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Ryan Smith, Product Designer

August 2020


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Spotify Design Team

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

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

If you asked my mom, she would say that it makes total sense that I’m a designer, even though she might struggle to explain what I actually do day-to-day. 

From a young age I was always asking lots of questions and drawing, building with Lego, or sculpting with Play-Doh. For me, being a Product Designer is the best way to use those muscles of curiosity and creativity. I’m able to constantly learn and come up with solutions to complex problems, and that keeps me motivated.

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

I am a Product Designer at Spotify, designing experiences for our users, along with my fellow designers, designing on the Premium design team.

Jokes aside—what I really do is I work with a team of people who aim to make Spotify Premium the most discoverable and accessible audio membership. We work to make sure that every listener has the right relationship with Spotify, even as their needs change.

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

  1. Fresh Flowers: Whether it’s flowers or a house plant, bringing some nature inside is a must.

  2. Haribo Gummy Bears: Candy. Snacks. Gotta have something within reach to snack on during the day, and currently, they're the best gummy bears in the game.

  3. Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise-Canceling Headphones: My incredibly biased opinion — they are the best over-ear noise-canceling headphones for your money. I love these things.

  4. Field Notes Journal: A simple, well designed, compact notebook for note-taking or sketching. Aaron Draplin is good at what he does.

  5. Alex Water Bottle: This is actually the bottom half of the full water bottle, which can be unscrewed to be used as two cups, and makes cleaning it way easier.

  6. Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse: Similar to the headphones, this is the mouse I stan for. Super ergonomic while not being over the top, and it’s highly customizable.

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

At my previous job, I was creating a reusable card framework that could be implemented across an entire suite of applications. The challenge was in the scope of the project: there were several teams spread across our organization that had designs in place for cards, which meant lots of initial information gathering and syncing. 

The second challenge came into play as I was building out the framework, when I realized that some teams were building cards that went firmly against the principles that were being developed. This meant that I needed to move those teams in the right direction, even though I was their peer, and not a member of their immediate team. Leading while not being in an official leadership position is a skill that I continue to work on and build at Spotify; it’s a soft skill that can get you a long way in design.

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

Jamal Crawford + Sue Bird

The two Seattle basketball GOATS.

Jamal is a Seattle native and beyond being the best basketball player to ever hail from the city, he’s given so much back to the youth in the community. Every summer he puts on the Crawsover Pro-Am for the city, the court at his alma-mater Rainier Beach High School is named the Crawford Court, and he is continuously mentoring up-and-coming basketball talent in our city.

While Sue isn’t from Seattle, she’s played for the Storm her entire WNBA career, brought the city three WNBA titles, and has played more WNBA games than any other athlete. Her greatness on the court and her courage off it is so inspirational—I can’t wait for the city to erect a statue of her (they better).

Shea Serrano

If you’re a fan of good people, but also of sports and rap music, give him a follow on Twitter, it’s gold. But more importantly, go buy his work. He’s a staff writer at The Ringer, but why I put him here is for what he does outside of his day job. If you scroll through his Twitter you’ll see what I mean; he’s often either giving his own money to people in need or using his platform to raise large sums for important organizations. Also, he’s hilarious.

Jordan Peele

A creative genius. Key & Peele’s final episode aired in September 2015 and Get Out premiered at Sundance in January 2017—how though?! He went from co-starring in the second-best* sketch comedy show of all-time (earning a Primetime Emmy), to his directorial debut for a film, which he also wrote (landing an Academy Award). Also, he went from sketch comedy to horror. Again, how though? It’s truly awe-inspiring to me what he’s accomplished.

*The Chappelle Show is the greatest sketch comedy show of all-time.

What would your self-portrait look like?

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

My partner, Reema. If she wasn’t a designer I would have put her as one of the people who inspire me — she is my biggest source of inspiration. She makes me want to be better in all facets and pushes me to strive for more.

Also, shout out to Marshawn Lynch and Vince Carter.

Additionally, if you’re a fan of artists who use their music to tell visual stories, here are some of my favorite music videos:

Missy Elliot — The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)

Tierra Whack — Whack World

Vince Staples — FUN!

Run The Jewels — Don’t Get Captured

Tyler, The Creator — POTATO SALAD

Last but most important: Please donate if you’re able, make sure to educate yourself, and work to inform those around you. For those readers in the U.S. — please VOTE. Don't take for granted the power of your voice and your vote.


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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