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Sean Ritzie, Design Director

February 2021

Article

Spotify Design Team

To showcase our band members, every now and then we put a Spotifier in the limelight. Today's headliner is Sean Ritzie, Design Director for Freemium Mission in New York. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

I enjoy solving puzzles. Human thought and behavior are some of the most interesting and tricky puzzles that exist.  I love the fact that my work involves not only making something that people find appealing or attractive but also that it’s on me and my team to solve that puzzle of the underlying WHY to make the best experience possible.

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

You know the way you feel when you buy a new electronic device and you’re worried that it will be really complicated to set up? But when you go through the setup screens and start using them, it feels really easy, straightforward, and even fun? If my team does our job, you’ll feel the same way going through the screens, flows and interactions on Spotify.

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

I haven’t used a traditional desk in ages, so my workspace is wherever I am that I have access to my laptop. These days I work a lot from my sofa next to my puppy so we can be close to one another and I can keep my eye on her. She ensures that I’m taking the right number of (potty) breaks during the day.

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

When I was applying for my first design management role, I was extremely nervous and didn’t think I’d be seen as ready for the job. While I had led small teams previously, I did not have official people management experience, so it was challenging for me to break into managerial roles at first. During my interviews, rather than focusing on my lack of people management experience, I chose to focus more on how I was able to lead small teams. By helping my teams understand goals/objectives, planning project work, and leading them through design exercises, I was able to demonstrate leadership capabilities that prepared me for management. Additionally, I was able to speak to the outcomes and impact we were able to drive. By owning the story of how I was able to influence and persuade others, I was able to gain the confidence of my hiring manager and I eventually got a job as a Design Manager.  So my advice is, value your experience (in whatever form it is) and leverage it as the foundation to make a case for the job you want.

Tell us about some phenomenal Black designers or a piece of work by Black designers that you love.

I love the work of organizations like The Hidden Genius Project and ONE School, both of whom have Black design leaders among their founding members. These organizations were created and are run by Black creatives, technologists and entrepreneurs to mentor and provide project opportunities for Black students who are interested in product design and development careers. What impresses me most about these organizations is that they saw needs in their communities and rather than waiting for something to be created by someone else, made something of their own.

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

Prince — eclectic, intense work ethic, experimental

Nina Simone — fearless, nontraditional, activist

Bill Withers — simple, soulful, tons of heart

What would your self-portrait look like?

For you, what’s the greatest celebration of blackness?

For me, the greatest celebration of Blackness is awareness, recognition and appreciation of Black culture, without condition or comparison to any other… seeing and enjoying it for its own intrinsic value.

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

I was shaped into who I am today by strong Black women. My mother and my grandmother provided two of the most amazing examples of strength, intelligence and resilience I’ve had in life. They’ve helped make me aware of, appreciate, and celebrate the wonder and power of Black women in the world.

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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