This post is contributed by Anna Bielonko, IT Service Desk Consultant at ITMAGINATION, who is passionate about design and UX/UI.
December is a special month for Spotify users. At this time of the year, the annual recap called Spotify Wrapped is released. It’s not only a cool feature for music lovers, but also a genius marketing campaign, as millions of users all over the world are sharing their listening habits.
Spotify is known for its unconventional approach when it comes to designing the Spotify Wrapped experience. The company has been surprising music fans every year since 2016 with vivid charts, fun animations, and this year even a built-in interactive mini-quiz.
Although Spotify Wrapped is a hot topic every year, the 2021 edition attracted extraordinary attention, especially by the younger generation on TikTok and Twitter.
This year’s Spotify Wrapped experience arrived on 1 Dec and already made a lot of hype. Users can take a look back on their favorite artists, songs, and podcasts. Moreover, they can listen to their top 100 songs on an auto-created playlist. Music lovers can also see some fun stats like minutes listened and times played.
Spotify tries to stay on top of trends with new features including reading “audio aura” as reading auras was all over TikTok earlier this year.
One of the unique and unusual things about Spotify Wrapped is that it makes users excited about their data being collected and analyzed.
People tend to have some strong views about privacy in the digital age and control over personal information. With this feature, Spotify not only made it totally fine to gather as much data as possible about users’ habits, but also gained new customers that feel left out from other streaming platforms every year. In essence, they successfully monetized data gathering and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). They even made data collection cool.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Spotify’s method behind designing the experience and managing the data around it you can read more here (we’ll update these with the links for 2021 when they’ll be released on the Spotify Design and Engineering Blogs):
Crowning the end of the year with such an event is also a brilliant marketing move, as peer-to-peer marketing is known as one of the most efficient strategies. Spotify makes it super easy to share results and encourages users to do so multiple times during the short animated experience.
As far as design is concerned, Spotify is known for its unconventional approach, original animations, and interesting color combinations. Spotify's designers are not afraid to break rules and think outside the box, which works perfectly with the entertainment industry’s specificity.
Fun animations and built-in games change the plain text to a real interactive user experience, and the whole world is here for it. Every screen can be shared independently and make perfect sense. Intuitive control in the application allows users to return to the slides they are interested in, just like in Instagram stories.
Each slide has a “share this story” CTA button and multiple ready-to-use sharing options.
Although Spotify Wrapped is truly a genius initiative, this year's edition got a lot of criticism from the TikTok community.
The main reason is Spotify being accused of trying too hard to be relatable to Gen Z.
Creators, in fact, tried to mention as many 2021 TikTok trends as possible. To do this they used phrases like, “vibe check”, “you were the main character” and “you understood the assignment”.
They also made some references to reading aura and skincare routine trends. This all looked overused and unnatural to numerous TikTok users.
Another issue that drew younger users’ attention were graphics, especially the “Top Genres” screen.
Many users pointed out the text is illegible.
The colorful text was visibly meant to hint at another trend of “charging port text” -a trend based on the use of a font that can be read only from a lying phone (connected to a charger and put down)
Aside from that, the artistic text was supposed to create a chart with the most listened to genre being the widest and the 5th one being the thinnest.
A very similar chart was used in 2020, but without the text in it.
Some people think it was Spotify’s attempt to use brutalism in art, which is likely possible taking into account its previous actions when it comes to design. Unfortunately, countless users didn’t appreciate this kind of innovation due to its illegibility.
Another “flaw” being pointed out are imperfect images. The author probably wanted to emphasize that it’s all about fun and not so serious at all, however a lot of users think it looks just underdone and “cheap”.
Spotify's designers made some interesting choices, using illegible font paired with regular text right next to it.
It was 100% intended to look “bad”. Not only it gives people something to talk about, but also radiates the “ugly art” vibe that gains attention recently.
TikTok creator — Emily Zugay — collected over 2 mln followers by coming up with intentionally bad designs. Videos with her logo redesigns for brands like Doritos and Amazon went viral.
Those videos led to an exceptional Christmas collaboration with Panera Bread. Emily designed holiday cups.
Her designs looking so cheap is what makes them special.
But why is everybody loving Emily but criticizing Spotify?
Spotify Wrapped designs are not that bad, and that’s what makes people confused. Not all users know it was intentional, contrasting that with the intentional cringe-inducing designs of the famous TikToker.
The unconventional graphics are supported by non-obvious color choices.
This is a color palette looking like a business-related scheme using navy and glacier shades of blue combined with lavender gray.
But those are the exact shades used on this screen:
Here is an example of a design using a similar color combination with an entirely different outcome
Turning one color up can make the overall slide appear more vivid, and the color palette alone seems more fun.
Here are some other interesting and unconventional color combinations appearing on Spotify Wrapped 2021:
To end with, Spotify’s Wrapped generated massive interest worldwide. A sea of music enthusiasts viewed their musical summary of the year; which was the company’s intention. They could have achieved their goal differently, however.
This year’s edition was a little too forced. The authors tried to catch up with too many trends and were not always successful. If a design has to be explained and justified, no matter how good and thoughtful it is, it means it did not reach the target audience. But thanks to this misunderstanding, the action made a lot of noise on social media. The whole initiative was not perfect in the context of design, but was indeed a brilliant marketing move.