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Nike+ Running and Spotify

It was a cold Winter of 2013 and the Running team was reluctant about running outside. Fortunately, we had a running-with-music idea that would get us out and pounding the sub-zero pavement in no time.

From firsthand experience, we knew that music was one of the major driving forces in getting people to do more when running or working out. This was also backed by a bunch of scientfic studies. We were also aware that when out on a run, it was a major hassle to constantly check your phone to see if you were on pace.

What if we were able to run to the beat of a song that corresponded to a pace set by the runner?

While there had been several failed attempts by other companies to let the runner control the music with their pace, this idea was different because music would guide the runner. It was the less obvious idea that we thought was far more compelling and would push runners to better their best. In order to get our clients on board, we had to come up with a strong case study.

Using Jog.fm, I created a playlist of arbitrary songs for a specific pace. I then imported the songs into a Spotify playlist and then went out for a run using Nike+ Running. What followed blew my mind.

Note the flat pace curve when running to a mix of music all with the same beat.

Note the flat pace curve when running to a mix of music all with the same beat.

The results of the run proved our idea correct! As you can see from the pace curve in the screenshot above, it was held steady at 7’10″. Also, look at the playlist. From Van Halen to Jay-Z, as long as the BPM of the song was consistent, so was the pace.

Before pitching the idea to our client, I did several more test runs and here were the results.

From the pace curves above, there is very little distortion in the peaks and troughs.

From the pace curves above, there is very little distortion in the peaks and troughs.

We presented our idea along with a case study to our clients and they were instantly sold on the idea.

Initial designs on the Spotify feature within the Nike+ Running app.

Initial designs on the Spotify feature within the Nike+ Running app.

A little over 2 years ago, we came up with this concept and tested it out using existing services. We then built a prototype that further demonstrated the positive effects of running to the beat of music. 2+ years later, that feature is live in the latest Nike+ Running app and it’s called Pace Station.

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  • 23 Aug 2015

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Lead UX Designer on Nike+ Running at R/GA.