One of my favorite parts of working with a design team is the spark of creative electricity that comes from collective inspiration. Sharing what you love with your colleagues creates community. That’s true whether you sit in offices on opposite sides of the world or in seats only a few feet apart. At Indeed, we’ve found a way to use music to connect everyone on the team and keep us inspired: designer mixtapes.
Mixtapes are carefully curated collections of songs that set the right mood. Building and listening to them is a huge part of my creative process and I know I’m not alone. When we focus in on our work, we tend to clamp our headphones on and bury our faces in our screens. Diving into that soundtracked creative flow feels great, but it’s isolating. To learn more about my fellow product designers, I began asking them, “What are you listening to?” I package their answers into a weekly Spotify playlist series and send it out to the product and marketing teams.
The cool thing about the mixtapes is that they bring teammates together in the most individual moments we have during the workday. They let us get to know each other a little better even as we go heads down. And people love to share them. Today we have 40 mixes in the archive and that number keeps growing. Coworkers in Austin, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Seattle are listening to each others’ favorite tunes. The project has brought us closer together, and it’s easy to do.
The rules are simple
- Create a Spotify playlist
- Pick 10 tracks, no more no less
- Include a square album cover
- Write a brief description
- Send it to me in an email
Anybody can submit a playlist. The 10-song requirement helps folks focus, otherwise they’re tempted to get too generous. And the album cover is where the creativity can get fun. Because it’s personal and there are no restrictions, we tend to get courageous, diverse imagery. The final package should feel like a cassette tape from the 1980s. You know exactly what you’re getting into and how long the whole experience will run.
Mixtapes bring us together because music is personal
I’ve played in bands for years. Writing and playing a new song with other people is one of the most rewarding and personally vulnerable things I do. Sharing your favorite music takes vulnerability, too. Those songs reveal your self-identity. They match your moods. They help you work. Putting them out there for everyone to hear makes you feel more present. Likewise, listening to someone’s mix makes them more real. One designer I worked with was extremely quiet. But when they shared their playlist, it was full of beautiful harmonies and emo melodies and I suddenly felt I knew their sensitive side.
Building a creative culture
These weekly mixtapes are now a part of who we are as a creative community at Indeed. It’s not unusual to start new projects with distant colleagues and have no knowledge of them beyond names and profile pictures. Sharing our musical inspirations helps build an inviting environment that personalizes us and eases those collaborations. The playlists break the creative ice and give everyone a stake in the team’s culture.
And what an amazing variety we’ve gotten! Turns out that when designers get to work, they listen to all sorts of things: hip-hop, Frank Sinatra, German industrial, ’60s country and western. Everyone has a style, and I always enjoy the surprises that appear in my inbox. Here are a few of my favorites. You can hear the rest in the full collection.