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Janey Lee, Senior Product Designer

September 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 Janey Lee, Senior Product Designer for Freemium in Stockholm. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

As is increasingly common in our field, I’m a designer by accident. Sure, I designed some mediocre locker posters in high school, but I never thought much of my ability to slap some text on a photo. In college, I studied political science, but the class that stood out to me most was one where I learned about “design thinking” as a process. I grew to love the idea of deeply understanding a person or community in order to build something that puts a smile on their face or lets them breathe a little easier. 

I like my “designer” title because it lets my curiosity run wild. It’s allowed me a peek into so many fascinating corners of the world, and I hope to keep using it as long as I can.

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

I make sure that the front door of Spotify is welcoming for everyone. It doesn’t matter your familiarity or level of trust with the app, your music tastes, or your preferred language, sign-in method, or accessibility settings. My job is to ensure that your first moments with Spotify are as memorable as possible, so that you’re excited to come back to Spotify later today, tomorrow, and forever, maybe.

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

  1. Laptop, with stickers: For all the big milestones my squad has achieved in the last couple of years, plus one cool bit of Korean typography.

  2. My desk buddies, A.K.A. fantastical creatures called alebrijes: These little guys keep me company while working from home. I collected some myself, while some are gifts from other friends’ travels. Their vibrant colors brighten every WFH day.

  3. Sketch pad: For quick sketches or for whenever I get overwhelmed and need to make a to-do list.

  4. An Android test device: Because the majority of smartphone users in the world are on Android devices, and you can’t forget to design for different sized screens.

  5. Books: My desk also acts as my bookshelf of mostly cookbooks. But I want to call out The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker; it’s an excellent little collection of exercises to pay attention more deeply and spark creativity in daily life. 

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

Earlier in my design career, I was keen to use my design skills to improve financial services. I was fascinated and disturbed by the 2008 financial crisis thanks to an internship at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where I spent an entire summer reading consumer complaints about people’s experiences with banks. I ended up working at a student loan company where our mission was to give people better options for paying back loans. A lot of our work involved facilitating easy decision-making, removing jargon, and helping people understand the difference between a 5.21% variable rate and a 6.29% fixed rate. 

We made a lot of progress by constantly testing with users, but financial services is a notoriously difficult industry to design well for. There's so much inherent complexity and understandable distrust for financial institutions. The design challenge is real, and I admire the few companies out there truly building trust and loyalty with people. 

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

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche 

Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher whose book In Love with the World taught me everything I know today about my mind – mostly that it’s mostly nonsense. I think of this book whenever I feel like I’ve run out of good ideas. He reminds me that thoughts like this are constantly in motion, and with a little awareness, I can say hello to them and then let them go. 

The Bombay Canteen

This Mumbai-based restaurant is my favorite in the entire world (bold statement, I know). Not only is their food excellent, but I am inspired by what they stand for. Everything they do is a love letter to India's diverse food culture, its local farmers, and community. They inspire me to celebrate my own identity and that of others in everything I do. 

Joanne Molinaro, A.K.A. @thekoreanvegan on Instagram and Tiktok

She produces some of the most thoughtful (and vulnerable) cooking content on the internet, and I’m really inspired by her story. I see her as part of a new generation of people who are evolving Korean cuisine so that it isn’t primarily focused on meat, which is exciting.

What would your self-portrait look like?

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

A few shout-outs:

To Harish, who was the first person to take a chance on me. I attribute so much of my creative confidence to the times we shared with the team at Studio Subu, in that tiny but cozy office where the monsoon was never kind to us and cheap biryani was never too far.

To Zero Friction, for being a team that constantly keeps me on my toes in the best possible way.

Finally, to everyone else who has walked beside me in my career and personal journey so far. You know who you are, and you know you are awesome.

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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