Jack Maxwell, Senior Product Designer
To showcase our band members, every now and then we put a Spotifier in the limelight. Today's headliner is Jack Maxwell, Senior Product Designer for the Creator Marketplace team in New York. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!
Questions & Answers
Why are you a designer?
I love the craft and graft of getting to the essence of something. Design first struck a chord with me while reading Alan Fletcher’s book, The Art of Looking Sideways, when I was in college back in the UK. The book made me realise there’s a beauty and intelligence in reductionist visual storytelling. Nowadays I find fulfilment from applying that process in my role as a product designer, whether that’s going deep and discovering a behavioural insight that leads to a specific user need or refining interface details to say more with less.
I enjoy the process as much as, if not more than, the result. Working with various disciplines, but specifically collaborating with other designers gives me a lot of joy. I find the pace of learning through small and immediate feedback loops to be energising.
Describe your job at Spotify without using the words "design" or "designer."
I work in the Creator Marketplace, which is a two-sided marketplace between listeners and the music industry. In my team, I support artists in growing their audience and connecting with fans in the context of Spotify. This intersection of needs requires a deep understanding of listeners as well as artist’s teams and calls upon nuanced and careful thought and consideration.
Show us a picture of your desk, and explain why it looks how it does.
This is my WFH setup, in my small Brooklyn apartment.
Deep desk - I need this space to think. I see it as the horizontal version of the cathedral effect; where it’s said that high ceilings increase vertical room volume, in turn stimulating alternative concepts and types of mental processing.
Music - This gets me in the right mood for the task in hand. If I’m reading a doc, it’s strictly instrumental. If I’m designing, it’s something like the playlist above.
Notebook and pen - I use this to keep a running to-do list, to take quick notes during calls and to sketch ideas in the moment.
Plants and light - They are something beautiful to look at when I’m not looking at the work of my fellow designers in Figma.
Coffee - Our new espresso machine has become a part of the daily ritual, especially as we're now working from home a lot.
Desktop wallpaper - Inspiration from amazing design studio, Sawdust.
Tell us about a time you beat an intimidating design challenge.
I’m encountering the biggest design challenges of my career right now, but I’ll save those stories for another day!
I find some of the most intimidating yet rewarding challenges can be those that are tightly time-constrained. Previously while working at a digital product studio, we would turn projects around in weeks often covering the complete design process from discovery to delivery. Trying to get things done right and on time was a messy, imperfect process that required us to hustle and invent to get from A to B. For example, in one two-week project our team of three manually recruited and interviewed over 30 entrepreneurs, synthesized data and provided product development recommendations back to the client. In another, we were asked to rethink an interface for an appliance while keeping its unique physical button layout. Using a Raspberry Pi, Azure (because it was the only prototyping tool that would take keystroke input!), and a 3D printer we were able to wire together a unit that mimicked the users' input for testing usability and interaction patterns.
Some of these were seemingly impossible tasks, overcome by establishing expectations for all evolved, ambitious yet realistic planning, super tight cross-discipline collaboration, and being flexible to the needs of the project.
Name three non-designers you feel inspired by when designing.
Firstly, artists and their teams. Working on the music industry side at Spotify gives me insight into what it takes to be an artist in today’s age. The passion, creativity and innovation that comes from artists and their teams to get the work out there, recognised and enjoyed is incredibly inspiring, especially those making a name for themselves like Shalom Dubas.
Secondly, perfectionists. Ok, we all know perfection is impossible, but those in pursuit of it are endlessly inspiring. This is on many levels; from Richard Turner, a magician that cannot see who has practised techniques millions of times to hone his craft, to my dad, an automotive spray painter by trade where nothing leaves his shop until he’s 110% happy with the outcome. These people do not let anything come between them and excellence in their craft, and that encourages me to challenge myself.
Lastly, self-starters and side hustlers. People who believe in something so much that they’ll devote their time and energy tirelessly to pursue it give me a lot of energy, especially in the creative space. Whether it’s Sam Ali’s Commune coworking spaces or Nicole Gavrilles fashion magazine, One. I love hearing about the purpose and process behind these journeys.
What would your self-portrait look like?
Any final shout-outs or things you'd like to share?
A big shout out to the great mentors and peers I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. If you don’t have people you can learn and get feedback or guidance from, I thoroughly recommend it!
My online presence is minimal, but you can find me on Twitter @Jack___Maxwell.
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