How the Ragged Edge and Wise teams came together to craft a pivotal rebrand for ‘The World’s Money’
“If you’re doing things differently, you need a branding agency doing things differently,” Ragged Edge state, deftly capturing not only their company ethos but their work with status-quo-defying fintech superstar Wise. The project – to globally rebrand the money transfer turned account business – was a gargantuan undertaking, nobody can deny that. That’s why the London-based branding agency were the perfect fit, driving the rebrand with big ideas for a company with big ambition. And so, it’s only fitting that Ragged Edge’s Creative Director Luke Woodhouse and Wise’s Design Director Cameron Worboys take it from here, detailing the thoughts, trials and triumphs of the project.
PT Why was it time for Wise to rebrand?
CW As a company, we’ve been building towards this for a while. 12 years ago when Wise started it was all about transfers. Sending money from here to there. But unsurprisingly customers who send money also want to spend, receive and grow it as well. So over time, our product has evolved and today we're so much more than transfers.
To reflect our future TransferWise became Wise and this rebrand was a continuation of that work. We’re on a journey to communicate ‘who we are’ and ‘where we’re going.’ Showing the world we’re so much more than transfers. So while scary, we knew it was necessary. It was time for a big, bold leap. To step out from the sea of sameness and show our customers we’re going to more places, serving more people and changing ‘The World’s Money’ for the better.
PT Was this rebrand already planned at the point of the name change?
CW Nope it wasn’t planned. It was discussed though, I believe. The name change required a massive amount of technical work as we had to redirect everything to wise.com. Merging the two projects into one would have made the scope too large in my eyes.
A brand that could be universally understood, and work wherever you may go.
PT How does the rebrand better communicate who you are and where you’re going?
CW Wise is an account and this work helps drive that strategic shift from transfers to account. The rebrand is the first time we’ve presented ourselves ‘account first’ across our entire customer journey. We spent a lot of time refining the positioning and making sure we built a brand that inspired people to join our mission. Most importantly we wanted to excite customers about where we’re going – everywhere.
PT What insights led you to the idea of ‘The World’s Money’? From there, how did you develop the tone of voice?
LW Wise has always had a strong sense of purpose and mission. It’s not a bank and they don’t think or act like one. So we asked, “why should you look like a boring bank?” The Wise brand needed to reflect their ambition as a company. To do things differently, to serve more people in more places, to build one account for all kinds of money.
Our role was to connect that vision into a single creative idea and ‘The World’s Money’ came up as a very simple and powerful articulation of Wise’s ambition.
It’s about making the money do more, for more people, in more places. A brand for everyone, everywhere. A brand that could be universally understood, and work wherever you may go.
After initial concepts and explorations. We codified what had been successful and developed ‘tone of voice principles,’ to help keep us on the right path. These became the benchmarks we measured our writing against.
Everything was created to be both as accessible and as distinctive as possible.
PT As the guiding principle behind the rebrand, how did you decide how to bring ‘The World’s Money’ to life visually?
LW To bring ‘The World’s Money’ to life visually, we wanted to create a brand that truly reflected the world and spoke to everyone, no matter where they were. So we started by designing every element with that in mind, from a bespoke typeface that incorporates global letterforms to a set of graphic tapestries that represents money around the world. We were inspired by the symbolism on bank notes, but we wanted to update it for the digital world, so we plotted 10 routes based on our research of Wise’s customers’ journeys and sourced images of people, places, experiences and textures that we could weave together to form what we called ‘tapestries.’ These became a unifying graphic that feels unmistakably Wise and worldly in its energy.
Everything was created to be both as accessible and as distinctive as possible. The tone of voice uses the fewest, most widely understood words, and a colour scheme that exceeds the latest WCAG and APCA standards. Our product font can even speak 146 languages, and we redrew hundreds of icons as simple, universal symbols that are understood the world over.
We took this further by using our universally understood iconography as the starting point for the illustrations. We inflated the icons to create geometric, stylised 3D symbols and added our tapestries to create a dynamic, fluid surface. This created a unique visual language built by the world, for the world. It was all about accessibility and being understood the world over, and we believe we’ve achieved that through our visually distinct, globally accessible design.
PT Can you tell us about how the graphic tapestries were created? Were they drawn by hand (at least initially), or designed digitally?
LW It started with a mixture. We created some textures with analogue processes and scanned in textures, we incorporated brush strokes created on iPads and layered images sourced online. Any image we used can be traced back to coordinates on the globe and track Wise customers’ most popular routes. We altered colours to incorporate the brand’s colour palette and blended everything to create something that feels like it’s moving, even when it’s static.
PT How did you go about testing the colours and symbols? What did the process look like?
LW To create an accessible colour palette you need good contrast between the foreground (or typography) and the background. There are lots of different ways to check this but contrast is just the start. We used APCA as a tool for checking more than just colour contrast. The Myndex Research tool also looks at the font sizes and how the colours interact with each other. AAA (7:1+) contrast might not always be enough, as we discovered, for a few combinations.
