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Mitul Iyengar, Product Designer

November 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 Mitul Iyengar, Product Designer for Royalties and Reporting in New York. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

I was lucky to be exposed to the world of design and its possibilities at a very young age through my mom, who studied industrial design and human factors engineering design in the '80s. 

What excites me most about design is its ability to be applicable in nearly every context or situation to make something better for someone, in a small or big way. (As evidenced by one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible). It gives me the freedom to explore both the creative and analytical parts of myself.

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

As part of a new team in the Royalties and Reporting product area within the Finance business unit, my work currently involves taking complex data (mostly financial in nature), understanding what information is most relevant and important to our users, and finding ways to visualize it to help them make sense of the numbers.

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

  1. External Monitor: Also known as the Apple of my eye (pun always intended). Found after a lot of Craigslist scouting. It has started to feel like an extension of my body.

  2. [Not-quite-rubber] Lego duck: Got this during a Lego workshop at the Design Matters conference last year. He’s a great listener.

  3. Plant: To stare at fondly, while taking a break from my screen.

  4. Mouse pad: I got this years ago in India. It .has a print of a tribal Indian art form (Warli) on it that reminds me of home.

  5. Ceramic mug: For the many cups of coffee I know I should not be drinking a day.

  6. Post-its: Can’t go anywhere without them. I use them for to-do lists, quick idea sketches, and/or notes-to-self.

  7. Stationary: A slightly embarrassing assortment of stationary, strategically tucked away behind my laptop :)

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

At a past job, I worked on designing products and experiences for a range of different industries, where I would go in with little to no subject matter expertise, and have to dive into the problem-space head first. 

One such project in the healthcare industry involved leveraging a lot of complex data and metrics, that included an ML model being built by my data science colleague. My challenge was to take this data that I was not familiar with, and find ways to make it insightful to our end users. The process of solving this was a fascinating (and ultimately very fun) collaboration between design and data science, where we mapped each metric to the key question a user would be trying to answer, and identified relationships between various metrics in order to surface actionable insights. 

As someone who is always looking for ways to collaborate both within my discipline and outside it, this process was a testament to the value of cross-functional collaboration, which is something I continue to strive for at Spotify as well.

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

Mona Chalabi

For her ability to tell powerful stories through simplified visuals. Through her hand-drawn data visualizations, she highlights important issues and makes complex information accessible to a very wide audience, including “her least-informed readers”. 

Frank Lloyd Wright 

As the founder of organic architecture, his philosophy showcases the value of understanding and respecting the context you are designing in, and the people who will be using the spaces you create. 

Guy Raz

For his curiosity, empathy, and knack for storytelling. As a journalist and host of one of my favorite podcasts How I Built This, he has a seemingly effortless way of creating trust with his interviewees and going beyond the surface-level answers.

What would your self-portrait look like?

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

A huge shoutout to all the great mentors I’ve been so lucky to learn from, and without whom I wouldn’t be half the designer I am today. 

  • Read: Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro, for a reality check; Sprint by Jake Knapp, for a trusty framework for (almost) every problem; The Business Value of Design by McKinsey Design, for a study that explores what design is worth.

  • Listen: 99% invisible by Roman Mars; Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam; Designer & Designer by Brian Fling and Joe Alterio

  • Act: Donate if you can, educate yourself, sign petitions

Sometimes I draw, other times I dye. If you’re looking for a quarantine hobby, follow @stillherestilllife and draw along every week!

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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