Universal Music
A tiny web based music player designed and built in 4 days.


October 2013


Design Lead


Brand, UX, visual


Mint Digital

A great photo of myself

The brief

Pin Radio is a neat and tidy, browser based music player, created in four days under a brief from Universal Music’s product innovation team. The product innovation team at Universal and responsible for finding ways of making the most of Universal’s extensive catalogue with new digital products.

One idea they had been playing with was in the retail space - how retailers could bring something of the in store experience online, through music. They came to Mint with a rough idea for their ‘retail radio’, looking to create a music player targeted at large eCommerce websites, which could be loaded with custom playlists to enhance their customers shopping experience.

They tasked Mint with producing a working demo of this, which they could present back to their team internally with a view to taking it to retailers, and developing the product further in the future.

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters, one of the retailers Universal were keen to target with 'Retail Radio'.

One of Mint’s techniques for quickly building, launching, and testing ideas is to offer clients a ‘Four Days To Launch’ - four focused days of work with a small team working together to make an idea real and demoable. This approach tends to work best when the scope of the product is fairly well defined with a clear end goal, so in the case of Pin Radio it was an ideal solution, and we were able to hit the ground running on the morning of the first day.

The Team

The team

I led design for the product in a team which comprised of a front-end developer, and back-end developer, and one other designer offering support when needed. Three people from the client side also joined us - we always try and involve the client as much as possible in the four days, and at least in the early stages everyone in the room is a designer.

Day One
Start UX. Start Coding.

Day Two
Code. Visual design.

Day Three
Code. Apply visual design.

Day Four
Finish coding. QA. Launch.

Four Days To Launch Illustration

Naming the product

On the first morning we set about naming and branding the player. Usually it makes sense to not get hung up on names too soon, but given the short timeline we were working too, I felt that it would help kick things off in the right direction and give us momentum.

We chucked a bunch of names up on the wall and landed on Pin Radio, a name I suggested. Pin Radio had a lightness to it which captured the size of the player, and also the fact that the player would ‘pin’ to the browser window.

The Team

The namestorm

Sketching UI

We drew up a list of basic functionality the player needed after generating some simple user stories, both from a consumer and admin’s point of view. Essentially a consumer needed to play, pause, and skip tracks, select playlists, and control volume. The admin of the site needed control over creating playlists and the appearance of the player. Given these requirements, our developers were able to start building a simple CMS which handled playlists and would later provide options for the colour of the player so it would be able to tie in with a brand’s website.

The rest of us started to sketch solutions and different approaches to the UI. Most of us have used either Spotify, iTunes or something similar for years, and have a fairly well formed idea of how a music player should look and feel. The challenge was how to keep the player’s controls accessible, whilst not intruding on their experience of the rest of the website. I looked at different solutions for this - having the player in bottom, top, left, and right of the browser, and thinking about reduced and expanded views of content.

The Team

Sketches up halfway through day one. Looking at different ways the player could sit in the browser, as well as the UI itself.

Paper Prototyping

After pushing the music player in different directions, we arrived at something which would have two views - firstly a miniaturised view with only basic controls available (play/pause and skip), then an expanded version with track details, and playlists on another panel.

The first view would appear as a small tab at the side of the screen, sliding out like a tray when expanded. Though I had liked the idea of it a triangle in the corner of the screen, or a long thin bar at the bottom, a tab on the left began to feel like the most accessible, and flexible solution.

We made a rough paper prototype (below) to demo how the player would feel on top of a website. I like being able to test ideas quickly like this and quickly iterate on the details. It also enabled our front end developer to start laying in place a foundation at the end of the first day, before any visual design had taken place.Having something clickable in the browser as quickly as possible was our aim, so we could test the product within our group and make adjustments to interactions there.

The Team

Carefully piecing together our paper prototype.

The Team

The paper prototype crudely animated to show the basic interaction. Our front end work could begin at this point.


