Tobias van Schneider

Tobias van Schneider

German Designer & Maker. Former Design Lead at Spotify

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 14, 2016

Discussion

Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
Hi, I'm Tobias van Schneider, Designer & Maker from New York City. I'm a maker of many things and love building new products. I'm also the Co-Founder of the portfolio platform Semplice, previously Design Lead & Art Director at Spotify as well as creator of the NTMY show, writer of many things, photographer of some sorts. Looking forward to talk to you!
Marc
Marc@marceglon · Hackerpreneur Mag & Letterlist.com
Hey Tobias. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your wisdom. Q: Imagine you wake up tomorrow and this has all been a dream. You have zero reputation, no work history, no contacts, no audience. But you DO have $1000 and everything you know. What do you do tomorrow?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@marceglon Hey Marc! Haha, I like your questions. I'd probably play a round of Counterstrike and World of Warcraft first. Then, I would probably do exactly the same thing as I did many years ago, with no money, no contacts and certainly no money. I would work hard, and work A LOT for free. (which I did, A LOT!) I would take on shitty jobs I hate, but do them anyways. This is a pretty good question Marc, I will think about this a little more.
Noah Buscher
Noah Buscher@nhbschr · 18 / lincoln / 🏳️‍🌈
@marceglon One of the best PH Live q's I've seen. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
Max Mathys
Max Mathys@pakkojuoda
@vanschneider @marceglon Make an article about it in the next Desk email!
Marc
Marc@marceglon · Hackerpreneur Mag & Letterlist.com
@pakkojuoda @vanschneider There you go - next week's newsletter sorted for you ;)
Siarhei
Siarhei@siarhei · product designer
the reply is kind of disappointing, though
Aishwarya Naik
Aishwarya Naik@aishwarya_naik · Student
What is the one thing that you do when you don't seem to find the inspiration to do awesome work? PS: I have come across you in a difficult time. And you haven't stopped inspiring me since! Thank you:)
Aditya Shirole
Aditya Shirole@aditya_shirole · Student
@aishwarya_naik +1 Tobias is one source of inspiration :-P
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@aishwarya_naik Hey! You're the nicest (: Honestly, not being inspired or motivated happens pretty often to me personally. I usually recommend to do the so called artist date, which is a date with yourself to push you out of your comfort zone. Essentially you just do something that you are uncomfortable with, that could be running through the park naked, or simply just booking a trip by yourself and going somewhere alone. The thing is, something will eventually happen and you will get inspired. It might sound a little stupid, but thats really how it works. Also, little trick: I work on 10 projects at the same time. When I'm not inspired on one, I'm certainly inspired on the other. I can just jump, and procrastinate by working on one of the other projects (:
Aishwarya Naik
Aishwarya Naik@aishwarya_naik · Student
@vanschneider hahaha that is awesome! Thank you :)
vitormoreira
vitormoreira@vitormoreira
@vanschneider @aishwarya_naik hello tobias, do you think this is the best time to be live, or do you think 100 years from now will be better ?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@vitormoreira @aishwarya_naik The best time is always now! ALWAYS!
Sokratus
Sokratus@sokratus · Product Designer @Viu.com
Huge fan of your work and beard! I just wanted to ask since you are travelling through multiple continents, do you think that cultures have a huge impact on the way you solve your design problems and your success as a designer?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@sokratus Hey Hey! <3 Oh your question is a really good one! And yes ABSOLUTELY! Everything I go to Asia for example I learn so much more than I could ever teach there. Even though I go there maybe to mentor or help other designers, I mostly learn more than I teach. Traveling to different countries has a huge impact not only on my inspiration but also on how I work and think as a designer. As a designer, your experiences mean a lot to how you work. Your personality, your character and your sensibilities are crafted through your experiences and the people you surround yourself with. Which means, traveling and seeing different cultures will make you think differently. For example: When I first went to South Korea and showed people the old Spotify interface (which was completely messy and crowded) they told me that they don't like it because it's too minimalistic and too simple, it needs more features. Learning WHY they think it needs more features rather than the other way around (like I thought) was amazing to me. So absolutely, you have to travel as a designer, or at least, I think it will make you a better designer, simply because it will make you a better person I believe. You've seen more, you're more sensible and open to a world that you don't know.
