There is no cookie-cutter formula for getting a job at Instagram. We want people from all backgrounds and experiences because the more we mirror our global community of over a billion people, the better we’ll be able to build great products for them. We look for people who are excited to solve hard problems with creative solutions as there usually isn’t a well-paved path for us to follow. While things move quickly at Instagram, it’s a collaborative, supportive environment, and people who put the best interests of the business or team ahead of themselves are most successful.
Pamela Chen, Former Creative Director
Pamela Chen is on sabbatical from Instagram, where she was most recently a Creative Director. Currently, she is part of an inaugural fellowship at Stanford University’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and the John S. Knight Journalism Program.
How did you take into account how Instagram employees would need to use the space? What was the inspiration or thought process behind making the Instagram offices look and feel like you’re using the app?
We designed all of Instagram’s spaces to inspire creativity. This overarching concept takes several forms throughout the offices: in the workspaces, the design is minimal, bright, and spacious with clean lines. In the communal spaces, art and bespoke objects showcase our commitment to design, our culture and our values brought to life. You can start to see how these same words could be describing the app itself.
And of course, we are constantly designing new original environments (like the cloud room or light forest) to surprise and delight employees and visitors alike. No instruction manual needed to create content here!
This is a really hard question! It’s impossible to choose just one. made a photo book for Pope Francis to help introduce him to the platform. We curated 10 pictures from 10 photographers around the world documenting underrepresented global communities and designed a hand-bound edition of one. Somewhere online there’s a picture of the Pope looking through it. In today’s world of ephemerality and scale, it was this quiet, singular moment that revealed the power of photography to shape people’s perceptions about the world.
You’ve been at Instagram a long time. How has the company (and your experience there) evolved over time?
When I joined 5.5 years ago, there were less than 100 employees and Instagram was not yet a household name. I am so grateful to have had the chance to help build this world since then. I think there’s something very special about being a part of the team that has seen such significant cultural impact in such a short period of time. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger often said, “ these are the good old days.” I treasure those words and the meaning behind them.
You were formerly behind the Instagram account. What was that experience like, and how did what you learned overseeing the account transfer to how you do your job now?
Yes, it’s true. Running the Instagram account for Instagram was very meta! My first role at Instagram in 2014 echat hoe werkt het was to design ’s strategy, look, and feel and build the team that would develop its content on a daily basis.
We chose an editorial approach, showcasing real-world accounts using the app in creative and life-changing ways. The Explore tab hadn’t been invented yet, so the account served the purpose of taking you down the rabbit hole to discover accounts you didn’t know existed, but would probably love to follow. It’s a dream job, to shine a spotlight on people all over the world who are building these strong interest-based communities.