I quickly translated the paper prototype to a basic wireframe to get a better sense of proportions which would provide a little more guidance as front end work progressed. I was keen to move to visual design at this point to refine the details of the UI. The volume control still needed resolving, and the pin icon which would open and close the player would also need some thought too.

The Team

Slightly higher fidelity wireframes helped bridge the gap between sketches and visual design.

Visual design

I provided the client with a UI moodboard which leaned towards the minimal. We had sketched solutions which borrowed metaphors from record players of ghetto blasters, but given that I felt the player needed to be relatively discreet, I felt it was best to steer avoid anything too stylised.

Once I had the basic controls in place, I tightened up the layout of the social links, making these less prominent created a horizontal space for the volume control to sit, sliding this horizontally also felt like a more natural interaction.

i0s7 had recently been released and I was keen to take some inspiration from this - using a blurred version of the album cover to sit the track details on, and also playing with the sense of layers - the playlist selection slides over the top of the track detail, rather than feeling like a separate screen.

The Team

The UI, inspired by iOS 7, tested with different album artwork. All UI should be Drake friendly.


I worked closely with our front end developer as visual design developed, implementing the design as it came together piece by piece, providing SVG’s where needed, and adjusting elements like the degree of blurring on the background image (tested with various albums) until it felt just right. I chose to use Source Sans for all all text on the player, it’s well suited to user interfaces, and with a subtle drop shadow stood out well against the abstract backgrounds.

One of the last pieces to fall into place was the speaker which replaced the pin in the wireframes. Tapping this opens and closes the player, and also gives it the slight feel of the kind of speaker you’d find on a Braun radio.

The Team

Inspiration for the 'speaker' which opens and closes the player.

The default colour of the player was white/grey, but through the CMS the colour of the player and buttons could be changed independently to match with a brand. Though further integration with brand’s website would require more thought, this at least enabled us to demonstrate some flexibility and thinking in this area.

Build complete

By the end of the third day we had the player more or less built - check out the video below for a demo. A few last adjustments were made on the final day, such as the rotating arrow`which replaced the play button when tracks or playlists were loading and tweaking some text sizes.

Landing page and logo

On the final day, now the player was complete, I turned my attention to putting together a very simple landing page. This was to just help the idea feel a bit more real, and also give the Universal team something shareable, both internally, and with interested parties. When I had come up with the name at the start of the week i’d noticed the domain was available, I feel a neatly chosen URL is one of those small details which can help pull everything together.

I also put together a logo for the player, which took inspiration from the UI.

The Team

The landing page. The hero image, shot in our workspace, tries to contextualize the product.

The Team

The logo, inspired by the UI of the player itself.

Next steps

On the last afternoon, we presented the concept back to the rest of the Mint office. Universal left with a working demo, and the presentation, to feed back to their teams internally. We were all very happy with how far we’d come in the four days - we had something we could take direct to retailers and consumers to validate and test the idea.

Validation fell into two main areas:

Firstly, more discovery needed to happen with potential retailers and partners - how could the product be fine tuned to match their brand objectives and enhance the brand experience? Would additional features of customisation be desired?

Secondly, we’d need to validate the idea with consumers and study their current shopping experience/behaviour online in more detail, both in terms of look and feel, functionality and overall experience and brand association.

The Team

Further thoughts

People listen to music on their computers in many different ways - Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes etc. One of my issues with Pin Radio is how it would interfere with people’s existing listening habits, and if it would be more of an annoyance than a benefit. That said, I think it’s an interesting area to explore further, perhaps pushing the integration of music to and edge and making the experience more immersive.

Alternatively, I would be interested in seeing Spotify explore the micro-player route which Pin Radio takes, fully integrating with the browser.

The Team

"Working with Kim was great, he was was willing to adapt and fit his ideas to fit with the vision of the rest of the team. He made strong recommendations and always gave a balanced view which we really valued."

Andrew Nightingale,
New Digital Partnerships Manager at Universal Music


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