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JC Chhim, Senior Product Designer

May 2020


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Spotify Design Team

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we're proud to present a special series of In the Spotlight to celebrate API creators and the community. Today's headliner is JC Chhim, Senior Product Designer for Car & Wearables in Stockholm. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

For me, Design gives me a seat at the table and places me responsible to learn and experiment at a cost—which can be scary sometimes. I find joy at every phase of the design architecture, there’s really no ceilings to being a designer. I think like many of us, our journeys are quite eclectic—and for me, becoming a designer was never on my radar until several years ago. An eventful coming of age, befriending the right mentors, several late-college nights, and flat-out good timing guided me here. 

Today, I find Design to be my place of refuge and creativity and I hope my contribution gives others the hope to achieve their goals through proper fundamental Design. At the end of the day, if I can provide a million-dollar service to someone with a single dollar and a dream—that itself is worth all the hustle.

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

My current adventure is in Car & Wearables at Spotify, supporting and leading initiatives for automotive-partner experiences. I get to collaborate closely with strategic external partners and various teams that make up our dope Spotify experience. It's truly humbling and aspiring—because usually, I'm not the smartest in the room. I feel privileged to work and challenge the best talents and experts across media, technology, and the automotive landscape—it really gets me motivated to build the right products for people, at the highest level possible.

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

Here’s my WFH space in Stockholm:

  1. Kartell P-chair made from 3D-moulded recycled wood (fancy, unlike me).

  2. Wacom Intuos Pro.

  3. Hydroflask (because chapped-lip free zone).

  4. A college reminder. 

  5. Hardware display for testing

  6. Typography books. (I’m so trash right now)

  7. Some items from my other passion: A detonated JUN/Cosworth forged-piston from my race engine, a pretty but useless titanium mug from Top Secret Racing Japan, and an 8k coil spring from my DC2R track car that serves as sketch tool holders.

  8. Cutting mat.

  9. Sticky notes (hella of them).

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

A big design challenge for me has to be my current mission at Car & Wearables. Our goal is to find harmony between a rich Spotify audio experience, in-car safety, and balancing brand equity between Spotify and our partners. When I first joined, my ignorance of the space led me to believe a carbon copy of Spotify would seamlessly implement across platforms, and I quickly learned that's not possible with the complexities of the automotive space. The combination of strategic initiatives, development cycles, platform-specific interaction models and so much more (plus multiple roadmaps for partners), all happening in parallel—it's quite the feat but such a fascinating position for us right now. 

It sounds basic, but self-awareness is critical. I needed to expand beyond my role, past my character, feelings, and motives as a designer—and (re)learn to view the landscape through the lens of partners. It’s helped me communicate and move more intentionally both internally and externally. The space with partners is kinda' like a dance, a sequence of moves.

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

Ma & Pa

Their generosity and industriousness are unmatched. Like many Cambodian folks of the older generation, their sacrifice and will to put others in a better position is incomparable—there’s nothing I will endure that compare to the things the older generation has endured.

Kobe Bryant

Because, Mamba Mentality: Are you a different animal and the same beast?

People, globally

I am just like you, but different.

What would your self-portrait look like?

Marta and the Elephant (Capri, Italy).

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

Oh man, shoutout to my family and the homies for always keeping me in check. My peers who I aspire to become. My mentors Michelle Kelly for many evenings in the art studio, Mindy Cameron for your boundless wisdom and mental framework. My mentees for keeping me fresh. And lastly, to the Southwest Boys & Girls Club of America and Coach Steve Curry for changing the landscape for first-generation immigrants like myself—y’all the real MVPs!

Holla at me on IG @jerricurljohny.


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