Lachlan Campbell
Lachlan Campbell@lachlanjc · Hack Club design/JS—HS 🎓—they/them—🌈
Hey Tobias, I love your work! What do you wish you had done as a teenager/what advice would you give? (I'm 14)
elad
elad@proki_x · Designer at Compoze
@lachlanjc Same question,I'm 18.
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@proki_x @lachlanjc Hey Lachlan and Elad! Nice to see you in here. I honestly wish I would have done everything the way I did, because I think everything turned out fine. I dropped out of high school with 15 which I thought was a big mistake, because everyone told this to me. Then, I got turned down by dozen of companies as I was trying to find a regular job. When I found one, I didn't stay long in it and quit it again. Which was another stupid thing to do, and everyone told me I need to stay in this job or otherwise I won't find anything else. Essentially what I'm trying to say is that I always thought I'm doing everything wrong in my teenage years. (in your age I was playing a lot of computer games for example) But the fact that it all turned out okay just means that I did do something right. My advise to my younger self would be to trust myself, keep going and keep doing what I thought was right. When I was 14 I always thought everything I'm doing is wrong and stupid (which maybe was true in some cases) - But I wish someone would have told me that I should just keep working towards what I'm passionate about. When I was 14, it was certainly web design that I was mostly passionate about, even though everyone told me I can't be a designer because I can't even draw. (which is true until today) So keep doing what you do Lachlan & Elad, because it seems like you are doing pretty well. I mean, a recipes app with with 14? You are crazy! When I was 14 the best I designed was an app you could use to download Torrent files on Windows :D
Seba Mantel
Seba Mantel@sebamantel · UI/UX at Wix.com
Same question,I'm 28. :P
Justin Kwong
Justin Kwong@justinckwong · Founder @ ISM (ism-sf.com)
Which artists and/or designers have you been most inspired by during your career?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@justinckwong Hey Justin! Honestly, I've never been inspired by a particular artist or designer, but always more makers and doers. But if I need to list some names then its definitely: Stefan Sagmeister for the way he runs his studio and the way he takes on work. He is one of the rare designers who tackles bigger questions and does not take himself too seriously. Also, I'm a big fan of Bill Cunningham the street style photographer. I love his relation ship with his work and especially his work ethics. He is a huge inspiration for me because he has been doing his thing for many years. I'd say my role models or mentors are mostly coming from other industries. Arnold Schwarzenegger is definitely also one of my mentors in that regard, his work ethics and how disciplined he works is just fascinating to me. He's been at the top of three different industries in his life time so far, all because he does not like to settle. I know, more of these people are probably not designers, but I always get more motivated by makes and people who get shit done. Sometimes these are designers, sometimes they are called Elon Musk.
Noah Buscher
Noah Buscher@nhbschr · 18 / lincoln / 🏳️‍🌈
Hey, Tobias! I am a huge fan of your work and was super inspired by your "Side Projects Should be Stupid" piece. Can you share any side projects you're working on right now with us?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@nhbschr Hey Noah! Ha! you're asking some big questions there. I also remember you from my Twitter feed, so good to see you in here. Honestly, one just launched yesterday which is called May1Reboot.com - A little side project that will hopefully turn into a little bigger movement within our little design community. I love when the community comes together and does something amazing. On the other side, I'm working on another project which should launch in about two weeks (less of a side project, you can call it an actual project) and then working actually on a little Book that I will also announce very very soon. I also have two more side projects which I can't share with you just yet, but I will do it definitely first via my email list. Generally, I'm always starting many and then see how things evolve. Some get shut down, and some survive and I continue working on them. For me it's important to just keep creating and see where things take you. The idea to keep them stupid just allows you to make mistakes and eventually shut them down, or put them on hold. I wish I did not dodged your question too much, but some side projects are in their third time of being started again, so I'm always careful when sharing them too early (:
Noah Buscher
Noah Buscher@nhbschr · 18 / lincoln / 🏳️‍🌈
@vanschneider Excited to hear more about the book in the coming days! 🙌🏼 Thanks for sharing!
