Fix Finance for All: Kallan & Co’s Customer-Centric Rebrand of Taxfix

If you’re anything like me, the phrase ‘tax season’ sends a primordial shudder down my spine. Thankfully, with the digitization of tax filing and the proliferation of apps, gone are the days of hauling out the dusty receipt box once a year to jigsaw your return together like a manic crime scene detective..

In this dynamic landscape of digital tax filing, Taxfix has emerged as Europe’s leading mobile tax platform, alleviating people’s fears about taxes and finances while making complex tax systems accessible to everyone. With a proven track record of generating over three billion euros in tax refunds, Taxfix, founded in 2017, has transitioned from a disruptor to a market leader. This evolution prompted the need for a strategic rebranding effort undertaken by Kallan & Co — a Helsinki-based design studio for technology-driven businesses that transforms technology into meaningful brand and product experiences.

As Taxfix experienced exponential growth and strengthened its market presence through strategic acquisitions, including the notable Steuerbot, the company needed to redefine its brand from strategy to expression. Kallan & Co faced crafting a brand that asserted Taxfix’s ambitious leadership position and resonated with existing and potential customers and employees. The goal was to align Taxfix’s brand identity with its multi-product and multi-platform expansion, creating a brand that confidently communicated its mission to the world to build trust and inspire advocacy at every customer interaction point.

II had the opportunity to ask the Kallan & Co team to dig further into their process for Taxfix; Luca Picardi, Lead Strategist & Head of Brand Strategy, and Hannu Koho, Design Director, shared their responses with me below.

(Interview edited for clarity and length.)

The central idea of ‘Fix Finance for All’ is powerful. How did Kallan&Co ensure that the concept translated across the visual, verbal, and experiential elements of the Taxfix brand? Any specific design or communication strategies that played a crucial role?

Luca Picardi: At its core, ‘Fix Finance for All’ is an all-encompassing idea that drives everything Taxfix. This spirit informs the company’s culture and behaviour — reinforcing its role in the world to make the complex and messy financial world more accessible and approachable to anyone. Fixing taxes is just the start of their journey.

The primary creative challenge was to capture the invigorating feeling and benefit of customer empowerment that Taxfix provides while balancing it with the calm and credible reassurance of its financial expertise. The goal was to create a brand capable of being precise and pragmatic during taxing times and celebratory during customers’ more rewarding moments. This duality runs throughout the brand, from the tone of voice and photography to colour and typography.

With Taxfix evolving into a multi-product and multi-platform company, how did the design team address the challenge of maintaining a cohesive brand identity across different products and platforms while allowing room for individuality?

Luca Picardi: Taxfix’s expansion into a multi-product and multi-platform company is an ongoing and evolving process, with a long-term trajectory still unfolding. Numerous decisions are pending, and its final direction is yet to be determined.

We were at the beginning of this fast-changing journey during our project. We explored various brand architecture models to swiftly test scenarios within the Taxfix ecosystem. We simulated future products’ potential look and feel, experimenting with different colour schemes and fine-tuning visual elements. Each iteration allowed us to assess how individual products could maintain a distinct identity while remaining seamlessly integrated into the overarching Taxfix brand.

This future-proofing process helped define a really comprehensive and cohesive final brand system in everything from an extensive standardised colour palette range to a deeply responsive typeface choice that works hard in any and all marketing or product contexts.

The emphasis on simplicity, expertise, and user empowerment is evident in Taxfix’s rebrand. Can you share examples of design choices or elements you specifically incorporated to convey these brand values to users?

Hannu Koho: Each brand element was carefully selected to embrace varying levels of simplicity, expertise, and user empowerment. Our creative process began with the key signature financial motifs that served a dual purpose. These symbols provided diverse communication possibilities to simplify and guide people’s financial journeys, encompassing everything from taxes to savings; they also functioned as cropping devices, placing customers at the literal centre stage of the brand. All of this underpins a central value of Taxfix – making finance fit people, not the other way around.

The chosen typeface, ABC ROM, strikes a perfect balance of sturdy precision and expertise while retaining unique quirks and humane characteristics. It became a crucial tool in building customer confidence through the ‘Taxfix voice,’ which is approachable and expert. Additionally, ROM effectively addressed specific challenges in the German market, Taxfix’s largest, by accommodating the lengthy nature of German words, particularly in tax-related content. The diverse widths proved invaluable for clear communication, whether in prominent headlines on marketing billboards or detailed body copy within the app. When it comes to taxes, the fine print matters.

