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Vessels for Personality

Recently, I’ve seen an increasing percentage of people on Tinder putting their Instagram usernames into their profile. This is surprising because the username is not deep-linked to the Instagram app or browser, so the viewer has to switch apps and manually search the username.

So despite this hassle, why do they do it? They must feel that their Instagram profile is an excellent representation of who they are. The Instagram product has adopted their personality to the level that it’s worth the effort.1

In fact, the same Instagram product (everyone uses the same app) can take on multiple different personalities depending on who is using the app.

In a sense, the Instagram product is a “vessel” for each individual user’s personality.

Instagram and Tinder aren’t the only examples of products that are vessels for personality. We are what we buy, both with money and time.

Apparel vessels: Warby Parker; Bonobos; Supreme

Tom Ford likened putting a suit on to putting on a suit of armor. The best apparel brands make us feel better when we put their clothes on because we aspirationally fit ourselves into the ideals that brand represents.

Content vessels: Twitter; Pinterest; Instagram; Facebook; Tumblr

The product in these cases is largely nondescript, not flashy, and gets out of the way. Notice how each of these products’ UI design is generally sparse and fades into the background.2

Messaging vessels: Snapchat

Even though it is ephemeral and therefore there is a way to see the user’s personality at a glance, the ephemerality enables a different type of personality, liberating an unrestrained expression of the user’s personality.

This has become a recurring theme:

What makes a product magnetic to a user, in a world where it seems so many products are at functional feature parity?

What makes one product have a stronger brand, a stronger gravitational pull, than another?

The best products are a frictionless experience to make the product’s personality your own.

  1. This is an indication to me that there is a latent reason for this; I believe that the best products amplify existing human behaviors, despite really crappy user experience. 

  2. There was an unsolicited redesign of Facebook sometime last year posted on Behance, and it was widely panned by the design community, mainly because of its focus on visual aesthetics over what is most important to Facebook: user experience, information architecture, and I would argue the need to serve its purpose as a vessel for its users’ personalities.