The story of Spotify personas

Spotify’s product designer Mady Torres de Souza and senior user researchers Olga Hörding and Sohit Karol explain how they developed their personas tool, how they use it today and why it’s so useful for an autonomous, cross-functional organisation like Spotify.

Here at Spotify, we often ask ourselves who we’re designing for. And since listening to music is so universally popular, it might seem at first that the answer is ‘everyone’. After all, Spotify is available as a free and paid product. It can be used by anyone with a phone, computer, car, set of smart speakers or many other devices. It’s present in over 79 markets and it offers experiences – like Daily Mixes – that are personalised to every single listener.

Yet designing for a mass, generalised audience isn’t likely to end up pleasing ‘everyone’. So in 2017, our team was challenged to create a better understanding of existing and potential listeners. We wanted to agree on how to differentiate the needs of these listeners and the problems our products could solve for them. We needed a solution that was durable and flexible enough to work for autonomous teams, working out of different offices, in different countries and on different parts of our products. And we were determined to put a face to our listeners – an identity that everyone at Spotify could recognise and talk about with ease.

We responded to this challenge by designing personas.