Soren Iverson blames Spotify, if “blame” is the right word.
Back in 2015, the music streaming company launched Wrapped, a year-end summary for each user that offered information about their music listening habits and the year’s most popular artists. Other brands have begun to borrow the idea, a shameless if fun ploy to increase engagement. In December of this year, Iverson, a digital designer, wondered what Wrapped would look like in our most basic applications.
Using the interface design tool Figma, Iverson modeled Wrapped to Google Maps, Robin HoodAnd Starbucks and shared the images on Twitter. The tweets garnered modest attention, garnering hundreds of likes each, but Iverson was just getting started. Since then, almost every day, he’s come up with clever new features that add unexpected touches to our most hackneyed apps. There is ChatGPTbut in Apple messages. Instagram, but with an option pay a fee for canceling “deep likes”. Lyft style reviews, but for Tinder (“Looks like pictures!”). And the ones that went viral: Defeat the sapper cancel your subscription and iOS alarm clocks, but for the whole houseso the alarm goes off only after everyone is up.
Iverson’s satirical design concepts have started appearing regularly in my own timeline, and it’s hard to tell if it’s because they’ve reached a certain virality, or because Twitter’s algorithmic timeline has been changed (maybe both). So I reached out to Iverson, who works full-time as a Cash App designer when he’s not inventing other apps, to ask about his design process. We talked about how tech companies are responding to his ideas, and what he thinks the popularity of his absurd app features says about our current relationship with technology. Iverson also shared an app idea that the Instagram engineer liked so much that he said he could pitch it in-house.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
WIRED: What inspired you to start sharing ideas about these apps?
Soren IversonA: Well, a few years ago Spotify created this Wrapped experience, and in terms of product management, it was a huge success. People liked it. And it seems that now every product manager working on any other application is trying to transfer this thinking model to their own application. This December it seemed like it was at the point where everyone was doing it. So I just figured, okay, as a thought experiment, what would happen if Starbucks did this? What happens if DoorDash does this? What happens if Google Maps does this? The idea was to take their internal success metrics—this person drove so many or ordered so many cups of coffee—and pass them on to you, the user.
I often think in visual terms, so I immediately saw it in my head and modeled it. And people reacted positively to it. They thought it was funny. And it just exploded.
Initially, my positioning was: “This product, comma, insert another feature or user interface here.” But now my positioning is bigger, what if PM really knew Figma well and was giving the app his most intrusive thoughts? And it was a really fun exercise. There are a couple of people that I’m especially friends with. [Sorensen later identified them as Josh Rozin and Gauthier Le Meur]and sometimes they write me different messages, and I’m like, it’s just crazy.