Profile article: Jingxi Li, Director of User Experience, Smule

Talented Designer Jingxi Li
Talented Designer Jingxi Li

By Minda Aguhob, CEO & Chief People Advocate, Peakfoqus

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 20, 2017:   When Jingxi Li was a young girl and aspiring artist, she saw the Apple iPod for the first time. It was then that she decided to become a designer. “The iPod touch reminds me of the feeling of paper. As a kid, I naturally liked paper… drawing on it, touching and feeling different types. You can make a lot of different things from paper. It is empty and full of possibilities.”

Jingxi is the lead for Smule’s design team, a music-making app that connects people. Smule, the leading social network for music, has had astonishing growth. A global leader in social music, Smule boasts a vibrant community of over 50 million monthly active users, and sales are up 70 percent year over year. As one organizing a weekly karaoke night at Euclid Manor, my housing community, I totally get it. “Be inspired. Be musical. Be you,” is the mantra splashed across Smule’s front page. Jingxi has a more daring declaration on her resume:

“I give a product soul.”

I’m intrigued, as founder of the company developing Vytality, an app that connects trusted caregivers and patient communities for conversations about health. Jingxi and her team has been directly responsible for 8 products’ retention and growth at Smule, including a 200% retention increase on Sing! Karaoke’s android product. How does she do it?

“They [products] feel like a person. They talk to you, connect to you, feel you and be with you,” Jingxi explains. “It takes a lot of observation and being able to put my feet in users’ shoes. Emotional connection with people. Listening and forgetting myself. My culture probably plays a big role in this part. I am in a foreign country, and am more open to everything and want to learn.”

I’m even more curious. How did Jingxi make such a smooth transition from China to America as a designer? As a designer who is passionate about bringing people together to build delightful experiences, Jingxi managed to make a huge impact at Smule as an “infinite learner.” On a typical day, Smule’s community will play and sing over 20 million songs and upload a couple million of their performances to the Smule network, allowing others to join their songs. Smule has 50 million global monthly users and over 1.5 million paying subscriptions to its service.

Jingxi moved from Beijing, China 9 years ago to study design, and misses it every day – her family, friends, language and the food. “Everything is so different here,” she says.

How did she do it? My guess is that she made her impact in a way that’s counter intuitive to most of us.

By listening.