For the icons, we figured out what the stroke weight needed to be first. It needed to give us enough internal space to draw all of the shapes within each icon and it needed to be heavy enough to work well at small sizes. Once we had that, we defined the grid and drew every icon so that it adhered to that structure. This was important because it meant positive and negative space was always equal as a minimum. If these become imbalanced then icons can start to look blobby for people with visual impairments.
We had to change it. Our VP of design, Josh, called it a ‘now or never’ moment.
PT Why was it decided to evolve the ‘Fast Flag’ logo instead of replacing it?
CW We hadn’t planned on updating the logo since we just changed it in 2021 with the name change. But quite late in the project, we realised that the old logo didn’t match our new identity. We had to change it. Our VP of design, Josh, called it a ‘now or never’ moment. Ragged Edge stepped in and made the fast flag stronger as a stand-alone icon, and created the new logotype to improve legibility and represent the true essence of Wise. Everyone in the business easily embraced the change because it objectively improved our logo. It felt inevitable in the end.
LW We knew there was a lot of equity in the fast flag. So it made sense for the logo to be evolved rather than creating something new. As branding designers, we could see instantly what functional improvements could be made to it, so it was a joy to redraw and make the most of it. We did present a wild-card option that made sense with our core concept of ‘The World’s Money,’ but we always knew that uniting the world with one flag for all would be the way to go.
PT Can you tell us about the development of the bespoke typeface? Why did you go with this direction instead of choosing one already commercially available?
LW We wanted a headline typeface that would make us stand out, capture the brand’s personality, and appeal to a wide audience. After searching the internet, we couldn’t find what we were looking for. However, we discovered that Parafina by Feliciano Type had the qualities we needed as a perfect starting point.
To create a font that truly represented the diverse world Wise serves, we drew inspiration from letterforms and alphabets around the globe. We found a captivating ‘B’ from a sign in Davao City, Philippines, and a unique ‘G’ influenced by Thai script. Our goal was to infuse the font with international character and vibrant energy.
Our ambition was to use typography as a reflection of the world in an authentic and relatable way. Recently, Cam attended an event where someone recognised the exact sign we had used from Kerala, India. They felt that it genuinely reflected the influence of the Malayalam language. Which really made it all worthwhile.
The Wise design system supports 146 languages.
PT How did you go about expanding the font into 146 languages?
LW After working with Mario Feliciano at Feliciano Type on the concepts to develop the alternate glyphs for Wise Sans – a custom version of Parafina – we commissioned Luke Prowse and the NaN team to add around 150 glyphs, complete the set of currency symbols and extend language support meaning it now covers 342 languages. This is more than Wise need at the moment, but means it’s more future-proof. The Wise design system supports 146 languages though which is an incredible feat.
We adopted Inter for our functional typeface because it already had excellent language support. But we worked with Luke Prowse at NaN to add 12 extra currency symbols. We’ve submitted the updates to Rasmus Andersson and hopefully, these will be available for the whole world to use soon. Before this point, Wise didn’t have a font they could use that supported all of their currency requirements.
PT Were there any ideas that didn’t quite make the cut that you’re still fond of?
CW During the icon sprint, someone had the idea of using chunky, bold icons with a brutalist style. I thought they could give our product a unique identity, but we realised they failed miserably for accessibility. Clarity of line is essential, especially for users with vision impairments. In the end, we opted for clear, linear icons, which performed much better. This experience reinforced the importance of establishing a shared ambition early on to guide our decision-making consistently.
PT For such a pivotal project, how did Ragged Edge and Wise teams get to know each other better?
CW We formed a strong bond while working on this project, driven by our shared passion to make it the absolute best. We got to know each other mainly through design critiques, Figma comments, and gaining insights into each other’s thought processes. I consider myself fortunate to have learned a great deal from Ragged Edge throughout this journey, and I believe they feel the same way.
Perhaps we’ll have more social events in the future, but let’s be honest, we'll probably end up talking about work most of the time. And you know what? That's perfectly fine because we’re all so invested in this project.
PT Who led which sections of the project from the Ragged Edge and Wise teams?
CW Right from the start, we adopted a one-team policy, which meant everyone got involved in some way or another. The only exception was the initial concept and strategy phase.
We worked in sprints, focusing on each brand foundation, and collaboratively built the brand from big billboards to small buttons. Ragged Edge would often surprise us with their wacky and wonderful ideas through Figma. Together, we tested, pushed boundaries, and figured out how to make it all work.
The trust we had in each other’s expertise was paramount. It was a rare environment where everyone elevated each other’s ideas and execution. Ragged Edge aren’t your typical agency, and they should definitely take pride in that.
PT What was it like coordinating work between Ragged Edge’s designers and Wise’s in-house design team?
