Zillow Rate Your Neighbors? Designer Soren Iverson Reimagines Apps
Soren Iverson blames Spotify, if “blames” is the right word.
Back in 2015, the music streaming company launched Wrapped, a year-end recap for each user that offered insights into their music listening habits and the year’s most popular artists. Other brands began borrowing the idea, a shameless if entertaining ploy to ratchet up engagement. This December, Iverson, a digital designer, wondered what Wrapped would look like when applied to our most basic apps.
Using the interface design tool Figma, Iverson mocked up a Wrapped for Google Maps, Robinhood, and Starbucks and shared the images to Twitter. The tweets received a modest amount of attention, garnering hundreds of likes each, but Iverson was just getting started. Nearly every day since, he has imagined clever new features that add unexpected touches to our most well-worn apps. There’s ChatGPT, but in Apple Messages. Instagram, but with the option to pay a fee to undo “deep likes.” Lyft-style reviews, but for Tinder (“Looked Like Pics!”). And, the ones that went certifiably viral: Beat Minesweeper to cancel your subscription, and iOS alarms, but for the whole household, so the alarm is only disabled once everyone is up.
Iverson’s satirical design concepts started popping up in my own timeline with regularity, and whether that’s because they’ve now achieved a certain virality or because Twitter’s algorithmic timeline has been tweaked, it’s hard to say (it may be both). So I reached out to Iverson, who works full-time as a Cash App designer when he’s not reinventing 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 absurdist app features say about our current relationships with technology. Iverson also shared an app idea that an Instagram engineer liked so much he said he might pitch it internally.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
WIRED: What inspired you to start sharing these app ideas?
Soren Iverson: Well, several years ago, Spotify created this Wrapped experience, and from a product management perspective, it was a huge success. People loved it. And it seems like now every product manager working on every other app is trying to transpose this model of thinking onto their own app. This December it felt like it was at the point where everyone was doing it. So I just decided, OK, as a thought experiment, what would happen if Starbucks did this? What would happen if DoorDash did this? What would happen if Google Maps did this? The idea was around taking their internalized success metrics—this person drove this much or ordered this many cups of coffee—and throwing it back at you, the user.
I often think in visuals, so I immediately saw the thing in my head and mocked it up. And people reacted positively to it. They thought it was funny. And it just kind of blew up.
Initially my positioning was, “This product, comma, insert other feature or UI here.” But now my positioning is more, what if a PM knew Figma really well and gave an app their most intrusive thoughts? And it’s been a really fun exercise. There are a couple people in particular I riff with [Sorensen later identified them as Josh Rozin and Gauthier Le Meur], and sometimes they text me stuff and I’m like, that’s just insane.