Student Debt Smarter

A simple and approachable digital brand that helps students make informed decisions about student debt and their financial futures.

An Initiative to Empower Smart Student Debt Choices

In collaboration with the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, we set out to build a brand new, easy-to-use Student Debt Calculator app. The calculator needed to pair an advanced set of data with an easy-to-navigate frontend in order to provide clear and digestible insights into student debt affordability.

Deep rich blue background with a yellow logo centered in the middle hat reads "Student Debt Smarter." The icon for the brand is a percentage sign with a smile underneath

What’s Up, Gen Z?

This app had to feel at home within the higher-ed landscape while still tugging at the familiarity of apps that Gen Z uses on the daily. We created branding that feels both approachable and trustworthy–from an “app-friendly” logo that can live comfortably as a home screen favicon, to a set of patterns and colors fit to be used across a breadth of digital applications.

But, don’t just take our word for it; to make sure we got it right, we tested the brand with a small sample group of students. Not only did students describe the brand as “cheerful, chill, cute, and friendly”, but 100% of the users agreed the target audience is Gen Z.

Various lock ups of the Student Debt Smarter brand over a mix of colors like yellow, light blue, white, and navy blue.
Shots from the Student Debt Smarter brand creative direction. Includes inspiration for illustration, beginning lock ups for a type system, color palette and example mobile design applications
Color palette for Student Debt Smarter - shows a palette for rich blues paired with a bright yellow and white. Each swatch has their accompanied HEX values in the top left corner.
UI collage for student debt smarter - includes cards, colors, patterns illustrations, buttons and inputs
Mobile screens for the Student Debt Smarter calculator. Shows screens of a user going through the flow, selecting a major to study, the college they want to attend, the year they'll start college and the city they will live in after college. The last screen shows that $50,000 will be the most the user can afford to pay back in loans.

Results and Early Wins

Student debt isn’t simple–but it can be approachable. Despite the fact that the student debt calculator aggregates the financial data of 300+ majors and 3,000+ schools across the US, the final digital experience is fast, clear, and simple to understand. This project shifted something that could’ve been a standalone, web-based app into a fuller website experience that leans into the possibility of future brand growth.

What We Did


  • Discovery Workshop
  • Engagement Model
  • Information Architecture
  • Measurement Planning


  • Creative Direction
  • Logo and Visual Identity
  • Brand Guidelines
  • Visual Design and UI
  • Prototype
  • User Testing


  • Technical Planning
  • Accessibility Optimization
  • Custom WordPress Development
Small yellow wavy line

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