Colour emerged as another crucial element in conveying the brand’s values. We refined a warmer range of green shades — from more vivid to muted and darker tones. Our aim was to keep the ‘green thread’ from the original brand but embed it with more versatility, meaning, and, importantly, energy. To breathe more life into the brand beyond green, we introduced a set of secondary colours, enabling Taxfix the flexibility to speak to different mindsets, emotions, and needs. The palette was inspired by the various colours of the Euro cash notes, given Taxfix’s European roots, with its key markets currently in Germany, Italy, and Spain. These include hues of lilac, gold, and blue. Each colour adds a unique dimension to the brand — communicating everything from calmness and credibility to confidence.

Considering Taxfix’s commitment to putting customers center-stage, how did the design team ensure that the rebrand resonates with the diverse needs and preferences of the user base? Were there any user-centric design principles adopted during the process?

Luca Picardi: Many companies claim they’re all about their customers but fall short in practice. Taxfix, however, truly lives up to its commitment. Right from the initial pitch meeting to every subsequent project session, the customer consistently came first, serving as the guiding principle of our conversations and the structural foundation of the entire project process.

This customer-skewed approach lived through every aspect of our work, from the comprehensive customer research provided by Taxfix to the proactive customer testing embedded at various stages of our branding project. We ran customer testing for two of our brand prototype concepts and, eventually, the final concept, involving thousands of customers. These testing phases emerged as critical milestones, ensuring that our decision-making process wasn’t confined solely to internal perspectives but was also influenced by the external world.

This highly collaborative approach with end-users played a large role in refining our understanding of their needs and preferences, ultimately shaping a brand that resonates authentically with its audience.

With Kallan & Co’s strategic rebranding efforts, Taxfix has successfully evolved into a multi-product and multi-platform company, solidifying its position as Europe’s go-to digital tax platform. The new brand identity, centered around ‘Fix Finance for All,’ reflects Taxfix’s commitment to customer empowerment and sets the stage for continued growth and innovation in the financial technology space.

Creative Sources: Reflections from a Trip to Sayulita

Every morning, when I get ready for my day, I put on a pair of silver bracelets I inherited from my grandmother. One comprises small circles fused together in a large ring, and the other is a thin cuff with a slight twist in the metal. My mom has told me that my grandmother bought each of these for herself on one of her trips to Mexico decades ago. She, too, wore these bracelets habitually.

My first trip to Mexico was at the end of last year when my family and I went on a holiday vacation to the small coastal town of Sayulita. Roughly a 45-minute drive from the pulsing parties of Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita is a lesser-known Mexican gem along the western coast in the southern Nayarit region. Sought after primarily by wave-chasing surfers, Sayulita has a population of just about 5,000, though that number ebbs and flows in and out of the tourist season.

Upon arriving in Sayulita days before the new year, with my grandmother’s silver bracelets clanging around my wrists, I was immediately captivated by the small yet spirited fishing village.

Garlands of papel picado of all colors and designs were strung across each of Sayulita’s narrow, cobble-stoned streets. The papel picado motif, swaying softly in the wind with their thin plastic glinting in the sun, wove colorfully throughout the town, physically connecting each shop and restaurant with a celebratory flair.

Sayulita is saturated with bright colors, from the bold-hued stucco of buildings to the painted and mosaic-tiled murals peppering the walls, stairwells, and every other surface in between. As a sign painter myself infatuated by all things hand-painted, I moved through the town, taken by the signage and lettering clearly executed by a human with a paintbrush. I documented many of the hand-painted signs I encountered, from the facade of a custom boot shop to the enamel window sign adorning a golf cart rental service.

At the center of Sayulita sits a baseball field. Home of the Sayulita Jaibos (crabs), this field serves as an epicenter of commerce in the town, as merchants and vendors set up booths around the field’s perimeter each morning to sell their goods for the day. Beaded hummingbird ornaments, ceramic housewares, and embroidered tunics are among the merchants’ most popular items. As I made my laps around the field in search of the perfect trinket keepsakes, pawing through strands of beaded necklaces, haggling for a knock-off Lionel Messi jersey, accumulating abalone hair clips and other mementos, I started to recognize certain design elements and aesthetics I associated with my grandmother. The same penchant for jewel tones and beaded figurines I’d inherited from my mother, I was now tracing back to my grandmother and her time in Mexico.

There’s an abundance of tiles in Sayulita, with stairwells, sidewalks, and restaurant tables festooned with all sorts of these ceramic squares. I’ve been obsessed with tiles for as long as I can remember, and have the annoying habit of taking photos of any noteworthy tile specimen that crosses my path. I spent much of my exploration of Sayulita holding up my family as we walked to dinner or the beach, stopping dead in my tracks to capture the perfect angle of one of the many tiled staircases I came upon.

