The Challenge

How might we create a new way to discover music and make playlists with meaning?

The Solution

A mobile app that adds a playful layer to Spotify

My Contributions

Research, Prototyping, User Testing, Interface and Experience Design, Branding

Popcycle iPhone Mockup

I. Discovery

During an internship at the product design studio Made by Many, I worked alongside a development intern, Dory, to tackle music discovery as a problem space. We had just eleven weeks to go from concept to product.

Dory and Dana in the studio

In our field research, we found that many listeners didn't have trust in recommendation apps. So, instead of just focusing on how people discover new music, we wanted to learn more about how listeners make personal connections to and between songs, especially when making playlists.

II. Delivery

Dory and I prototyped an app that passively makes playlists as you listen. During a jam session, users continually tune the playlist as they choose what they want to hear more of.

Based on listener feedback, we chose to include filters for artist, genre, year, and city.

Popcycle Web App Prototype

The first web app prototype

Popcycle Alpha Phone Prototype

Our alpha mobile app

The first few iterations of the app got lots of playtime in the studio, on road trips, and at weekend barbecues. We began to notice that the playlists mattered less to our users than we assumed— rather, everyone was having fun using the app as a kind of DJ, and paying little attention to the outputted playlists.

Our response to this, Popcycle, is a more thoughtful shuffle. It's an iOS app, powered by subscription music services, that provides its own unique way to discover music in the moment.

Popcycle logo
Popcycle start animation

After connecting a Spotify or Rdio library, listeners start with the jam of the moment, or whatever's stuck in their head.

During a listening session, the filters might surface new music, or even reveal something about old favorites on the way.

Popcycle player animation

Popcycle isn't meant to replace any current music player. Rather, it serves as a playful layer over existing subscription services, and encourages a way to make meaning out of these infinitely large, somewhat impersonal libraries.

Popcycle screens Popcycle Style Tile Popcycle in hand

While making Popcycle, Dory and I each kept a blog about the process. You can read my real-time thoughts on the project here.