The First Gusto Polish-a-thon

Our design team’s offsite focused on design polish

The Polishathon is born

At a fast-paced startup, we spend so much time designing new experiences that sometimes we ignore the old ones.

That’s why last week, the Gusto design team had a two-day offsite to focus on polish. We called it the Polishathon. We paused our normal work and spiked on redesigning and improving some of Gusto’s most under appreciated pages and flows.

We aren’t the first team to do something like this—Asana has a company tradition of having Polish Week, and Figma recently had Quality Week. We only planned for two days, so we had to make sure we did our homework first. To maximize impact, we organized our ideas around a theme based on one of our core design principles:

Earn and maintain trust through craft and consistency

Why this theme? Trust is important for Gusto, because we’re moving people’s money and storing their sensitive information. Trust gives business owners peace of mind that when they use Gusto, they are in good hands. It’s important for every nook and cranny of our (quite big, actually) app feels polished and up to date.

How did we decide what to work on?

We began by getting ideas from the entire company. Then we had a committee rank all the ideas using a scorecard (Impact + Shippability — Complexity = Score), and finally designers could sign up to be owners of the top projects.

This let us dive in right away on projects that we were excited about, which lead to awesome results!

So what did we make?

We’re looking forward to rolling out these improvements over the next few months (some of them are already live!)

Natalie and Ann designed and built a new sign-in and sign-out experience that’s consistent with the latest aesthetic from Gusto’s brand team.

Hasta Luego!

Robin combed through our component library and ensured consistent pixel border width on cards and border radius on all input fields in the product.


Jason and Sara worked out a new responsive design for Gusto’s Help Center, complete with newly branded illustrations.

Will N revamped the employee and contractor set up flows, with illustration support from Sara.

Some examples of different button inconsistencies: copy length, sentence vs title case, icon style and usage…

Val spearheaded an audit of our app’s buttons (this deserves a post of its own). The result was a 38-slide deck that explains guidelines around button usage.


Jess audited and standardized our empty states states throughout the app:

Last but definitely not least, Will T, along with several engineers (shout-out to Jeff & Julianna!), worked on giving our admin dashboard a facelift:

The first of many

At Gusto, our product designers work embedded within their cross-functional teams — which is great for solving problems and building things fast. But something special happens with a room full of designers who really care about the user experience. The quality bar for UX gets pushed through constant critique and iteration that might not happen otherwise. We had a blast at our Polishathon, and we’ll continue having them throughout the year.

Throw your own Polish-a-thon

Try this with your team :

  • Make time to go offsite (don’t forget coffee, snacks & lunch!)
  • Organize projects beforehand, so the team can just dive in
  • Focus projects on a theme for maximum impact
  • Schedule a demo day the day after to incentivize finished/shipped projects

Let us know how it goes! ✌️ Tweet us at @GustoHQ or check out our Dribbble.

Are you a product designer who loves polished experiences? We’re hiring!!
Donuts are a key ingredient to any designer gathering.