As a white American visiting Mexico with my white American family, I think it’s important to acknowledge my anxiety about the power dynamics we would inevitably bring with us during our stay. These sensitivities are inherent to traveling and the general concept of “going on vacation.” Maybe it was the baseball field in the center of town, or the local surfers scuttling around the streets barefoot with their boards held over their heads, or the squinty-eyed beach Chihuahua that befriended my dad at the water’s edge, but there was a refreshing integration of the tourists and the local Sayulita community that felt palpable to me. Of course, privilege imbalances will always be at play, and Sayulita is far from immune to that. Still, there was a sense of intimacy within the community we were visiting and a feeling of genuine welcoming from the town that I was grateful for throughout our visit.

As at the end of all great traveling experiences, I left Sayulita feeling as if I understood myself a little bit better. I was able to chart some of the origins of my interest in tiles, bougainvillea, and the color turquoise by spending a week in a little Mexican town that’s bustling with golf carts, fishermen, and sandy street dogs. I feel nostalgic for the trip already, missing the vibrant energy and aesthetic, the humble hum of the streets in the mornings, and the music spilling out from bars at night. Whenever I return from traveling, I question whether or not I imagined the whole thing; did I fabricate that place in my mind or create an alternate reality that I’ve suddenly snapped out of? The particular magic of Sayulita makes me even more dubious, but the newest treasures in my jewelry box give me hope.

Artist & Animator Matthias Brown Leans Into the Power of Process

What makes a great artist? It is a lofty question, no doubt, with many answers, non-answers, and half-answers in between. And while there’s no definitive formula for great art, no silver bullet for creative genius, certain qualities are common denominators. For me, constant experimentation and genuine creative curiosity are core tenets for great artistic minds who continuously explore visual worlds in new ways fueled by an insatiable drive to discover. I recently came upon the work of animator and mixed media artist Matthias Brown, who epitomizes this mentality.

Under the nom de plume TraceLoops, Brown is on a glorious journey of visual experimentation through his animation practice, in which he deploys various tools and techniques that he’s constantly pushing in new and innovative directions. Perusing his body of work is a thrilling experience, as you can chart his evolution as an artist over time, seeing what styles or tools he’s using for a period before morphing in a different direction for a spell. Brown also composes the music accompanying his animations, creating immersive sensory worlds in a bite-sized form.

Captivated by both Brown’s stunning work and the audacious mind behind his creations, I felt compelled to learn more. His thoughtful reflections on his background and ethos as an artist are below.

(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Why stop motion? How did you first come to this process, and what do you enjoy so much about it?

In, I think, fifth grade, I took a week-long summer class that was generally about using some computer programs—Photoshop, Premier, Macromedia Flash—and I enjoyed making things move. I also made flip books during year-end standardized testing in middle school when we were only allowed a book for when we were done. 

When making animations in Flash, tweening always looked bad, so I would do mostly frame-by-frame animation. I’m not sure what I do now is exactly “stop motion.” I do some work that takes an object, moves it, photographs it, and then moves and photographs it again, but the shift is meant to advance to a preexisting frame. I think of stop motion as progressively repositioning or augmenting an element and not replacing it all at once.

I like things that re-contextualize an understanding of information. Animation constantly jumps from one state to another, and what you perceive is never what you see. It’s flashes of information that compile into a sense of motion. It’s a very time-consuming process that gets crunched down into fractions of seconds that gain new meaning when reformatted. I struggle sometimes to be clear in words. I can talk and talk about an idea that feels very direct and concise, but when the idea is realized, it communicates better than I can. A complex, perhaps bloated, collection of ideas and processes crunched down into fractions of seconds that are understood.

I never want to feel like I can’t share how something is done for fear that it will be the end of my ability to create work…I have learned from people who share and I appreciate that I might be able to do the same for others.

Matthias Brown

Looking at the evolution of your experimentation is such a fun way to experience your process. Is laying out your work sequentially like this on social media intentional, or did you stumble into it? How did this sharing process come about?

I really like process. There’s a quote I think about often that gets attributed to different people: “A joke is like a frog: there are few who want to dissect it, and the frog dies in the process.”

I’m a comedy nerd. In middle and high school, I used to download audio recordings of Comedy Central Presents episodes and burned CDs that I would fall asleep while listening to. I wanted to know why things were and weren’t funny with slight changes. I get the sentiment of the quote, but I wouldn’t say I like to leave things unknown. For me, the joke doesn’t die when dissected; it takes on new meaning while broadening the scope of possibilities.

