Designing Impact into Every Byte

GOODS

& CONFLUENT

Project Type

  • Lead-Gen Marketing

  • Design Systems

  • Brand Identity

  • Campaign

Services

  • Experience Strategy

  • Vision Prototyping

  • Design Direction

  • Product Design

  • Content Design

Industry

  • High Tech

Goods & Services enhanced Confluent's brand impact by simplifying its complex offerings through strategic design, including the overhaul of its product design system for better clarity and cohesion along with a self-service, digital Playbook to allow desired customers to assess their data infrastructure.

Highlights

  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Elevated the Confluent Design Language to meet the innovative standards set by their data-streaming, SaaS platform
  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Connected brand + product design teams through one unified design language
  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Revamped Confluent's Product Design System for enhanced accessibility, incorporating dark/light mode themes and implementing Design System best practices to boost cross-functional collaboration
  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Connected Confluent to target buyers (Executives) through relevant content, insights, and data infrastructure analysis tools
  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Leveraged data to deliver personalized, customer solutions and generate top-of-funnel leads
Experience Challenge

Confluent Shouldn't Mean Confusing

To fully understand the work we did for Confluent, it’s important to first understand what the company does. And, to be frank, that hasn’t always been easy to explain. Even for them. The fast-growing Silicon Valley-based tech company provides some highly valuable yet equally highly complex, state-of-the-art services. So complex in fact, that one of the major challenges Confluent’s sales team faced was simply explaining the company’s core offerings to potential clients.

Essentially, Confluent specializes in real-time data streaming solutions that allow clients to collect, connect, and process data in real time everywhere they need to. Using an open source platform called Apache Kafka, which manages, processes, and analyzes streaming data in real time, Confluent’s powerful software digitally tracks the many events taking place inside a company, whether it’s a new sale, an order, a trade or a customer response, and immediately filters those insights into a company’s database. Simply put, Confluent allows companies to move large quantities of valuable data around quickly and more securely than ever before.

As you might imagine, in this ever expanding digital age, that’s an extremely important service for countless companies that provide and manage offerings like dynamic pricing structures, integrated supply chains, and robust inventory supplies. You can also see why it might be hard to pitch in an elevator.

For the first few years of its existence, Confluent experienced exponential business growth, but also exponential growing pains, particularly on the product, sales, and brand sides of things. Confluent was great at what they did, but they weren’t quite as adept at successfully conveying that message to the intended audiences. Which was one of the main reasons they reached out to Goods & Services for help.

Understanding the Challenge

Kafka 101

When we met, the Confluent team told us that they wanted to take a step back to reassess some fundamentals within their overall brand experience. Specifically, they were looking at ways to unify their product design language, messaging, and overall branding to better connect with their target buyer. It also happened that their target buyer didn’t end up being exactly who they initially thought it would be.

Part of their challenge was that Confluent was founded by a group of engineers (who spun out of LinkedIn in 2014) and was initially marketed to other engineers, which led to the excessive tech-speak. Eventually they discovered that their real core buyer was, in fact, the corporate executive. A group that had different priorities and spoke a different language than engineers. Their priorities were more about business outcomes, a la “How is this going to help me leapfrog the competition?” “Where does my competition stack?” and "What are the capabilities that need to be developed to fulfill real-time data streaming under Confluent?” (That last question in particular resulted in an actionable roadmap towards modern data infrastructure.)

This audience pivot had unintended consequences for the Confluent brand, causing it to suffer from inconsistency issues as a whole.

So Goods & Services, led by Sean Metcalf (creative director), David Hewitt (strategy director), Chris Stow (design lead), Tam Cao (designer), Stephanie Sidak (client partner) engaged with Confluent to address all of those concerns by creating a new user experience that clearly and concisely spoke to Confluent’s customer’s needs and how their business solutions could meet those needs.

Painpoints
Brand

“Our design language doesn’t reflect the sophistication of our product. Our brand is pretty all over the place across marketing channels. Without conducting a full rebrand, how can we set a new standard for Confluent’s brand + content teams?”

Painpoints
Product

“Our design language feels pretty rudimentary and is also not WGAC 2.0 compliant. We need a single source of truth for designers & developers. We want to work towards a best-in-class design system that allows product teams to work more efficiently across the product development cycle.”

Painpoints
Sales

“We are struggling to attract Technology Executives (decision makers). We need to empower Data Architects, Developers, and Technology teams to sell Confluent internally to decision makers.”

PAINPOINTS
Brand
“Our design language doesn’t reflect the sophistication of our product. Our brand is pretty all over the place across marketing channels. Without conducting a full rebrand, how can we set a new standard for Confluent’s brand + content teams?”
PAINPOINTS
Product
“Our design language feels pretty rudimentary and is also not WGAC 2.0 compliant. We need a single source of truth for designers & developers. We want to work towards a best-in-class design system that allows product teams to work more efficiently across the product development cycle.”
PAINPOINTS
Sales
“We are struggling to attract Technology Executives (decision makers). We need to empower Data Architects, Developers, and Technology teams to sell Confluent internally to decision makers.”
+
+
+
Elevating the Brand

Pursuing a Unified Design Language

As we approached the design side of our challenge, we realized that Confluent’s current system was difficult for every internal division to use. The product design team had trouble knowing how to locate and use it, and the development team didn’t know where to turn for instructions nor how to implement new components and assets into the established template. An even larger issue was that their product design system was failing accessibility testing, which ultimately ended up being the catalyst for us to redesign their product design libraries.

