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Podcasts are now mainstream entertainment covering a wide range of topics and as with magazines there is a Podcast for every niche or mainstream area of interest you can think of. Some are funny, some are tragic, others change the way you think, the way you feel, your mood, or even the way you view the world and they are mostly FREE! Working as a designer, more so than a developer, you will find yourself with plenty of opportunities whilst working on production files to supplement your favourite Spotify playlist with some of the podcasts in this blog post - you can even find Podcasts in Spotify now. I want to share the ones that as a designer will help you learn something new you can apply in your daily work and allow those creative juices to start flowing. The podcasts in this list will give you new creative ideas, inform you about new trends and technologies and ultimately make you better at your job.
The Boagworld podcast features Paul Boag and Marcus Lillington who get together once a week to discuss all topics related to running a web business, with a particular deviance towards topics of User Experience Design. Frequently joined by industry experts they have plenty of experience to share having founded well-established agency Headscape several decades ago. The two obviously have a deep friendship and their conversation is effortless and enjoyable to listen to. Having been podcasting since 2010 (an even earlier version of the podcast launched in 2005) there is an extensive back catalogue of episodes to deep-dive in to. I used to listen to this on my daily commute whilst working at The GORSE Academies Trust on websites and it helped keep user behaviour a priority and provided tangible improvements. The show always finished with a joke supplied by Marcus and the community which is a long running tongue-in-cheek feature. Here's one:
The managing director of Dulux paints has died of hypothermia while tracking across the Antarctic. Paramedics said that he could have done with another coat. — Marcus Lillington
99% Invisible tells very human stories about the world around us and how the often invisible everyday systems, civics and built environment we all live in are designed and by whom. If you're a designer with a curiosity about the world around you and how it is designed this podcast will keep you entertained with some unbelievable stories. Most episodes take their source material from an original book like Boom Town (which is now on my Christmas list) or a feature from The Atlantic repackaging the story in audio format, adding sound effects, interviews and narrative in a way that brings the stories to life. Most episodes tell a story from the point of view of design and architecture. It's also a free podcast to which you can subscribe to via iTunes, its website or your preferred podcast app. I recommend Overcast and Pocket Casts. I've heard consistently Overcast is better so I recommend you start with that but I'm already tied in to Pocket Casts which is great, syncs across devices, the web, and Android/iOS.
Presenter/producer Roman Mars has a very warm inclusive tone, and the sound effects are well chosen, dramatic and slightly funny which all add to the overall enjoyment of the story. A good episode to start with is Ten Thousand Years which tells the story of how humans have tried to communicate immidiate death. The episode goes back through history to tell how pirates branded themselves and then looks forward to how scientists imagine a lasting symbol that needs no explanation that even if humanity is wiped out, alien life would be able to understand what it means. Here's a quote which became a meme about the infamous ray cats idea:
They proposed that we genetically engineer a species of cat that changes color in the presence of radiation, which would be released into the wild to serve as living Geiger counters.
Tobias Van Schneider is a former lead designer at Spotify and created the popular WordPress theme I've personally used on 2 projects, for designers and agencies - Semplice (Designers' Best Kept Secret). Tobias hasn't released an episode in a while but he took a break once before only to come back with an awesome second round of interviews and given the quality of the show I'm more than happy to wait and see. As it stands the whole archive is worth your attention, so start from the beginning. Episode 11 with legendary designer Stefan Sagmeister is well worth a listen as he retells some formative moments such as his move to Hong Kong and the episode preceding it with Brian Collins from which the quote below is taken:
Young designers are confusing mastery with fame. I think you should chase mastery. — Brian Collins
Design Details is another podcast I've been listening to since the very beginning. Recently one of the original hosts Bryn Jackson stepped down but was replaced by regular guest Marshall Bock, design lead at YouTube Gaming, joining Brian Nice Boy™ Lovin as weekly show host. As a designer this show was unique in that it gave me an insight in to the silicon valley design culture that I couldn't get anywhere else. It's hosted by the people who work at YouTube and Facebook interviewing their peers about design, as someone who idolises the design scene in California it was one of the most exciting parts of my week to hear about how they are overcoming challenges building the apps we use everyday and has definitely provided me with lots of practical advice and tips along the way. I've also built up a great Twitter list of the most interesting designers I really admired from their episodes and book recommendations often come up which I've bought and read more than a few of.
If you are not careful, especially young designers, it is very easy to slip in to an aggressively narrow minded focus on design and improving as a designer. As we mature as designers you learn how this imbalance ultimately leaves you unfulfilled and does more harm than good to your design output. You must take time to exercise, eat well and prioritise sleep. Based on cutting edge research and his first hand experiences serving as a doctor for nearly 20 years, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, a popular figure from BBC 1's Doctor in the House, and author of The 4 Pillar Plan which provides a simple actionable plan to help you feel fantastic. I've read Dr Chaterjee's book and there's a permanent copy on the table of the CrossFit I go to and what I like about his style is how simple and applicable it is to our daily lifestyle. I have a huge love of running but it wasn't always easy starting out, I tried to avoid it and it was only through my brother's persistence in calling me up and telling me to get out that I gave it a fair chance. So episode 31 with Vassos Alexander is an easy recommendation. A former Radio 1 DJ Vassos discusses his journey from an unhealthy non-runner to running the iconic ultra-endurance race Spartathlon, 153 miles from Athens to Sparta; his love of Parkruns, and how running is a form of meditation.
What I liked about running is that it got me out of my comfort zone... and I realised this is the thing that's been missing from my life. — Vassos Alexander
Each episode the host Kristina Halvorson invites a leading figure in the field of digital content on to the show to share their career insights on creating great content and their own learning experience along the way. The podcast will help you find solutions to your content strategy such as how you're going to use content to meet your business goals whilst satisfying your users' needs, when content should be created/deleted, and how the success of content is measured. Start with episode 1 in which Kristina talks with information design expert Erika Hall about the art of conversational design.
