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Hui Yuan, Product Designer

March 2021

Article

Spotify Design Team

To showcase our band members, every now and then we put a Spotifier in the limelight. Today's headliner is Hui Yuan, Product Designer for Data & Insights Platform in New York. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

I was attracted to architecture in the first place and started learning painting and illustration. After spending 7 years studying graphic design and new media arts, as well as fiddling with installations, I got a chance to be a curator for contemporary art exhibitions. I naturally gravitated towards the idea of being a designer soon after because I really love the feeling of solving complex problems by providing a comprehensive and elegant design solution. 

Design to me is way more than creating something beautiful. It’s the way of thinking, the way of working and the way of fulfilling my life.

Describe your job at Spotify without using the words "design" or "designer."

My team strives to provide an immersed data visualization world and help all the Spotifiers to be able to explore and visualize data, and get insights to inform their business decisions efficiently. I’m always in constant communications with a lot of users working on insights artifacts, and engage in reducing the barriers between them and the complex data world.

Show us a picture of your desk, and explain why it looks how it does.

  1. Monitor. 

  2. MUJI Notebook: Love to sketch some flow, structure or interface on a blank notebook. I’ve used three of the same notebooks in the past. 

  3. Coffee mug: I got this from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai it holds a lot of memories.

  4. LEGO Flowers: Roses, daisies, asters, and poppies, etc. My most recent favorite LEGO pieces. They look like real flowers from a far distance. I like how creative they are to mimic the real things in life to block-ish stuff, and how they fit in the vases I got!

  5. Diptyque candle: I have a lot of candles at home and sometimes I'm attracted by the package and the pattern outside. 

  6. Hand lotion. 

  7. Tissue box. It’s a gift from my friend. Love the abstract fluid pattern on it.

Tell us about a time you beat an intimidating design challenge.

In my previous job, I worked in a tech company that provides business intelligence platforms to well-established enterprises around the globe. Working on enterprise applications was always challenging, sometimes you have to balance limited resources and distinct customer needs and create something that has not been created before in a new frontier. 

A few years ago, I needed to lead a small design team to provide a new interaction design system for the data visualizations on mobile devices. At that time, very few companies provided interactive visualizations on the touchscreen and it would encourage mobility working environments a lot. In the 2 years of development, I worked with design team members in different continents to explore and create design solutions under everchanging mobile platform design principles and technologies. I learned two things from this:

Be curious about everything. For me, design is always about uncovering new opportunities in the existing world. Curiosity drives me to learn the know-how behind the scenes, rationales behind business decisions and strategies behind task prioritizations. 

Embrace changes and revolution. The world changes so does design. Now, the way of design is completely different from the way it was ten years ago. Embracing changes and adapting ourselves to the latest trends, the latest way of thinking, and the latest technology means we are more connected to the world and our users than ever before.

Name three non-designers you feel inspired by when designing.

Tadao Ando: Ando’s philosophy of emphasizing nothingness and empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity. It also represents the Asian religious term Zen, the inner feeling of the building rather than outward appearance. Influenced by his architecture style, I always have the “Less is More” mantra when doing my design.

Tracey Chang: From Miss New York to CNBC news anchor, Tracey Chen was one of the first Chinese-American YouTubers I followed. Tracey was honoured by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for her outstanding contributions to the Asian American community, and was given the Asian American Excellence Award. Her experiences and successes in empowering women and cross-cultural communication inspire me in both work and life.

My grandfather: Taught by Liu Haisu, the founder of the first school of fine arts in modern China, my grandfather has established a family atmosphere to enjoy and appreciate fine arts. The good memories with him during my childhood have always served as a beacon of my passion for design.

What would your self-portrait look like?

Any final shout-outs or things you'd like to share?

A huge shout out to Pilar Serna, my current manager for being a fantastic mentor and partner during my time at Spotify, and thanks to Monospace designers who are collaborative and intelligent, and who I get a lot of inspiration from. 

A shout out to the squads I’ve worked with, Polaris and The Who, for making me feel like family and helping me ramp up the stuff quickly.  

Also want to thank my partner and family for being supportive. I wouldn’t be here without you all!

Credits

Spotify Design Team

We're a cross-disciplinary team of people who love to create great experiences and make meaningful connections between listeners and creators.

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