LW Coordinating work between Ragged Edge and Wise's in-house design team was a real collaboration. Using shared Figma files meant we could all see everything and work together seamlessly, even across different time zones. We had a strong unifying concept that kept everyone on track and working towards the same goal. Having a presentation tab for each project stream made it easy for Wise to follow our thinking and recommendations in a logical story, while also being able to see all the rough workings in the tabs below. This helped everyone understand how we got to the best solution and left nothing to chance. Both brand designers and product designers were able to work together and bring their different skills to the table, which was great to see.
The most important challenge to solve was the scale of the project.
PT Were there any hurdles or obstacles throughout the project? How did you overcome them?
CW Thousands too many to name. I think probably the most important challenge to solve was the scale of the project. It took us around a year and a half, almost two years, to complete a series of four projects together.
However, ‘scale’ means much more to us than just the time required. We had ambitious goals to achieve and an extensive operation to manage. We handle massive amounts of money, with last quarter’s total exceeding £25 billion. Every second counts, as we can’t afford any disruptions.
When we launched, we reached out to 16 million customers across 170 countries in one big bang. We have 42 product teams solely focused on our product development. Additionally, we had around 12 marketing teams working internally to support the launch.
In the final weeks, we were dealing with approximately 500 tickets per week. So when I think about ‘scale,’ it encompasses multiple levels: the project itself, our ambition, and the actual implementation process.
PT When coordinating a simultaneous global launch, how did you make sure it ran smoothly?
CW We have three key elements in our design organisation: Design Systems, Design Ops, and Design Advocates. And they all need to be in sync for everything to work smoothly.
Design systems – our global design system ensures that teams across Wise can build products consistently. It’s not just a brand identity, but a complete brand system. This empowers all 4,000 employees at Wise to easily adopt the rebrand and integrate it into their work. Our development efforts heavily rely on the adoption of this design system.
Design Ops – orchestrating this complex process across multiple teams wouldn’t be possible without our Design Ops team. They handle important milestones and ensure accountability, including critical tasks like our bug burn-down rate. They serve as the glue that keeps the crew together.
Design Advocates – instead of trying to be everywhere at once, we trained 14 highly experienced designers from various departments to become our eyes and ears. These Design Advocates help us scale our impact by providing insights and feedback. They play a vital role in spreading the knowledge and implementation of our design system.
However, none of this is easy. It requires a highly motivated and talented group of people who are passionate about creating outstanding work. Without such a team, all the planning in the world would be futile.
Every element and configuration was tested across thousands of screens.
PT On your point of building a brand system not a brand identity, what are the key differences?
LW It’s not really any different in terms of the elements you need; a logo, typefaces, colours, icons, illustrations, photography, etc. But we needed to ensure that the design system worked for an infinite number of screens and applications. Every element and configuration was tested across thousands of screens, and existing patterns. Meaning every border colour and the radius of every corner was defined and tested and tweaked and refined to make it as robust as possible.
PT Designing for a global audience is a huge task, what considerations did you place front and centre?
LW When designing for a global audience, we wanted to ensure the team working on the project was representative of Wise’s customers. With people from every continent (except Antarctica) on the team, across Ragged Edge and Wise, we had a diverse range of perspectives and insights to draw from. We also spent time getting to know Wise’s customers and their needs, and made sure that every brand element was put through the lens of emotional representation and functional consistency in 170 countries. For example, we designed Wise Sans to work in 342 languages, and made sure that the app looked great in Japanese. By putting these considerations front and centre, we’re now confident that Wise can show up as Wise to everyone, everywhere.
PT How is the brand geared towards the future? How do you expect the identity to evolve in future years?
LW Brands are built over years. We always create brands that are designed to be endlessly flexible and united by a clear concept, in this case, it’s ‘The World’s Money.’ Wise will build on the visual direction set by the rebrand by creating more visual assets to get their message across and they’ll document more success stories, capturing the world through their newly focused Wise lens. But really, the Wise team will keep iterating on their product, making it better and better. They’ll keep looking for new ways to add valuable products to their customers’ lives and will continue to build a system for ‘The World’s Money’ that we all need.
PT What has the reception been like so far?
LW From a personal standpoint, it has been incredible. We devoted 18 months of hard work and dedication to this project, putting a significant part of ourselves into it. I’ve been hearing from people who’ve joined Wise that the new brand played a key role in their decision to join the team, and witnessing the excitement that it has generated across the company since its launch has been immensely gratifying. Moreover, seeing the outstanding results that it's driving for the business, in terms of customer responses, is truly invaluable.
CW The reception from the industry has been crazy. We’ve had people rebuilding the design system to understand it, it’s been shared and discussed in global design teams at some of the most prestigious companies all over the world. And we’ve presented the work to thousands and thousands of people. So yea, to say it’s been good would be an understatement.