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@nhbschr Always Noah! I will keep you posted!
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
1. How involved was customer feedback in how you approached design for Spotify? 2. What tools/ways did you use to collect customer feedback?
Tin Kadoić
Tin Kadoić@tinkadoic · Creative Director, Five
@charles_kunene To add on, I'd love to learn about any user testing methodologies, and how / if they informed the design process.
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@charles_kunene Hey Charles and Tin! Lets do it! Thanks so much for your questions: To be honest, I wasn't so involved in it personally because we have had a dedicated User Research team which is amazing and doing nothing else all day than collecting this feedback. So basically the User Research team would share their learnings with the design teams on a regular weekly basis. These learnings can either be studies the User Research team has initiated, or it can be specific feedback on designs or flows that the Design Team has given the User Research team to test on. The same goes for customer feedback as of the actual feedback existing customers give through our community forums. It's simply collected and then shared with the team. Honestly, there are also big differences between user research and customer feedback. Customer feedback is usually more like "I want feature XYZ" and user research is often with people who have never used Spotify, or have a more neutral view on the product. (for example we would just absorb people through hidden cameras in a lab using the product, record their interactions, ask them questions etc.) But for this, I'd probably recommend to get in touch with someone from the User Research team at Spotify because I'm definitely not the right person to answer this question. Hit me up on Twitter later, maybe I can connect you.
Aditya Shirole
Aditya Shirole@aditya_shirole · Student
I subscribed to your private mailing list a few months ago and I love it. You've recently launched vanschneider.com . I prefer your mails. They make my Mondays awesome and it feels much more personal than other blogs. I know webview gives you more freedom of expression, but I love the emails. What's your take on the Mail based article vs a full fledged web view blog?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@aditya_shirole Hey Aditya! So nice to hear you are on the email list, YAY! Absolutely, you know, I will always keep sending these emails and there will nothing that will change it. The web view right now is just an extension for those who like to add it to reading apps or like to share it. So you will always be able to read it within the email view, but you can also use the web view. I'd also never publish it at the same time. So no one except email readers have the link to the web view. So I'm totally with you here, I prefer email and will keep doing email. The web view is just a little feature, but will not change anything.
Taras Kasich
Taras Kasich@taraskasich · Product Designer
Hi Tobias! I know that you really enjoyed working in Spotify. What was the main reason why you left the team? Was it difficult to make a decision?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@taraskasich Hey Taras! It was a really hard decision because it was like a dream company to work with. I think I wrote a little piece on that as well which you can read here: https://medium.com/desk-of-van-s... Essentially it's simple: I wasn't growing anymore personally so I had to make a decision. Sometimes you have this feeling of getting itchy, you just want to do something new, something where the risk to fail is much higher than before. That was the feeling I had. I just wanted to do something new where I don't know exactly whats going to happen. Spotify at the time evolved into a huge company and while there are also a lot of challenges and problems to solve, it wasn't the kind of challenges I was looking into. I wanted to grow my craft, become better at solving specific design problems and become better and building things out of nothing.
Soham
Soham@lifeis2complex
What motivates you to design something new ? Have you ever came across failure in your design work ? If yes please tell us how did you overcome the failure. Thanks. I am a design lover.
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@lifeis2complex Hey Soham! 1. I mostly get motivated by things that frustrate me. If something frustrates me, I try to make it better. I rarely design something out of any other reason. I believe that frustration is the best motivation. Don't complain, do something! 2. All the time. There are probably too many examples to even list here. The thing is, I see it more as learning rather than failure. Failure just means that things did not work out as planned, which means you adjust your expectations or you refine your execution. 3. I rarely overcome failure, I just simply adjust and make new goals. I think it's more a matter of your mindset. There is simply no failure. Life goes on.