IIn that same summer course, when learning about the basics of Photoshop, the teacher showed us work from Jerry Uelsmann, who would make surreal photographs in darkrooms, combining imagery from several negatives into one final image. Uelsmann published books on his processes, which felt like a sharing of knowledge, a means of documenting work, and letting go of being too precious about techniques. I never want to feel like I can’t share how I’ve done something for fear that it will end my ability to create work. Some people hold on to techniques and are very successful, but I don’t like that idea. I have learned from people who share and appreciate that I can do the same for others.

What’s your process for composing the music that accompanies each video you’re creating? Do you create the visuals, and then the music is produced in response, or vice versa? Or are they made simultaneously, each informing the other?

I started making music when I started doing more live streams. During early COVID, streaming platforms began cracking down on the use of licensed music; it used to be a lot more lax. I started making simple note patterns with a drum machine— initially, songs were 10 minutes long because I was trying to fill hours from scratch. I got more intentional and better about it as time went on. I bought better equipment and have made hundreds of songs over the last few years.

I use Korg Gadget on my Nintendo Switch now. I record to an old cassette deck I bought on eBay, then digitize the playback of the cassette. I bought a bunch of used blank tapes and recorded most of the runtime but left little clips between my songs. Since first buying used blank tapes, I started seeking out tapes with interesting spoken word content: self-help, comedy radio hours, travel guides, and hypnosis. When I’m in the habit, I’ll make a song every day.

The music comes first, but the animations aren’t made for the music most of the time. I will listen to songs and see which fits well for an animation and then edit videos accordingly. I have done things where I make a tape with a constant BPM, and that will dictate the animation loop length. I’ve done 120 BPM, which works out to four beats every two seconds. Fifteen frame-per-second animation means 30 frames, and the animation will sync up with the audio no matter what.

Where do the ideas for your areas of exploration typically come from? For example, when thinking about tools to harness for animation, I wouldn’t think that using an airbrush would come to mind for most. How did you come to the airbrush as one of your go-to tools?

If I see something interesting, I like to try it. I like tools and less popularly known means of manufacturing and production. I don’t mean secretive things, but when a part of a machine has a name, I like to know the name of the part, if that makes sense. There are so many subcultures and groups of people that are hyper-focused on their subsections of the world and have meaningful ideas and opinions about things I’ve never heard of. Sometimes, those groups are insular and don’t really cross-pollinate with other groups. I think associatively and do my best not to think of a tool as only having its designated purpose. Tools are refined for a purpose, but they aren’t just for that, and so I like to explore those groups in forums and stuff, so I try new approaches.

The airbrush came from trying to make something more automated but still very physical. I got a Cricut machine to cut stuff out of paper after doing simple animations by hand-cutting stuff. I started messing with doing pencil rubbings, painting sticker paper, and then cutting it out. I then started messing with splattering paint using cheap toothbrushes. Certain things are easy to do one to five times and inspire the confidence to jump to doing something 30 times; splattering paint using a cheap toothbrush is one of those.

I made stencils using the Cricut, and it is weirdly tiring to hold a toothbrush and pull your thumb across the bristles repeatedly. My thumb got tired in a way that I didn’t know it could, and I didn’t feel like it was a good idea to do that long-term, so I looked into other methods of getting paint onto a surface through a stencil and bought a small compressor and an airbrush.

There are things about any tool or process that give it a sense of identity. People often try to obscure those identifiers because the idea isn’t informed by the tool, but I like process, so I want the tool to work with the idea. With airbrush and stencils, you’d typically want the stencil flush with the surface and the paint to be evenly applied. I might as well work digitally for that effect, so I lift the stencil off the surface instead, and let things get out of focus in ways inherent to the process.

I work in a variety of mediums, and I forget that not everybody is aware of the techniques and processes I’ve explored. I have a habit of getting into a process for one to four months, producing a lot of work, and then abandoning it for six-12 months until that skill is reintroduced as practical, either for a paid job or a new, different process. I’m only saying that because I don’t feel like the airbrush is my go-to tool, but it is part of a collection of tools. I’ve been working most recently with stacked, cut paper animations, informed by the work I did with the airbrush stencils, which were informed by pencil rubbings that were informed by 3D animation rotoscoping, which came from an attempt to do traditional cel animation, and so on.

I’ll undoubtedly start using the airbrush again in a few months. I took a break because I messed up the fans in my laptop with the aerosolized paint.