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Listen: Where Audio and Design Meet

September 2020

Article

Tina Snow Le
Spotify Design Team

Eagle-eyed readers may have stumbled across it already, but if you haven’t found your way to the Spotify Design Listen hub yet, you can be forgiven. We were stealthy with its release. However, now that it’s been out in the world for some time, we thought we’d take the opportunity to properly introduce you to the place on our site where design and audio come together.

When we revamped Spotify Design, we wanted to build on what we already had (written and visual stories showcasing our projects, tools, and community), by experimenting with new formats in our storytelling. 

Bringing the Listen Hub to Life

As a leading audio platform, music comes naturally to us, it’s in our DNA. And as designers, we recognize that there is a strong link between music and creativity. 

Sound is at the core of our entire design community, uniting us wherever we are in the world, and the Listen hub is where we planned to highlight this cross-over between design and audio. 

The project was spearheaded by Senior Art Director, Tina Snow Le, who took the idea from a golden nugget, crafted a brand inspired by Spotify Design’s new branding, and helped launch what is now a growing collection of playlists. 

How it Works

The Listen hub is powered by two of our public SDKs. We make use of the Web API to access the playlist data; titles, descriptions, tracklists, etc. This is combined with our shiny, new Web Playback SDK, which handles the audio playback. This is the same technology we use to power our Web Player experience.  

For our Premium users, the experience is an embedded in-site mini-player, which loads directly on the page or links out to the Spotify Web Player (if you’ve already got it open). We built the player, so listeners are able to move around the site, read other stories, and continue to listen, uninterrupted. If you’re a Free user or accessing the site through Safari, on mobile or a tablet, you’ll be taken to the web player.

Introducing Zoned

Zoned is the first series to land on Listen. A collection of playlists curated by Spotify designers and creative collaborators, our goal was to inspire and help focus a worldwide community of creatives with the musical tastes of our own global team. To reflect this, the brand is also rooted in our community; like the curators and their playlists, the covers are as unique as they are.

The format calls for the curator to express themself through a simple line illustration. As the main differentiator between playlists, it is intentionally inclusive of varying drawing levels. It was important to create a foundation where anyone from a designer to someone who works in design ops could participate. This is how we collaborate as a community and who we are as a brand. 

The bright palette draws from Spotify Design’s new brand colors, while the “Z” is a continuous thread that runs throughout, tying the covers together.

Each playlist takes inspiration from a place, an experience, or a culture — the more personal, the better. We wanted the audience to gain a new perspective of who Spotify Design is, what we listen to, and how different our sound tastes are around the world. 

The name Zoned comes from the concept of being “in the zone”, and losing track of time when you're doing something you love — being zoned out. 

“I have a playlist I created myself that I made last year and listen to frequently. It got me through some difficult times and reminded me to stay focused on my goals and to have fun while I'm at it,” said Tina Snow Le.

Keeping the Record Spinning

An Editorial Board made up of designers from different cities and representing each department at Spotify, helps keep the site fresh with new content. They pitch ideas, nurture budding writers, and project manage larger initiatives (like Listen) from start to finish. 

It’s the Editorial Board that ensures everyone gets an opportunity to share a Zoned playlist of their own. Making it a regular feature means we can grow our collection of sounds from different locations.

Already in the Zone

Six playlists make up Zoned so far, all featuring the music tastes of Spotify designers from various corners of the world. The designers involved all paved the way for others by trying their hand at curation. 

We asked each of them to choose a song that perfectly represents their Zoned playlists (and explain why). Here’s what they said:  

Tina Snow Le, Zoned 01: Never in Your Sun by Stevie Wonder - “It’s my favorite Stevie Wonder song with a smooth, soulful, electro beat that sounds like falling in love with your crush for the first time.”

Ryan Swedenborg, Zoned 02: Blonde With U by Ssion - “It’s upbeat, flamboyant, and a bit flirty.”

David Karlsson, Zoned 03: Digital Lion by James Blake - “It sneaks up on you and hits you when you least expect it.” 

Patrick Ree, Zoned 04: Hair Like String, Like a Harp by Vladimir Dubyshkin - “Its hypnotic rhythms and controlled intensity express the trance-induced energy techno music inspires in me both creatively and spiritually.”

Ben Sifel, Zoned 05: All My Time by Mechatok - “I feel like this one strikes the perfect balance between the euphoria and melancholy that features throughout the mix.”

Amanda Lasnik, Zoned 06: SANTA MUERTE_BLUFF 94 BPM by Kelela (feat. Santa Muerte) - “The song that instantly transports me to a convertible in Southern California, where I’m just cruising without a care in the world. That feeling has become priceless in 2020 when the only traveling I’m doing is in my mind.” 

We’re constantly adding Zoned Playlists to the Listen hub, click here to explore all the music added so far, like your favorites, and follow Spotify Design on Spotify.

Credits

Tina Snow Le

Senior Art Director

Tina is based in New York City. Her work focuses on highlighting stories that celebrate the underrepresented through design, music, and activism.

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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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