A capital example of information design

Emails about my finances are never particularly good news, but this one from Capital One turned out to be, because it was such a good example of information design.

And this is because it:

  • anticipates a problem
  • provides a clear solution
  • visualises information that would have made for complex text
  • makes it easy to carry on and complete the task

Anticipating the problem, and providing a solution

The problem here is simple. At this rate I’ll be dead before I pay this off – and getting money out of corpses isn’t easy. Obviously, the solution is pretty simple – pay more. But by providing a number of options, the task suddenly seems much more doable: rather than a 1 in 2 chance of maintaining the status quo, now that chance is, at least in theory, down to 1 in 6 (Yes, No and 4 possible payment amounts).

Even the title of the email ‘Take years off your balance’ was enough to make it noticeable among the other Friday morning junk flashing up the screen ‘Hey, it’s nearly the weekend…’, Summer is nearly here’ and ‘50% off lederho…’. And the text is informative enough, without feeling like I’m being told off.

Visualising information

Whilst the first layer is a gentle nudge, the second layer holds a very simple, but exceptionally compelling, graphic explaining the perils of minimum payments, and the benefits of going beyond. I’m sure there is a benefit to the bank as well (call me cynical) but this doesn’t detract from the concern it shows for my well being, and the clear way it shows it.

Made it easy to complete the task

And the best part was to follow: simply by pressing the ‘Enter your own amount’ button I managed to change the payment without the hassle of having to login anywhere or having to authorise via another email – all done within one screen (it turned out to be two, but I was fooled for long enough to get the job done).

No, it’s not the most aesthetically exciting thing in the world, but it works well enough without the pictures, and the whole thing done in 5 clicks (or taps). Well done Capital One.

2 thoughts on “A capital example of information design”

  1. Nice, and would be even nicer if the charts were all to the same scale – it indicates visually that the difference between 25.75 years and 3 years is rather a lot smaller than it is!

  2. I agree it would be nice if they were to scale, but of course that would mean one of two things:
    a) the email would need to be exceptionally wide to accommodate the 25 years, or
    b) if the other three options were to scale with the existing 25 years, there may not be enough difference in their sizes to illustrate the point.

    Of course, the best (but most depressing) solution would be to explain how much each option adds up to. I’m sure it’s possible, but whether its because of possible changes in rates, or just because the numbers are so shocking, it’s not a route I imagine banks wanting to go down!

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