How iconic Canadian retailer The Bay implemented a collaborative workflow with Adobe XD

Man standing on logs in front of greenery.

Image credit The Bay.

Founded in 1670, Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay Company is the oldest company in North America. The signature stripes from its iconic Hudson’s Bay point blanket were first introduced at the end of the 18th century. Despite hundreds of years of tradition, the retailer has been embracing a rapid expansion of its ecommerce business and recently introduced a new workflow, centered around Adobe XD, to help drive its digital transformation.

To find out how The Bay uses Adobe XD to boost efficiency, we talked to Dee Sabado, design manager for content and brand. An exceptional design leader, Sabado has also embarked on her own personal renaissance during this time — coming out as a proud transgender woman. Read on to learn about both of Sabado’s journeys, personal and professional.

Effective communication made possible by Adobe XD

Adobe XD plays a critical role in The Bay’s collaborative digital process. The creative department connected with Adobe through the XD Instructor Program, which quickly onboarded the team to XD. “It added a humanness to the tool,” Sabado says, “and as the sessions were really hands-on and interactive, we learned a lot of tips and tricks, especially around mobile and responsive design. This made the entire process really efficient and also allowed for very consistent marketing campaigns.”

The prototyping tools that are built into XD provided the team with a new UX/UI point of view. Sabado recalls: “It redefined the way we interact with our internal teams and helped our creative department, which functions similar to an agency, to get buy-in from our integrated marketing partners. It made communication much more effective.”

Image of a tablescape with a man setting the table.

The Bay creates editorial content in Adobe XD, which helps team communicate their ideas and get buy-in from stakeholders. Image credit The Bay.

Instead of demonstrating hover states by turning Photoshop layers on and off, for example, the team showcases assets that feel a lot closer to the final product. They simply share links to interactive prototypes with stakeholders, so that they can experience a design just like a consumer would. This has resulted in robust and detailed collaboration with developers and has allowed the creative department to try out new interactive states and animations. Whoever is viewing the content can get a realistic feel for the experience.

XD also makes it easy to enhance prototypes with videos. Video content is being produced in-house, and the creative department then uses the Anima plugin for XD to add that content to prototypes to bring them even closer to the final experience. Soon the team will also take advantage of the native support for playable videos and Lottie animations that was announced at Adobe MAX 2021.

Developing a future-proof editorial content strategy

The Bay made use of the new XD workflow for its 2020 and 2021 holiday campaigns. Showcasing the work through prototyping and testing was valuable in presenting to decision-makers within the company, and the project proved a big success. The interactive engagement on the microsite alone was incredible, which turned the campaign into a reference point for further digital projects. The Bay is currently expanding its content strategy beyond product promotions to inspire customers at scale.

“Through the pandemic, we’ve seen that our customers want to engage with us in new ways,” Sabado explains. “Consumers today want to see beyond the brand and the product, and get to know brands on a more personal and human level. They want to understand how we stand on social topics, so we’ve been working on a digital space that allows us to share that point of view with meaningful content as well as support inspiring local makers and artisans. We've been working on lots of applications to reach our consumers in these new ways like tapping into relevant conversations on social media and launching our new Hudson's digital editorial space. And that’s just one of many projects that came out of our first large prototyping project using XD.”

Images of a person skateboarding.

The Bay design team is also responsible for making content available in both of Canada's official languages — English and French. To create effective marketing content across both languages, the creative department collaborates closely with a linguistics team. “Any time we design something, such as the new bilingual app for Android and iOS, there’s a lot of consideration around space, legibility, and readability,” Sabado points out. “French copy tends to be about 10 to 20 percent longer, which makes our design process a little bit more unique.”

Crafting digital-first marketing strategies

Like many retailers, The Bay witnessed fast-changing consumer behavior over the last couple of years.

“Our digital-first approach has driven a lot more content but also evolved the way we communicate with our consumers,” Sabado explains.

“XD is a great tool for us to help communicate all these opportunities and create more efficient processes,” Sabado says. “It’s also been valuable in growing our UX/UI skills. We are seeing new opportunities and seizing them.”

Pushing the boundaries of diversity and inclusion during COVID

The adoption of an XD workflow went hand in hand with Sabado’s personal journey of learning to express herself openly as a proud transgender woman in design. Last year, Sabado became the first associate of The Bay to transition publicly. She navigated the various challenges of coming out in a corporate environment and noted that the potential impact on her career was the scariest part of her transition.

Image of Dee Sabado.

“Communicating my transition to my peers and my colleagues, especially VPs and executives, was daunting,” Sabado remembers. “There were a lot of uphill battles I had to overcome as an employee. A lot of it is trial and error. Nobody provides you with a ‘transitioning for dummies’ guidebook on all the steps you need to take to really feel like yourself.”

Transitioning at the height of the pandemic did come with a silver lining. Rather than having to come out in a boardroom full of people, Sabado was able to do it from the comfort of her home. New ways of working, whether remote or hybrid, along with a cultural shift has made having those difficult conversations at work a little bit easier, empowering Sabado to be as transparent as possible and come out at her own pace.

Instead of the barriers to her career that Sadado had feared, she says she has seen the complete opposite.

“Being embraced by my co-workers has been very rewarding and encouraged me to share my story publicly,” Sabado explains. “It’s extremely important to me that I’m not the only person that is being highlighted through the media because there are many other trans designers. I hope this inspires someone to continue moving forward, so that they can do the same for the next person.”

Dee Sabado is the marketing chair on the Diversity & Inclusion Council at The Bay. Read more about her experience of transitioning during COVID-19 and watch her share her inspiring journey on Canadian talk show Cityline.