PayPal Sheds Light on Company’s Innovative Work Process


(L–R) Francesco Fogu, Darwin Lui, Emma Hoare, Tony Amidei and Damon Bakun. Photo by Bob Toy.

On Thursday, February 5, Academy of Art University hosted e-commerce company PayPal during a panel event in front of a packed house at the 79 New Montgomery theatre. The panel consisted of Darwin Lui, executive producer; Damon Bakun, art director for business products; Tony Amidei, art director for consumer products; Colin Grigson, senior visual designer for foundations; Francesco Fogu, visual designer and Emma Hoare, interaction designer. 

The evening kicked off with a brief video and a quick introduction to the evening from Lui, who explained that PayPal is looking to be “disruptive in the most non-disruptive manner” when it comes to the design and usability of their products. They are focusing on “empathy around [their] customers, problems they face, the things they do and how [to] tie it all together.”

When figuring out this process, PayPal decided that they wanted to “transform” their working process and figure out what design means to their company, as a whole. They approached this by having their visual designers from across the globe come over to their headquarters in San Jose for a jam session to assist in figuring out how they would redefine their design language.


Photo by Bob Toy.


Photo by Bob Toy.

They turned to nature for insight, using water, bees and flowers as inspiration concepts. They explained that they were not trying to mimic these aspects of nature and were “using them as guiding principles.” 

They created videos, which they shared with the audience, meant to motivate those participating in the jam sessions as they began to rethink their products. For example, a video that was inspired by bees was designed in a way that featured honeycomb that would unfold like origami. The team that worked on this particular session actually built out some origami figures to get a better understanding of how the geometric shapes would unfold and could be an interactive experience for the user. 

PayPal is currently in the midst of developing their new design language, Elemental. After identifying the strongest principles that came out of the jam sessions, they then designated them as the key design principles at PayPal. As they continue to create and develop products, they are looking at key elements: Pure, Fluid, Adaptable and Quenching.

They’re striving to make sure that the design doesn’t include things that are unnecessary, that the “interaction is smooth and seamless,” is adaptable on various platforms (i.e. mobile, tablet, desktop) and is an overall satisfying user experience.

They are also working on developing a new typeface and shared a preview with the audience. Being that they’re a financial company, they started with numbers first, as “it’s such an important part of [PayPal’s] experience.”

PayPal also has a summer internship program that runs for approximately two and a half months. The full-time position, which is open to all types of creatives, is paid and “is based on your role, your experience and your location.”

To prepare for this internship program, the panel shared that you need to know who you are and that you will be a good fit at PayPal. Your portfolio should feature your best and unique work, as well as provide insight into the type of projects that you want to work on.

The deadline for this summer’s internship is Saturday, February 28. Please submit your resume and portfolio to