Spencer Huddleston, Associate Principal Designer
Category is: Pride extravaganza! To celebrate Pride Month, we're excited to present a special series of In the Spotlight to highlight some of our LGBTQQIA+ creators and the community. Today's headliner is Spencer Huddleston, Associate Principal Designer for the Platform & Partner Experience team in Stockholm. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!
Questions & Answers
Why are you a designer?
So, believe it or not, I was an international accounting major for most of college. I felt the need to fit into the middle-class suburban lifestyle I grew up in. But deep down I knew that wasn't for me.
I've always been an eccentric, artistic, creative person. It’s just how I see the world. Plus, in design, you are quite literally defining culture, whether it’s an illustration I've done, a piece of software that thousands of people end up interacting with, or a logo for a new company, how cool is it that we have the power to actually define a brand? And make money doing it?! I mean, come on—that’s cool! Making that switch was the best thing I did, and being a designer has helped me evaluate the world through new lenses that I may not have been able to cultivate fully if I had not been bold and trusted my gut.
Describe your job at Spotify without using the words "design" or "designer."
I love this question because when I say I’m a “designer” most people outside of work still get that glazed look in their eyes. The coolest part about my job is that I get to support the people that make it happen. I get the pleasure of pushing ideas forward with people that I genuinely love. Some days I am a cheerleader for my team when we get caught in a rut, and other days I get to be a mentor, even though I am continually inspired by their creativity and motivation to cultivate new ideas just the same. In my experience, if my people are happy, then I’m happy, and we end up creating our best work. Period!
Show us a picture of your desk, and explain why it looks how it does.
I mean… I’m a minimalist, what can I say. I only keep the essentials around me when I work—otherwise, I get distracted way, way too easily. And before you say anything, yes I consider Ballerina cookies an essential part of my productivity. I usually have my iPad close by for sketching, and for some reason I work better with AirPods in than listening to music out loud (mostly Chromatica and Dua Lipa at the moment). Since we're all washing our hands more often due to Covid-19, I always keep hand lotion around, cuz man, my hands have been getting all kinds of busted up lately. Finally, since my apartment is basically a glass box, I keep a pair of sunnies around so I look real cute while I’m on zoom calls while the sun blazes into my retinas.
Tell us about a time you beat an intimidating design challenge.
Before I started working at Spotify, I was a partner at a design firm I co-founded back in the States. And let me tell you, that experience was a design challenge in itself. There were moments in its infancy when I would get home at night and just cry and cry and cry because I was so overwhelmed with the responsibility of being a good boss, business partner (and at the time life partner), designer, accountant, business development manager, etc.
However, the best advice I have from that experience is, as cliché as it sounds, take things day by day. At the start of each week, I would meditate and think through the skills that I wanted to exemplify that week. Some weeks it would be simple, like drink less coffee. Other weeks I would focus on things like being more communicative or practice not taking myself so seriously. Over time, I started to build really positive habits that made me not only a better designer but a well-rounded human being.
Name three non-designers you feel inspired by when designing.
She’s a GORGEOUS glam alien drag queen from Manchester, and let me tell you, 👏 I 👏 can’t 👏 get 👏 enough 👏 of 👏 her. Need something to laugh at whilst sipping quarantinis? She has a Youtube channel where she plays the Sims 2 and I am giggling to myself just thinking about some of the stunts she pulls in that game. ICONIC.
If for some reason you still haven’t gotten around to watch POSE on FX (don’t worry, the first two seasons are on Netflix now), then I strongly suggest you start now. Indya Moore’s character, Angel Evangelista, is one of the most complex yet loveable characters I have seen in a series. I continually learn so much about what it’s like to be a black, transgender woman in America from her on and off-screen. And wow that woman’s style is so, so, so killer. Google “Indya Moore Iris van Herpen dress” and you’ll see what I mean.
More is more baby! I am absolutely obsessed with Iris Apfel, the queen of maximalism. Now, I know I said I was a minimalist earlier, but if you can look at that woman—who is still a successful businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon at 98 years old—and not be impressed, then you are out of your mind. She reminds me to always be thinking, evaluating, and being inspired by my surroundings, and that I am never too old to try something new!
What would your self-portrait look like?
Ok, I didn’t do this portrait of me, but it’s so dang cool not to share! Go follow fellow queer artist Ryan James Elegado Valdez for all your pokemon trainer fantasies. 🥰
Any final shout-outs or things you'd like to share?
Be kind to yourself and to others. Learn when to speak, and when to shut up and listen. Black Lives Matter—and it's black lives that fought for our rights (as queer people) to be seen as equal. Fight for what is right, and learn how to be uncomfortable.
Our latest in Inspiration
Meet JD Welch, Senior Product Designer for Experimentation in the Data and Insights team in Stockholm.
Meet Nanci Veitch, Design Program Manager for the Design Ops team in London.
Meet Hui Yuan, Product Designer for the Data & Insights Platform team in New York.
We interview Senior Product Designer, Janey Lee, about how she's learning to uncenter herself and her experiences from her design practice.
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