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Mattias Johansson, Senior Product Designer

October 2020

Article

Spotify Design Team

To showcase our band members, every now and then we put a Spotifier in the limelight. Today's headliner is Mattias Johansson, Senior Product Designer for Experience in Stockholm. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

I grew up surrounded by art, music, and people. My dad works as an artist, and there was always paint and color around. My first creative outlet was to paint and spray one wall of our house. My parents weren’t thrilled about this, but they created a new wall for me to keep painting on.

My interest in painting was very brief though and was soon replaced by computers. When I was 11 years old I met my friend Jakob, who sat in a dark room, coding assembler and making music. Amazed by the things he could create with the computer, I asked him what I could contribute. He mentioned graphics, so I decided that would be my thing. Shortly after, I begged my parents to buy me a computer. My dad sold a painting and I got my first Commodore 64.

Me and my new friend continued making things. I did the graphics and he made them real. Logos started moving and people started using my pixel fonts. I soon got my first Amiga, equipped with Deluxe Paint, and I was curious to learn more about graphic design.

We became part of a larger team, visiting demo parties to show off our work while meeting new people. I was in love with this way of creating together, where everyone brought something unique to the mix.

My love for design has never changed and creating things together that people can use or feel inspired by is still my main motivation.

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

Our team is working on the holistic experience of the Spotify consumer mobile app, and I work across two exciting objectives:

1. Continuously evolve the user experience of the mobile app, so that it’s usable, coherent, and delightful to our end users. 

2. Maintain and evolve a useful mobile system for our internal users.

One of the things I love about working in this team is the variety and amount of collaboration it contains. One day I'm looking into the future with other teams, while another, I'm deep in the details of our visual language.

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

  1. Greens in the mix: My desk setup is quite minimal and free from distractions. I use what's essential for the moment and keep the rest in drawers until I need them. The plant adds a nice organic touch to the mix.

  2. Garmin Forerunner 245: I like to keep my running watch close while working, reminding me to take a lunch or after work run. Spoiler alert: I run without music!

  3. Ugmonk leather mouse pad: A stylish and smooth mouse pad feels essential to me. I got this one from Ugmonk five years ago, and the leather has transformed nicely over time.

  4. Byredo item holder: For the darker months in Sweden I rely on Byredo’s scented candles to set the mood. They work great as a beautiful item holder when they’re out. I keep some pens, Apple Pencil, and a keyboard brush from Hay within reach.

  5. Notebook: I like the notebooks from Low Key Goods. Clean aesthetics and plain pages for daily notes.

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

At a previous job, I was working on the product vision, with a functional app as the main deliverable. There was a lot at stake and the company’s leadership looked forward to the result.

It was a tight deadline so we hired an external agency to support the production. After seeing the initial outcome from our new partner I immediately felt upset. My design vision had transformed into something else, and I didn’t like what I saw. I also didn’t like how I was reacting. I felt way too attached to my design. I didn’t want my emotions to bias my team, so while I still felt upset, I decided to reflect and look at the work again.

I soon realized that, with the help of the agency, my vision had reached new heights. Gaps filled, delightful animations added and interaction flows now made sense. After this change of mindset, I spent a week with the team in a room and we created something special. By this point, I understood that this is not about my design—it’s about our project and success.

I was having fun again, collaborating, and making new friends. It was a great insight for myself, to transform a negative reaction into something productive.

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

Mustafa Mohamed

I loved Mustafa Mohamed's story on Sveriges Radio this summer. Mustafa talks about moving from Somalia to Sweden and his passion for running. One quote that inspired me was “I want to focus on all the positive things in my life”.

Sofia Kourtesis

Sofia’s tracks have been on repeat for me while designing lately. Catchy, melodic, and energetic. No wonder I have two of her tracks featured on my Spotify Design playlist, Zoned 10!

Asket

Cheating a bit here since Asket is a brand. August and Jakob are pioneers in transforming the fashion industry into a more sustainable model. Their principles “We don’t design for seasons, we create for forever”, and “When something isn’t perfect we improve it”, resonates well with me.

What would your self-portrait look like?

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

A huge shout-out to all the fantastic people I collaborate with every day. I get energy from our collaborations, and I’m amazed to see new creative ways of working while we all now work from home.

Also, shout-out to my amazing partner, Emelie. She's my best friend who’s always supporting me, even if I stay up all night recording mixtapes.

You can catch me on Twitter @mattiasjo and Instagram @mattiasjo. I make playlists on Spotify if you’re interested in hearing some tunes! :)

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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