Philip Kuklis
Philip Kuklis@philipkuklis · Co-Founder, Hubble
Hey Tobias, danke erstmal für's AMA! What do you think will be the next big thing in UI design? There's lots of talk about conversational design and so on but what's your take on it?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@philipkuklis Hey Philip! Oh my, another buzzword! I like to call it common sense. If you know me, I like to live a buzzword free life as good as I can. For me, everything described in "conversational design" should hopefully be common sense. Because here is the thing: If its not conversational design, what is it then? So my first response to these things is always like: Of course, I mean, what else? Design should be human at it's very core. So whatever buzzwords we will find for it, I will probably agree with it. But I hope designers will not start talking like lawyers or government officials in the future. Because we're getting closer to it. I hope this answer did not turn into a mini rant, but my simple take is basically: YES OF COURSE!
Régis Foucault
Régis Foucault@r_foucault · Software engineer
Hey Tobias, thanks for your inspiration ! What do you think about material design ?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@r_foucault Hey Régis! Nice to hear from you (: Honestly, I think Material Design was the single greatest campaign Google came up with to finally change their image from "we suck at design" to "we much love design and are very thoughtful about it". Which means: 1. The impact it had on Google is huge, and therefore, it's an amazingly successful project by Google. 2. It is, after all, mostly a campaign for the Google Design team (but a very good one) Other than that, I personally do not care much about Material Design because I do not work at Google. But let me know if this answered your question at all, we can keep this conversation going!
Régis Foucault
Régis Foucault@r_foucault · Software engineer
@vanschneider I mean as a css integration framework. As a hacker I often look for nice templates. Bootstrap was a thing, now there is material design, I just wanted to know how you value this kind of resources.
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@r_foucault Hey! Again, I personally do not work at Google therefore it does not interest me much to work within Material Design. I'm sure it's helpful for some, and I still believe it's a great projects for the internal teams as well as external partners, but otherwise, I'm personally not using it.
Andrew ch
Andrew ch@_andrewch · Designer. Currently at @avocarrot.
Could you be kind enough and share the story behind your geomtrical tatoos? If that's not something so personal, of course. :)
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@_andrewch Hey Andrew! Ha! I did not expected this question (: How about me making a video in the next few weeks about it and putting it on YouTube? I'm not sure how I can explain it here, might be a bit challenging to point to certain ones and explain the real meaning behind them. How does that sound?
Andrew ch
Andrew ch@_andrewch · Designer. Currently at @avocarrot.
@vanschneider I was thinking about it, that you could not see that question coming. Haha! I would love to watch a video (rather than a paragraph) explaining the story behind that mysterious shapes. :D I'm sure the stories will be exciting. Can't wait! :) :) (:
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@_andrewch Fantastic! Watch my YouTube channel, I will make sure to post something there! https://www.youtube.com/channel/...
Febril Cuevas
Febril Cuevas@febrilcuevas · Product Designer, @Procurify
Hey Tobias! First things first, you're a damn cool human being. Love the work you're pushing out these days! I've got a couple questions...What's your current photography setup? How do you go about editing your photos for instagram? also, what is it like having a beard that rivals the luscious mane of a lion?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@febrilcuevas Hey Febril! You are the nicest of the nicest! (: Thank you so much for the really kind words. Let me try to answer your questions: 1. I'm using my Fujifilm X100T the most. My favorite point and shoot and always with me. That one has a fixed lens, so nothing fancy. 2. I'm now also using the Sony A7Rii with a 55mm 1.8 lens, a 35 2.8 lens and a 24-70 2.8 lens from Canon Other than that, it's just iPhone shots. 3. Editing is simple. If I edit on the computer, I edit everything in Lightroom and Photoshop. If I post something on Instagram, it's 99% edited in VSCO and Snapseed on the iPhone. 4. It is pretty awesome! I wish Lions would say the same and not eat me :D
Richie Bonilla
Richie Bonilla@richiebonilla · Product Designer | New York City
Do you think frameworks—like Material Design—have encouraged many designers to make identical work? I feel like it's more important to understand the first principles established by the framework than to actually follow it to a fault. I've always looked at the Spotify app as an example of an app that is beautiful and usable, but original. Thanks!!
