IXD102-Pocket Profile- Ian Spalter

The Netflix Series ‘Abstract’ involves a look at some of the most innovative designers. The episode I watched looked at digital product designer Ian Spalter. He has been the head of design at Instagram and is currently the head of Instagram Japan. He is a very successful designer, in fact, 1 in 7 people are using a product he oversees.

The episode started with the fact that design is everywhere. The user interface is the physical and visual elements a user interacts with but what is more important than this is the user experience. I gained more of an understanding that when designing, you want to make tasks as easy and enjoyable as possible.

He then started talking about his work at Instagram, particularly the creation of their new logo back in 2016. I found the process of this very interesting. They began looking at the logo they had and thinking of how they can improve and go beyond it. To determine this, they got a group of people to draw the Instagram logo from memory in 10 seconds. This enabled them to see what elements were memorable and important. They then spent 3 months creating hundreds of designs and seeing what fit best. This showed me that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a design. You have to go through a lot of trial and error and bad designs before getting the final product and that is expected.

Ian was also involved in stripping back Instagram. For example, they took away a lot of the colour and created a simpler layout. This meant that the photos became the main focus of the user experience. There are so many different elements that people wouldn’t even think of that have to be considered. For example, The transitions between ‘stories’ and how fast the screen moves when scrolling. It is important to make all of these things feel right and make the experience as best as possible. I think that Instagram is a great example of excellent user experience, a user can log in for the first time and know how it works in a matter of seconds. Looking back at how Instagram looked in the past, I can see how much stronger it looks now.

I have a better understanding of how important it is to find balance. Things can become too complicated with too many features and too much content. When an interface becomes too hard to use, people simply won’t use it. I think this has been the downfall of many apps in the past. Therefore, a lot of testing and experimentation is needed to see how the user interacts with it.

With Instagram being such a huge platform, there is a lot of pressure on designers like Ian Spalter to get things right. For example, one of the main complaints Instagram receives is the fact that how many followers someone has is the focal point. This is because it is displayed at the top of a users profile which adds a social pressure. To combat this, Instagram are currently considering making the profile picture and bio bigger in size and more prominent so that the followers aren’t the main focus. I think it is important for them to do this and that they take feedback like this and continue to improve.

As designers, the design is never done. It is essential to get feedback and continue to improve and evolve. Simplicity, usability and enjoyability are key to create the best user experience.


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