This pinch point encouraged us to considered a key question: what does design mean at a top level, and how does that answer get applied, disseminated, and ultimately effectively utilized by all divisions seamlessly? If only there was one expression that all divisions employed that we could work on to unify this language.

And, in fact, there was. Presentation decks! We rethought the look and feel of Confluent’s presentation decks to elevate the design language to be more advanced, modern, consistent, and human, to mimic how smart and real time their tech is. This exercise also created momentum that unified their design language and could be leveraged for other, larger design decisions down the road.

Capture Qualified Leads

The Confluent Playbook

Empowering Sales

Next we worked to establish a self-service sales enablement tool. One that acted as a top-of-the-funnel lead generator that could raise awareness of Confluent’s offerings and equip customers with resources to facilitate the growth and maturation of business data infrastructure.

To accomplish that, the Goods team needed to fully understand Confluent’s products, audience, and messaging on a fundamental level. First we conducted deep customer research and collaborative workshopping to get to the heart of Confluent’s customer base to better understand their needs and identify the experience and messaging gaps that existed within the company’s sales and marketing teams.

Our ethnographic research revealed three main audiences we needed to reach: Developers, data architects, and executives, as well as three main goals we wanted to achieve. Goal number one was to drive awareness of Confluent as a powerful tool that could radically help drive business. Number two was to improve customer education and engagement. And goal number three was to create a powerful lead capture that would accelerate the adoption of Confluent’s services. The result was the Confluent Playbook.

Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet
Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet

The Confluent Motion Playbook

Probably the largest overarching strategy that we developed for Confluent was the introduction of the Confluent Playbook. This formidable, bespoke, web-based resource equips Confluent customers with a robust resource to facilitate the growth and maturation of data infrastructure. It’s intended to stimulate conversation, encourage adoption, and improve the data infrastructure challenges facing companies today.

The easy-to-navigate Confluent Playbook landing page allows users to respond to a handful of clearly written prompts that lead to an analysis of their company’s data infrastructure. Those responses then allow the software to create a customer-lead profile. At the same time, those inputs get added to the insights database, and, inevitably, serve to further enrich the Confluent Playbook analysis for Confluent customers.

This data maturity assessment provides competitive benchmarking analysis relative to data infrastructure (for executives), an actionable roadmap towards modern data infrastructure (for data architects), and resources towards implementing capabilities (for developers). The overall experience encourages users to invite other members of their organization to collaborate on the assessment, to achieve richer analysis, and eventually export a report and build a business case to purchase Confluent’s services.

Adhering to one of Confluent’s key goals (and a key challenge for us) to help their sales team connect with C-suite level executives of companies like Ally bank, we created an interactive vision prototype experience that modeled a customer journey. This process imagined a hypothetical bank executive, a data security architect from Ally Bank named Solange, and what her unique corporate needs might be. The goal was to empower her with the tools to build a business case to sell Confluent internally to her team.

Another unique value proposition is that we designed and branded a 5-level framework for what modern data infrastructure is. We branded these levels: 1. Pioneer.. 2. Adopter 3. Cultivator 4. Thriver. 5. Disruptor. Through the Confluent Playbook UI, we then mocked up Solange’s questions, and how the system could answer those questions with informative, friendly, concise, and easily digestible answers in categories like “Discover,” “Explore,” Commit,” and “Experience.”

Structure · Guidance · Collaboration

Product Design System

The third deliverable we created for Confluent was a Product Design System. After conducting a 4-week product design system audit, we delivered an actionable readout of how they might optimize their system for collaboration, structure, and guidance. They then asked us to rethink their design library to implement some of the optimizations from the audit, including design themes in both a light mode and dark mode, and in general, improve everything so it might pass the accessibility tests it was failing.

The third deliverable we created for Confluent was a Product Design System. After conducting a 4-week product design system audit, we delivered an actionable readout of how they might optimize their system for collaboration, structure, and guidance. They then asked us to rethink their design library to implement some of the optimizations from the audit, including design themes in both a light mode and dark mode, and in general, improve everything so it might pass the accessibility tests it was failing.

“Along with design system accessibility challenges, Confluent’s product teams were eager for solutions to enhance cross-functional collaboration, system structure and architecture, and guidance towards global vs. product specific systems. The goal was not just to enhance form & function, but to put scalable solutions in place that would empower design + front-end dev ops to enable long-term efficiency — smarter, faster, together.”

Sean Metcalf
VP Group Design Director

Outcomes

Today Confluent’s brand messaging and design assets all align to match its formidable technological capabilities, so that now there’s no question that their design language reflects the sophistication of their product. And all of their teams are on the same page about how to tell—and sell—their story.

By helping Confluent develop a smart and easy to use product design system, the Goods team helped them achieve the following outcomes:

  • Brought Confluent’s product and design teams closer together to create a unified design language.
  • Conducted a product design system audit and provided an actionable roadmap to optimize Confluent's product design system and internal cross-functional workflows.
  • Redesigned Confluent's product design system to comply with ADA & WCAG accessibility standards while improving internal design and engineering workflows.
  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Improved System Usability
  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Efficient Cross-Functional Collaboration
  • Black line icon of an arrow trending upwards
    Accessible, Usable, Beautiful
Cliff Notes
Full Story