A visual identity designed to spark joy: Behind the scenes of Spotify Design’s new look

The visual identity for Spotify Design is all about the expression of communal joy and creativity.

29 January 2021

Spotify has long established itself as a core part of the creative community. Known predominantly for its contributions to music streaming, in the last couple of years, they have also developed a strong role in the global design community with Spotify Design. Created in 2018, Spotify Design introduced an external website, social media and innovative events to its channels – a way for designers to showcase their work in a complimentary fashion to other designers. What started off as a small offshoot has now grown to surpass its team’s expectations, resulting in the new Spotify sub-brand Spotify Design that we’re here to talk about today.

Spotify Design allows its designers to tell stories, explore big ideas and energise the creative community with its platform. The site hosts the content created by the cross-disciplinary product design community within Spotify, representing a team who seek to build meaningful connections between listeners and creators. And, to go alongside this collaborative ethos, Spotify Design needed an identity which appealed to it’s design audience while still being true to Spotify’s brand at large. The creative team set out to create something which respectfully encompasses the multitude of different voices that creates Spotify. In short, a visual language which is human centred while adaptable, friendly and quality driven at the same time.

We speak to VP of design Dan Sormaz, art director Shahin Haghjou and design program manager Nanci Veitch on the behind the scenes process of creating the playful design brand. First things first, the team set their intention: to construct a design system that is unique to all other branches of Spotify, while being versatile enough to work on anything from presentation decks to external communications. “The way we approach our work often feels very playful and colourful,” says Shahin, “so it felt natural to reflect that in the branding.” In turn, the visual identity plays on the raw creativity of a spirited process, using hand drawn highlights and bursts of colour to represent this.

GallerySpotify Design (Copyright © Spotify, 2021)

Playfulness is one of Spotify’s key values. It’s a feeling embodied throughout all of its work, not to mention its processes and attitudes. The new identity seeks to communicate this to its viewers, evoking “how engaging it is to work at Spotify and get the chance to work with people from around the world,” says Shahin. The team also interviewed a cross-section of its team to inform the identity’s messaging. The interviews came back with terms such as “inclusive”, “approachable”, and “friendly” to describe the Spotify Design communities characteristics – these traits were then visualised to bring personality to the Spotify Design brand.

Since its beginnings, the brand has rested on the relationship between play and creativity. In line with this, a large part of the redesign was dedicated to research. The creative had to find a way of giving over 300 of its creative employees a voice. Channelling the work of those in operations, engineering, UX writing, art direction, design and so on, the team held small workshops to establish the community's visionary positioning. Additionally identifying its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to make the identity as effective as possible.

It’s safe to say there was a lot to think about when it came to developing this brand. For Nanci, there was yet another challenge ahead: “keeping us instantly recognisable as a part of the Spotify family of brands but also clarifying our own identity.” To solve this, the team were very specific on where to align with the master brand and where to consciously deviate. As such, the font and logo remained consistent with the umbrella brand. Meanwhile, when it came to the graphic layout for Spotify Design, the designers could add a splash of one-of-kind personality, injecting dashes of tactility and hand rendered elements which were then refined and matured to sit comfortably next to the master brand.

GallerySpotify Design (Copyright © Spotify, 2021)

After a detailed injection of the above thought processes, the Spotify Design brand upended in a satisfying culmination of all the different personalities within the design organisation. Open minded, inclusive and unafraid, the flexible style bends with function, whether that’s presenting work in progress in design crit sessions or a global social media campaign. Nanci explains: “Within design – especially at larger organisations like ours – there is a pressure to always show the finished, polished article. We were trying to set the stage for a design culture in which showing and sharing work in progress was welcomed, and the brand system lent itself to on the spot ideation, quick feedback and change of direction if needed.”

With Spotify Design’s community and culture at the heart of the identity, the expressive new visual language encapsulates the positivity and joy that went into the process. Both the internal and external communities are enjoying the new vision, an identity which bridges the creatively-minded through its brand. “That’s our biggest success with this project,” Nanci finally goes on to say, “we managed to design something that felt like us.”

GallerySpotify Design (Copyright © Spotify, 2021)

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Spotify Design (Copyright © Spotify, 2021)

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