the other 80 attendees were professional designers!). That’s when I fell in love with the field, and have never looked back.

What are some of your top priorities as you have been settling into your role as Chief Design Officer?

During these initial months on the job, it’s been important to me to listen and learn. I’ve been learning so much about the incredible work our team has been driving for our customers inside and outside of Capital One, including opportunities for me to continue to support and empower that work. 

Our Experience Design organization partners with each line of business at the company to create impactful and memorable experiences — so I’ve also been spending a lot of time with our business partners to understand their priorities, challenges and ways we can continue to leverage experience to help drive competitive advantage across all of these areas. 

At its core, my long-term priorities as the leader of Experience Design boil down to two main areas: Deliver the best outcomes for our internal and external customers through work that we can all be incredibly proud of, and create an environment for our associates where they can bring their full selves to work, unlock their deepest potential and thrive and grow as design professionals.

As a designer, where do you draw your inspiration?

While I still pay attention to iconic designers and products, my main source of inspiration is the people and the world around me. I always say that you can't turn off your design brain. If I'm at a store, I'm looking at things such as how the store is laid out, whether it facilitates the flow of traffic, whether the signage is clear, how much effort it takes for the cashier to ring someone up, what the payment terminal looks like, whether it is clear how to tap and pay and so on. 

I'm watching people get things done through their daily lives and thinking if there's an easier way. I'm paying attention to both large and small details that add some delight to people's lives. For instance, I recently flew with a large international carrier and they always serve dinner by "candlelight" where they place these small flickering LED candles inside a small paper bag. Someone had to think of that dining experience and of these types of details that would make it better and more enjoyable for customers.

How do you view the future of emerging technologies like AI intersecting with the design discipline?

There’s no question that emerging technology and AI specifically will impact the design discipline. Many of us in the design community are still learning and exploring what is possible with AI and I think there are a lot of exciting opportunities here.

New technologies can help augment, complement and elevate the capabilities of designers, enabling them to focus on work that delivers maximum value to human users. For example, you could see the incredible potential in generative AI’s ability to generate images and videos that can provide an accelerated starting point for creative work – and from there designers could customize, edit and refine with our own discretion, creativity and contextual knowledge. On top of all this, there is great potential to leverage AI to continue to deliver very meaningful and hyper-personalized customer experiences. 

At the same time, there are ongoing and important conversations about designing and implementing safeguards to mitigate risk and bias and protect the creative rights of designers and content creators. This points to the critical importance of ensuring this technology is developed in responsible ways that keep humans at the forefront of every decision.

What are some of the most important qualities or skills that designers today need? What about design leaders?

At Capital One, our Experience Design team comprises a wide range of design disciplines — including UX, UI, service, content, visual, physical, research, AI and accessibility, to name a few. Design craft is a living, dynamic space – much like technology – with new advances evolving at a rapid pace. Depending on the type of designer you are, it’s important to stay at the leading edge of skill sets in your space and even more important that organizations have a strong learning and development agenda to support that growth.

When it comes to important qualities of designers today, curiosity is the one of the most critical: Curiosity about humans, about the world around  you and about the business context of your partners. Whatever your focus as a designer, today, more than ever, it is important to understand the business context of your partners. As design and experience increasingly become integral to how companies make strategic decisions, it’s incumbent on designers to work with their business partners to understand their challenges, opportunities and the needs of their customers. This will not only enable designers to become more impactful and strategic partners but will give them the context they need to make the best recommendations and derive the right insights to deliver the best customer outcomes.

From a craft and business perspective, I think design leaders play a delicate balancing role where we should always strive to advocate for users and employ our visualization and storytelling skills to imagine the future, while also playing an active role in breaking down that vision into realistic steps that support business outcomes. I equate it to creating a blueprint for our ideal house of the future and then deciding which rooms to build now and what can come later.

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

At the end of the day, I would describe myself as a servant leader. My main role is to enable, empower and advocate for my team – creating the right environment for them to thrive and do their best work is a win-win for them, for our customers and for the business.

How do you view the importance of inclusion and diverse perspectives in the design space today?

I’m incredibly passionate about this topic because I believe that companies have a responsibility to consider all aspects of their diverse customer base when building experiences and solutions. And pragmatically speaking, this generally translates to better business outcomes as well.

I’m a firm believer that organizations building diversity and inclusion in their practices need to do so intentionally. It requires having diverse teams who can represent these diverse perspectives in addition to connecting with diverse customer sets throughout the design process.

What advice do you have for people looking to break into a career in the world of design?

You should apply your design skills to this process. First, start with some research. Spend time connecting with others who recently started their careers to find out what that path was like for them: How did they build their portfolio, how did they get their foot in the door for interviews? 

Also, think about yourself as the product. What do you have to offer that is unique? How can you highlight the benefits that you'll bring to an organization on your resume, LinkedIn profile and portfolio? And when building your portfolio, show breadth and depth. It's important to show a range of skills and depth in your approach to design problems through case studies where you can illustrate who the customer is, the problem/opportunity, the solutions you considered and how you informed your design decisions along the way.

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