ABSA Card Continuum

After Absa bank separated from Barclays Group, they took advantage of the opportunity to rebrand and better represent their customer base. As part of a swift and expansive roll-out, the banking cards had to be rapidly redesigned. Freethinking consultants were brought on for six sprints to deliver a new continuum of retail and business banking cards, as well as implement a strong customer-centered design practice.

The Brief

Africanacity: A new brand with new goals

The new cards played a significant role in the rebrand as bank cards are used daily by customers, making it the touchpoint they interact with the most. The design had to reflect the brand’s new values, that of the African spirit and the opportunities it presents. The cards had to create a narrative for the customer while also representing their respective segment.

Freethinking worked with the Absa Africa Design Office to create a continuum that delivered on all of the business and customer needs.


Agile Collaboration

For this project, we used the Agile methodology. In Agile product development, a sprint is a set period of time during which set tasks has to be completed. This methodology is traditionally used in digital product delivery, but proved extremely successful in guaranteeing the delivery of designs for print within short timeframes. Two cards were delivered for print at the end of every two-week sprint, along with their respective carrier and envelope.

User Research And Testing

Customer Acquisition​

Following a UX process , we built personas for each segment of card users, and this gave us insights into the needs, preferences and world view of each group. We were enabled to create user-aligned concepts and visuals, while these personas also provided guidance on our approach to user testing. Multiple rounds of user testing were conducted with participants that fit the profile for each segment respectively.

Our goal was to get qualitative feedback around the card concepts and design, ensuring that the most appropriate was implemented for each segment. Methods and techniques we used were:

Semantic differential survey

A linguistic tool used to evaluate the customers’ attitudes towards the card concepts and designs.


One-on-one interviews with the customers to gain further insights about the card concepts and design and the usage of the card.

The Concept

Expanding Your World View

The ABSA card continuum ranges from basic accounts, like Transact, to their most aspirational Wealth account. These segments and their progression are represented through the metaphor of an expanding world view. As we move through each of the segments, we view our world from a different perspective, expanding from microscopic images to aerial photography and satellite imaging, to stars and nebulas, where the possibilities are endless.

Introducing Vertical Cards

Innovation: Cards Inspired By The User

Card use has evolved over the years, and in use they are most often inserted into pay-points and ATM’s vertically. We thus decided it was time for a shift in how we orient cards. A vertical card places all the information the user sees on the card in the orientation it’s actually used in.

Design Process

Sprint Workshop: Concept And Ideation Sessions

Each sprint started with a concept workshop. The team got together offsite to discuss the segment, what the concept means for that persona, and sketched out ideas. Concepts for further development were chosen by voting and iteration.

User Testing

Determining Design

The final decision on which design to implement was validated by putting the best ideas from the workshops through user testing.


Refining The Execution

Once we had the final concept, the digital illustration process began. Multiple iterations of the design were created and refined, experimenting with colour and layout while considering how the design would translate onto a vertical card.


Testing Colours From Digital To Print

The cards were going to be printed abroad, so we tested the Pantone colours locally on different materials, marked our final choices and sent the samples to the printing houses for reference.

DTP Process

Preparing To Print

Producing bank cards presents many challenges not encountered in day-to-day print design work. Printing on multiple layers – plastic, metallic base colours, Pantones, spot varnishes and foiling had to be carefully considered.

DTP Process

Printing Abroad

There are no bank card manufacturers in South Africa and they offer limited to no access to their facilities for security reasons. Couriered test prints, colour experiments and scrupulous inspection of the card proof documents ensured a perfect end-product.

Additional Deliverables

Delivering Cards To Customers: Carriers And Envelopes

In addition to the card plastics, we also developed templates and final prints for the accompanying card carriers and envelopes.

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