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Shota Pangilinan, Product Designer

May 2020

Article

Spotify Design Team

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we're proud to present a special series of In the Spotlight to celebrate API creators and the community. Today's headliner is Shota Pangilinan, Product Designer for Spotify for Artists in New York. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!

Questions & Answers

Why are you a designer?

In my younger days, I had always hoped to do something impactful in the sciences. I remember creating a self-illustrated felt cutout in kindergarten that read “Scientist” below a lab coat adorning figure (If only choosing a career were that simple). I guess being ½ Japanese and ½ Filipino, medicine was always an expected career path for me. So, I started off majoring in Neuroscience, but I eventually fell in love with Cognitive Science and Linguistics—a subject at the intersection of technology and the human mind. I chose this major after reading An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman in my sophomore year. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by people and how magically mysterious the mind’s experience is. 

In our role as designers, we imagine practical & fantastical solutions for real people through the lens of curiosity & awe of the human experience. It’s wonderful to think about how great design can define culture, identity, and reality through human imagination. By designing the systems and artefacts of tomorrow, we define the reality of possible futures, today.

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

We build cool stuff that sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds. We listen, we learn, & we try our best with increasing nuance & thoughtful intention for our artists. We try to do our best for our creators with big ears and bright eyes.

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

This is my WFH setup in my Lower East Side apartment, New York.

  1. Snake plant: This bad boy has been with me ever since I first moved to NYC in 2017. He has never really needed water and has stuck with me through thick and thin. Sadly, I’m likely bringing a pupperino into my family this fall, so the snake plant may need to pack its bags (Dogs are allergic to 'em!).

  2. Coach, pillows, throw blanket: Working from home can be challenging on my mood and temperament, so I luckily have this sectional to work or rest on when things get hectic.

  3. Hasami porcelain: You gotta love these elegant tumblers. Sometimes I’ll stir up some Japanese instant coffee or mix some matcha!

  4. Audio Pro T4: A used Bluetooth connected speaker keeps me sane at the end of the day when I play some tunes aloud in my makeshift office.

  5. AirPods & AirPod Pros: A little overkill, but helps a lot to have options since I often run out of battery on these babies from meetings and such throughout the day.

  6. Samsung Space 32”: This screen is a weird one. It clamps to the edge of your desk so you can get maximum table space! 

  7. Hoya Heart Plant: A little plant from my partner for my 25th birthday.

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

There’s a number of very interesting design challenges I’ve encountered here at Spotify over the years, but the one that stands out as the most challenging is one that I’m currently working on now.

My team works on building out the platform and personalization for the Artist team experience. It’s been a process of continual discovery in an evolving industry. Our team kicked off the project out of a hack week and have been pushing the product further over the past few years. A project like this takes vision and patience, making sure to keep the smaller chunks of work grinding as you head towards that grand future you’ve set sail towards.

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

Zach Lieberman

Zach is an artist and educator in NYC. From his own personal website “I create artwork with code...I make interactive environments that invite participants to become performers. My main focus is how computation can be used as medium for poetry.” Is there anything cooler than that?

Peggy Gou

South Korean Berlin-based DJ. She’s bringing Asian representation to European electronic music in her all-print summery outfits. I saw her set at Awakenings 2018 in Amsterdam and she was the standout performer at a primarily European DJ scene. Also, she has some of the coolest tattoos I’ve ever seen. 

Harley Streten

Flume has been the soundtrack of my working life. His music is uniquely his own, energetic and cacophonously elegant. The best way I can describe his most recent “Hi This is Flume (Mixtape)” is like the sound of dropping a pan down a wormhole. He created a mixtape visualizer to join his mixtape here.

What would your self-portrait look like?

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

A big shout out to the mentors and teammates I’ve had at Spotify. This has been one hell of a ride with some seriously kind and intelligent individuals. I am continuously challenged by the problems we’re tackling and inspired by the people I’m lucky enough to do it with. 

Shout out to the squads I’ve worked with, especially the Highlights team, and a special shout to my Creator Design team for making me feel like family.

Shout out to Ronny Ho and Kate Lee for leading SPACE, Spotify’s Asian Employee Resource Group. They lead AAPI month at Spotify & across our platform. You two have built a home for the Asian community at Spotify. It’s been a joy being your friend.

Follow me on Instagram @shota_pan.

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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