What’s it like to intern at Spotify as a Product Designer?

I recently completed my product design internship at Spotify in NYC. And although my time here was limited (10 weeks to be exact), there aren’t many articles covering an internship experience from the perspective of a designer so I’d like to share my experience.

What did I work on?

“Isn’t Spotify just that one app? What even is there to work on?”

I got that a lot when talking to people prior to coming to NYC but upon joining, I learned that Spotify is a rapidly growing company that has tons of initiatives going on simultaneously. I signed an NDA so I actually can’t talk about the project I worked on. All I can say is that I designed new features for the Spotify for Artists platform. This platform enables artists on Spotify to see how much streams each song is getting, understand where their audience is listening, and provides other valuable metrics to help artists make better decisions.

What’s the workflow like?

In general, Spotify runs an agile method within squads (which is Spotify terminology for teams). This meant that we ran 2-week long sprints to iteratively improve and build our product. My squad consisted of a data engineer, a frontend engineer, a backend engineer, a product owner, and myself. Because squads are relatively small and run fairly autonomous from other squads, we built on our product with speed. Also, working in agile meant that there were daily stand-ups, backlog grooming sessions, and retrospective meetings.

Like I said, I can’t really talk about my work but generally speaking I did some early stage ideation, conducted interviews for competitive analysis, designed screens in Sketch, and built prototypes in Origami.

I did have a mentor/manager that guided me throughout the summer. He was my go-to person for any help but ultimately, I owned the design of my product. Even as an intern, I acted as any full-time employee.

What’s the design culture like?

Spotify is without a doubt a design-centric company. This makes Spotify a really exciting yet challenging place for a designer. Every Monday, we have a stand-up meeting with all the designers to talk about our progress and what we will be working on that week. And then there are weekly design reviews where designers, engineers, and POs all get inside a room and give feedback to one’s work, regardless of it’s phase.

We also work closely with the Product Insights team (user research) and UX copywriters throughout the whole design process. They frequently join you in meetings and are extremely helpful in guiding you when you are stuck.

Because there isn’t enough time for everyone to pitch their designs, we also use Wake pretty extensively to share our work online. People can post, comment, and annotate designs by using this tool and it’s where lots of giving/getting feedback happens. A huge benefit in using Wake is that posts can be viewed by any Spotify employee so you can often get valuable feedback that wasn’t available from your immediate surroundings.

In addition, Spotify has their own design systems team that works on building a consistent experience across products. We have a Craft library full of reusable components that us designers and engineers share. It was personally my first time designing using a system and while I initially found it frustrating in that it restricted my creative freedom, not worrying about things like type size and color is quite freeing as a designer. Additionally, new designs are always encouraged to be explored even if the current system doesn’t support it.

What are the designers like?

If you are a designer, visual craft is a prerequisite at this company. What really distinguishes me to say, someone like Barton Smith, is the ability to do higher level UX thinking. This includes the ability to think back to the root problem, reflecting on the insights from user research, accurately following conventions/guidelines, hypothesizing scenarios of edge cases, and thinking about scaleability. Yeah, it seems obvious but to be able to do this instantaneously and critique one’s work is an impressive skill that I am no where near close to being perfect at.

Additionally, designers here are talented to say the least. Spotify is rarely their first workplace and they originally come from companies like Facebook, Square, and IDEO with numerous years of experience.

Overall, every designer here is a pleasure to talk to. The best lunch breaks were spent with the design team talking about geeky design things (I’m looking at you Design Twitter™) and also non-design things like where are fun places to visit on the weekend (which the answer is obviously Dumbo).

What’s it like to be a Spotifier?

NYC Pride Parade

Spotify has the usual tech company perks with food, snacks, hip office, and a flexible work style. The one factor that makes Spotify unique is how this company bleeds music. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Friday Night Live concert every month featuring employee singers and bands
  • Random concerts in the office that are reserved just for the employees or sometimes just for the interns
  • Free weekly guitar and singing lessons taught by a professional instructor. You get to take home a guitar to practice
  • Spontaneous sightings of Steve Aoki, Tyga, and J.Lo for recording sessions that happen in our studio
  • Really loud music in the bathrooms playing a shared playlist

Other random snapshots

In conclusion

+1 point for finding me here

I learned a ton over the course of 10 weeks; much more than I ever hoped so. And the biggest reason behind this was that I had the opportunity to be sitting next to world-class talent. Working with them made me realize that I’m no where close to being a kick-ass designer and that alone was worth it for me. I just gotta keep grinding.

If you have the opportunity to work here, do it. I can’t recommend it enough. They have some of the most incredible people working on a product that is revolutionizing the music industry. That combined with an awesome culture, it’s definitely an experience you won’t regret.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment below. Alternatively, hit me up on Twitter!