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@richiebonilla Hi Richie Yes, I personally believe that. And it is unfortunate. But honestly, it's up to each individual designer. Frameworks make sense, Google Material design makes even more sense. It's a framework for thousand of employees and hundreds of partners that have to work within a set structure & visual world. But for everyone outside of that world, there is no reason to conform. I'm always sad to see the masses of designers copying each other just because a big company such as Apple or Google announced a new design trend.
Gabriel Lewis@gabriel__lewis · 🤔
I am currently a developer, want to be a project manager and eventually a founder of my own company. I know that in my career design will play a very important role. Design is something I value highly, but unlike programming I don't know how to get my feet wet. I feel like design is more subjective therefore hard to find resources. What would you suggest?
Dimitrios Mistriotis
Dimitrios Mistriotis@dimitrios_mistriotis
@vanschneider And should developers try to wear a designer's hat or involve an "actual" designer as soon as humanly possible?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@gabriel__lewis Hey Gabriel! This is a pretty good and pretty hard question, because you nailed the answer pretty much yourself. The rules of design are changing all the time, and mostly because like you said, it can be more subjective. But at the same time, if it's only subjective then we're doing something wrong. Design is on top if it a tool, a tool you can and should use to achieve things you like to achieve. Which means, you first define metrics, and then you use Design as a tool to reach those metrics. If design is completely subjective I would say it's Art, and not Design. The Design Industry especially in the digital field is very young, which explains not only the lack of resources but also the lack of rules that you might be looking for. With development, it's usually fairly easy. There is a better and after solution to do thing, so you do them. But even there, you have certain religions coming in, someone people fighting over what language to use. Ultimately, good design comes down to hitting the metrics you defined yourself. These metrics can be hard metrics such as number of downloads, or they can be a little softer emotional metrics. (which are harder to measure, and usually affect your brand) I got better as a designer because I looked at a LOT OF things analyzed how they worked. I'd also say that a good designer is usually asking more questions than actually answering them, because this is what its all about. What are we doing? Why are we doing this? What about this? Have you thought about this? If you do this, this might happen? And so on. A good designer is sensible and has a more "human centered approach" (lol buzzword!) - Bad designers are the one that think they found the ultimate rule or key to do things a certain way. And I understand, we like to define things, we like to say that THIS IS THE BEST SOLUTION! But ultimately, it's not that easy with design. Your design might be better than mine in your specific scenario. But I can beat yours the moment I proof you wrong. To simply get your feet wet: Involve designers early in your work, fail at a lot of things and learn what is not working for you. I'm always saying: I don't know a lot, but I know a lot of things that don't work, which already helps to move into the right direction.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are the most common design mistakes that makers of 1) mobile apps, 2) websites and 3) physical consumer products are making?
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@tomstocklein Hey Thomas - I would have absolutely no right to answer this question unfortunately. Especially because this question is highly contextual and depends on the product itself.
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
As a fellow German who also immigrated to the US, I'm curious about your opinion on this one: What can Europeans learn from Americans and visa versa?
Cyril
Cyril@cyrilbiselx · I make things look nice.
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@tomstocklein Hey Thomas! YESSS! Thats awesome news, how is that going so far? Are you in the process? When are you coming? This is a good question, because I'm not sure if you are thinking about a certain topic for this? Would you mind elaborating on this? You mean generally, or in our industry? (Design etc)
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
@vanschneider Hey Tobias, I meant 1) in general (i.e. life, work, communication, culture, attitude, etc.) and 2) specifically as it relates to design.
Tobias van Schneider
Tobias van Schneider@vanschneider · Designer & Maker
@tomstocklein Hey Thomas! I want to be honest with you. I have no idea, because I rarely deal with Americans. I live in New York, and New York is it's own country. It's super international and people are coming from all over the world. I don't know many real americans because I rarely go into the south or middle of the country where they live. I hope someone who can answer this question can do it for me (:
Nik Sharma
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
Hey Tobias, thanks for doing a PH LIVE! Over the years (and after working at Spotify), what is the coolest resemblance you've seen between the art of design, and the art of music? Something that normal people or non-designers wouldn't see on their own.