In The Spotlight: Nicola Felaco, Senior Product Designer
To showcase our band members, every now and then we put a Spotifyer in the limelight. Today's headliner is Nicola Felaco, Senior Product Designer for the Core Experience Team. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!
What would your self-portrait look like?
Why are you a designer?
Design has always been part of my life.
I grew up staring at my Dad’s paintings and his typography work, drawing everywhere on my clothes and skin just to experiment with it. At school, I was very excited about drawing anything, from small molecules to big geographic maps. By the age of 15, just for fun (and later professionally), I started illustrating portraits using geometric techniques, which helped me learn how to simplify complex surfaces—such as the human face—by focusing on and highlighting their best details.
More and more, I became passionate about observing and understanding people, cultures, and gestures, trying to capture them in notes, drawings, and pictures—making the complicated simple.
It's funny that, when I was younger, I wanted to be either an astronaut or an industrial designer. I like dreaming big and thinking about objects in space, as well as trying to understand the impact of human life as part of a big system. And I guess that's why I'm a designer today.
At best my work becomes invisible and a user can move effortlessly to their intended goal. My biggest mission is to empower human beings and to become a future-friendly designer.
Describe your job at Spotify without using the words "design" or "designer."
My mission is to both take care of and build a bright future vision for the Spotify player experience. As the most visited destination on our app, my job is to make where people hit play on their music or podcasts, control what they listen, express their feelings, and connect with artists and creators a much better and friendly place.
Show us a picture of your desk, and explain why it looks how it does.
- Notes from meetings and workshops that are waiting to be digitized.
- A special mug from the Design Language System with their ten design principles on it. It's my cool pen holder.
- An internal framework of playable cards to use in design process. It's got our personas and design principles.
- A Spotify-branded water bottle. A daily physical reminder that I can do better at drinking enough water.
- A funny ice-breaker my team came up with to introduce ourselves in design workshops. This one was "design your llama."
- An iPad to sketch out ideas I want to include in my decks.
Tell us about a time you beat an intimidating design challenge.
Building the world's largest lyrics catalog was my responsibility in a previous job.
Although the company's lyrics catalog was crowd-based, users perceived their app mostly as a music player with built-in synchronized lyrics provided exclusively by the company. How to add and sync lyrics to a song when they were not available was seen as unclear. In addition to that, when users did contribute, the content sometimes was not sharp enough to fit the catalog. Those users were also left with the feeling of not belonging to a community at all. The app had a couple of tools designed to address these needs, but those were far too hidden.
My main challenge was to distinguish the experience for listeners and contributors, making them coexist and changing their current "only music player" mindset.
To do that, we mapped out the core journeys of our users on existing touch-points and found opportunities to introduce new ones. We believed that by enhancing awareness of a centralized space for the community as the core of the app, with better access to contribution tools and guidelines, plus a gamification strategy—on top with leaderboards, activity lists, and a ranking system to reward them locally, socially, and contextually—we could increase topline metrics, define values of users to our system, and generate personal user investment to come for the product and stay for the community.
The solution turned out to improve our metrics and revamp the app, giving us the ability to generate multiple, richer data on top of music and lyrics as translations. But most of all, it allowed the consolidation of a stronger and conscious community of fans closer to their favorite artists and the brand.
Name three non-designers you feel inspired by when designing.
- On a daily basis, music is what inspires me the most. Electronic works best for me, and I've always been fascinated by how Daft Punk composes its music, the process behind it. They never make just another album. Instead, they go into this mood of deep experimentation. They're perfectionists.
- Thinking outside of my work routine, I would mention movies and their power of visual storytelling. The foundations behind each component that defines the impact of stories, and the ability to stimulate our senses and involve us emotionally and intellectually, are fascinating. To represent that, I picked Stanley Kubrick, especially when he said that "the screen is a magic medium. It conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle."
- Trying to understand the impact of technology on humans and the raising boldness of our gestures and questions, I've recently read about Marie Curie and radioactivity. I would also name her because she reminds me of our responsibilities and how hard it is to get more benefits than damage from new discoveries.
Any final shout-outs or things you'd like to share?
A huge shout-out to all the beautiful people who support me with relentless and lovely friendship, even if some of them I've only got to meet in person once. A special one to my girlfriend and my brother, they're just amazing.
It's been one year since I moved to Stockholm and joined Spotify, and I can say I'm working on some exciting projects to share with you in the near future. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or just want to exchange experiences, let’s get in touch!