A Celebration of Culture Through Design

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Mai Nguyen and Cat Gonzalez, AoB Leadership

Asians of Betterment (AoB) is an Employee Resource Strategy Group (ERSG) that was founded in early 2020 to serve the many Asian employees at Betterment. We saw an opportunity to build community over our shared backgrounds and experiences, especially as we transitioned to remote work.

At the start of 2021, we wanted to highlight Lunar New Year, a huge event celebrated by many parts of the Asian community. A great way for us to celebrate Lunar New Year would be through sharing our family traditions and childhood memories. By spreading our stories both among ourselves and externally through an Instagram post, it helped our community feel seen and gave us an opportunity to share this joyous celebration with our colleagues. Hear more about how we landed on our final designs.

Kim Pham, Brand Designer

The idea of this post was to highlight stories within the AoB community and share how folks celebrated Lunar New Year as kids—most importantly, how we spent our red envelope money. The red envelope tradition is shared across many cultures and is generally gifted from the older to younger generation as a way to symbolize good luck and prosperity in the new year. The AoB team reached out to those within the group and received many responses, some that were recognized as traditional celebrations and some that were more unconventional.

We thought it would be fun to illustrate some of the responses on the Instagram post. I took a look at Style Closet, Betterment’s design system, as a starting point for creating these illustrations.

Our iconography style, which lives across our product and in marketing, has a simple utilitarian look that I used to inform early sketches. Even though I was directly translating Lunar New Year imagery and cultural motifs into our brand style, it still felt like the illustrations were missing what makes this holiday such a meaningful celebration.

Lunar New Year celebrations have an inherent boldness, from the striking red color palette, to tons of firecrackers and strung-up decorations. I remember weaving through the streets of NYC Chinatown during Lunar New Year, leaving behind a trail of confetti and bumping into people of all backgrounds who were excited to share in our culture. I wanted to find a way to bring that joy and excitement into the visual, so I tried combining photography from Lunar New Year events.

Although this helped capture more vibrant memories and emotions, we wanted to bring the designs closer to our brand style, and found a happy medium with these playful patterns. Lanterns, firecrackers, paper decorations, and Chinese coins were the inspiration for these illustrations. The added color and detail, typical of any red envelope design, helped give these visuals life and motion. We wove elements of these illustrations into the social post and shared a version of them as Zoom backgrounds for the company.

Pam Do, AoB Leadership

The power of design not only lies in capturing attention, but also in embracing identity, educating others, and creating bonds of allyship. In Kim’s Lunar New Year designs, the interplay of Asian tradition and Betterment’s design tenants highlighted the bold and joyous characteristics of Asian culture and identity, which invite communities of all cultures to join in celebration.

We partnered with the Brand Team to post the Lunar New Year designs on Betterment’s Instagram page. Our Instagram was also used to celebrate Black History Month with fellow ERSG, Black at Betterment. Both Asians of Betterment and Black at Betterment were able to celebrate and advocate for our group’s history, struggles, resilience, and hope for a better future.

Asians of Betterment is taking hold of the momentum from Lunar New Year and finding ways to bring our diverse identities together in celebration. Currently in the works: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, coming to our social media this May.

Did you miss our previous article…

Wendy Bobo