“Reverb isn’t any old marketplace. Music gear is personal and unique, and every instrument has a story. Gear is deeply connected to how a musician expresses emotion and creativity.”

For Robert “BK” Kissinger, his work as head of product design and UX research at Reverb is more than building a streamlined and easy-to-use resale marketplace — honoring musicians and their gear is built into the foundation of all his work.

“It’s a fascinating and rewarding space to explore,” he said. “Our buyers and sellers rely on our marketplace to help them make music or earn a living, and we owe it to them to nail the experience.”

As both a “passionate musician” and “fierce advocate for design excellence,” Kissinger joined Reverb ready to embrace the company’s mission to make the world more musical while enabling the designers on his team to do their best work.


Kissinger’s work is more than building a streamlined resale marketplace. Honoring musicians and their gear is built into the foundation of all of his work.


“I’m operating at the direct intersection of my personal and professional interests,” he said. “My role really boils down to making sure that using Reverb is as easy, frictionless and delightful as possible for our community of music makers, which ranges from small businesses, family-owned shops and individuals to the world’s largest musical instrument retailers and well-known musicians.”

Kissinger’s process begins with understanding the needs of Reverb’s buyers and sellers and then giving the design team the time and resources to explore ways to responsively experiment and design the best solutions. “We embrace iteration and carve out space for big and small ideas alike,” he said.

As his team builds solutions from the ground up, Kissinger takes the long view: “Personally, I try to operate at the 50,000-foot level, ensuring that all the individual projects that the team is thinking about click together into one coherent experience for our community.”

And that coherent experience is both clear and ambitious, according to Kissinger. “We want Reverb to be fluid and simple, delightful, beautiful and trustworthy.”



How does Reverb define product design? How does Reverb’s product design philosophy influence the product life cycle?

Product design is creative work that exists at the intersection of our users’ needs and our business goals. We think about what our buyers and sellers want to accomplish, whether that be selling an old piece of gear to buy something new, browsing and sorting through the many hundreds of thousands of instruments on Reverb, or discovering that perfect piece of gear. We want all those experiences to be as simple and intuitive as possible so that first-time Reverb users and seasoned pros alike can frictionlessly navigate our site or mobile app.

We don’t just strive for simplicity of use. We want our product to feel good in more fundamental, sometimes subconscious ways. The visual rhythm of the user interface design elements — how all the images, text and buttons balance together as one — or the subtle animations when clicking one of those buttons, all convey a sense of craft that helps deliver a sense of trustworthiness and quality that we want for our product.


“We want our product to feel good. The visual rhythm of the UI design elements, the subtle animations — they convey a sense of craft … of trustworthiness and quality.”


How does Reverb ensure it understands the unique needs of buyers and sellers of musical instruments and gear?

First, it helps that we have plenty of musicians on the team. A lot of great ideas and insights come from our team’s firsthand experience buying and selling music gear. Beyond that, we do research constantly, which is to say that we are always connecting directly with Reverb’s buyers and sellers. This research can take several forms.

We can speak directly with users — or non-Reverb users for that matter — through interviews where we can learn about their wants and needs and then digest these findings into trends and themes that we can apply to our work.

We can also address much larger tranches of music makers through things like surveys and questionnaires in our product. For example, whether a seller lists an electric guitar, a modular synth or a flugelhorn on Reverb, we immediately pop open a simple questionnaire asking how easy or difficult they found that process to be. We use feedback like this to continually fine-tune the experience.


Robert "BK" Kissinger and his colleagues sit in a meeting in Reverb's offices.


How does the product design team collaborate with engineering teams?

I am a huge advocate of the “three-legged stool” philosophy of product development. The three legs are product management, engineering and design, and without all three legs, the stool cannot function. In real-world terms, this means that designers, product managers and engineers should be constantly collaborating and riffing on ideas together.

We’re also not precious about creative ideas — ideas can and should come from anywhere, and often engineers have wonderful ideas about how to solve product design problems. I encourage my team to set up workshops and brainstorms with our colleagues to quickly generate ideas and tap into the many creative and passionate minds at Reverb.


“We’re not precious about creative ideas — ideas can and should come from anywhere. I encourage my team to tap into the many creative and passionate minds at Reverb.”


How do you manage and guide your team while giving them the space to flourish, learn and experiment on their own?

Most people in roles like mine come from a long career of designing things themselves, and the transition to leading a team means that design leaders need to operate at a higher, more meta level. I hope to design an excellent product by designing an excellent team of designers, clearly articulating the vision, holding us accountable to standards of excellence and giving constructive feedback along the way.


What is your team working on right now, and how will it help users? 

We have quite a bit of emphasis on personalization at Reverb right now. Ultimately, our ambitious vision for Reverb is that it feels relevant and appropriate for every player’s unique interests. A jazz drummer might have different gear interests than a bedroom producer, who might have different interests again from a doom metal bassist. Or maybe not, which is the beauty of music.

We want to help people more easily find and keep track of the right gear for them, and we’ve recently made it easier to “Watch” gear and be notified of price drops or competing offers. We have a ton of additional ideas about personalizing the Reverb experience that we’ll be experimenting with in the future. 




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