Posted at 22 Sep 2015

Interview with Olivier Gillaizeau (Stinkdigital)

Stinkdigital’s Olivier Gillaizeau sheds light on one of their big projects of 2015: Spotify’s Found Them First.

Tell us about your latest site for Spotify, Found Them First. What was the purpose of the project?

Spotify, Razorfish and Stinkdigital partnered to launch a series of web experiments based on the insights we can share with users around their personal listening habits. People love to talk about how they were listening to a popular new artist before everyone else, so we thought we’d build a tool that could let them prove it.

A tool that is ‘just working’ isn't enough. Brands need to feel unique. In my opinion, Google was a notorious example of this ‘just working’ mentality

What was your role within the team?

I led the visual and brand design within the Stinkdigital team. Together with Stefan Dufgran and Liz Wells, we cooked up a recipe for a simple yet efficient flow. From the get-go, we knew wanted a cinematic and impactful loader, which would lead to a full-screen scrolling experience. In parallel, designer Jessica Hägg, art director Satu Pelkonen and I did a quick exploration using style tiles to set the mood of the experience.

I really wanted to explore a west-coast, end-of-day, chill, party kind of vibe. This turned out really nicely. Jessica and I built out the rest of the design direction together.

You’ve worked with Spotify before for their popular nostalgia-trip feature, Taste Rewind. Can you tell us how you developed the initial idea for this into the final product?

The initial concept for the experiment series happened prior to our involvement with Razorfish and Spotify. When we were reviewing the various concepts together and heard about the idea of serving users with playlists from earlier decades based on their music profile, we got really excited.

The only thing we were missing was a piece that would turn this into more than just a playlist-maker. We ended up talking about creating custom ‘concert’ posters for each decade as a way to visualize your playlist. These would be the concerts you would have gone to if you had lived in that decade. This seemed to fit perfectly for Spotify. From there, a lot of work and thinking was done to create posters that would fit the decade, the users and the Spotify brand. This was an incredibly thorough exercise in brand design. Satu and I designed over 20 final posters, not to mention many more iterations that we didn't end up keeping. As this was unfolding, Stefan was busy working on the UX. Finally, I created the look and feel of the experience as the final step of the design process alongside the technology team, who ultimately made our vision come to life.

How do you see the intermingling of graphic design and web development evolving in future?

This is such a great question. Until recently, I thought that web design sat far apart from traditional graphic and brand design. Designers had to figure out so much before thinking about look and feel that we have tended to simplify experiences. Anyone who has designed a shopping experience in the 00s knows what I am talking about. Everybody, clients included, has been trying to figure out elegant solutions to very real and complex problems. Nowadays, it feels like we have a lot of the basics figured out, and partners like Spotify allow us to really push things. We’re collectively starting from a shared foundation for creating web experiences.

We are also only starting to see technology that supports almost every usage and design challenge. Flash was a sort of crutch for a time, although a lot of amazing experiences came out of it. When it died, it definitely set us back with what we can do from an immersive experience perspective, but we are now seeing robust tools that enable this connection between design and engineering. The acquisition of Pixate by Google is a strong signal that designers will soon have tools to help them build better and visually-driven products.

Both brands and users understand this evolution, and are rightfully demanding more. A tool that is ‘just working’ isn't enough. Brands need to feel unique. In my opinion, Google was a notorious example of this ‘just working’ mentality. Their recent branding push really shows how look and feel have become prevalent in every successful product. To your point, lately, interaction designers have drawn a lot of inspiration from print and physical designs. I think we are going to see a lot more of that in the future. It really gets me excited that we are talking about type again and that brands like Apple are finally ditching Helvetica for something custom. I can't wait to see how all this is going to translate into the interactive design world.