The Honest Designers Show is the brain child of Design Cuts Founder Tom Ross, joined by fellow designers and purveyors of fine discounted design resources; Ian Bernard, Lisa Glanz and Dustin Lee, founder of Retro Supply Co. Design Cuts is a curated bundle of design resources heavily discounted for a limited time and is an excellent way to build a big library of resources you can dip in to when projects require. When I used Design Cuts it's like I'm collaborating with niche illustrators who can provide beautiful hand made floral illustrations for some product packaging, or vintage illustrations for a menu design and it raises the quality and scope of my design work. The podcast has become just as essential in my weekly routine, I really enjoy the listening to these friends candidly talk about their troubles and offer support and advice to one another, it's a transparent look into life as a modern designer covering topics like landing your first client, finding your unique style, ways to combat stress. You can find a whole lot more exciting topics to get your career moving in the right direction by starting with the whole episode archive, there's plenty of advice to keep you excited and learning valuable skills.
One of the modules I took at University was game design and our lecturer told us to get a subscription to Edge Magazine, which I did, and it opened my eyes to the fascinating world of video game design, which I continue to be inspired by. You only have to play Portal 2 and see how deeply Valve go to build a world where everything has meaning and nothing is superfluous, for example the fake corporate logos, posters, wall graffiti and more background graphic design assets that bring the story to life. Incidentally as a brand identity designer I would jump at the chance to create corporate brand identities which complement the story for a video game, it would be a dream gig. If you're one of many designers that choose to unwind through playing video games you should give both this podcast and host Soren Johnson's (founder of Mohawk Games) previous and now archived podcast Tone Control a listen as he sits down with noted designers to find out by examining their careers as a whole.
Some good episodes to start with:
High Resolution is a limited video series on product design and design thinking. Available as an audio podcast or high quality video series the hosts Bobby Ghoshal and Jared Erondu interview masters of design over 25 episodes. This podcast brings together a diverse group of leaders in the design industry in order to address a wide range of topics relating to Design and the Designer's role within the modern oraganisation where design is now seen as important as other departments. You cannot fail to pick up insights and practical advise to help your design work and career. The show is similar to Design Details but being a limited run manages to pack much more value per minute of its cumulative 1000 hour listening time. Tthe hosts get straight to the point and combined with stellar production and editing the content is packed with insightful conversation. You will learn how design teams are structured in various companies, their process, skillsets, what works and doesn't, and what the future of the design industry looks like.You owe it to yourself to watch or listen to all 25 episodes right now.
"We urge you to bring these tools and ideas back to work with you every week and if you do, we think you’ll see design in an entirely new light.” — Bobby Ghoshal
Song Exploder is hosted by American musician and composer Hrishikesh Hirway. Each episode he interviews a musician or band about a song they wrote. The thing I love about Song Exploder is that the host's side of the conversation is mostly cut of the interview to allow the artists themselves to unpack the story of their chosen song and reveal the individual layers and subtleties of the composition in detail, like peeling layers from an onion before playing the episode out with a full length version of the song. The 15-minute shows provide an insightful glimpse into the workings of a huge range of musicians and goes in depth in about their creative process. This is a nice podcast to work to and uncover new depths about a song you like in order to see it in a new light, through the lens of the creator. Here are some great episodes to get you started:
“When you’re working with 50+ vocals it’s like if a light-bulb burns out on the Christmas tree lights and you have to figure out which one it is.” — Grimes
Wireframe is a podcast about user experience design from Adobe and Gimlet Creative and hosted by Khoi Vinh. Wireframe is different to other design podcasts and has more of the high quality production and research of immersive story driven podcasts like Radiolab and 99% Invisible. Each episode has a unifying theme that threads together snippets from interviews with as many as four or five different people. The first episode examines the role that user experience design has played in some near-disasters in American history, and how that has influenced the way we all think about design and technology. The show talks about design in a straightforward, engaging way and from a distant perspective in order to see how design systems shape the world around us. It's similar to 99% Invisible which is high praise, and Khoi (Principal Designer at Adobe) keeps the subject firmly pointed towards design.
“How do we design systems that support people and humanity, as opposed to just getting the job done? ” — Irene Au
UX Design was one of my favourite modules at University, it helps that my lecturer was so enthusiastic about it, I definitely captured some of that. UX Design started to become a thing in 2010 and has quickly grown in to a semi-mature (adolescent?) industry. In order to keep up with the trends and technologies in an ever-evolving landscape in steps Captain Seth Godin with a new podcast to help us navigate the turbulent waters of UX. Seth is a teacher, blogger, and writer of 18 best-selling books and has the equivalent of a Golden Boot for amount of TED Talks given. With episodes touching on black designers, overcoming imposter syndrome, should designers code? these episodes have helped open up conversations among the design community and helped people open up about difficult topics and think about things from another's point of view. If you want to get inspired and hear from the superheroes in the UX Design industry get started with the User Defenders podcast today.
If you're a designer you've probably heard of Dribbble, if not you probably just think I can't spell. Dribbble is awesome, it's a community of designers sharing in progress and finished presentations of work for other designers and art directors to faun over and show some appreciation. It's also an important part of my daily process of checking in to see what my favourite designers are posting in order to stay on top of trends. You might think that's a bad thing but staying on top of trends can also help you avoid treading worn out paths and inform you what styles to avoid because they're saturated and lost in the noise. That's a side note though this is a blog about podcasts after all and one of my favourites on this list is Overtime. It's hosted by the creator of Dribbble, Mr Dan Cederholm, who shares in-depth interviews with favorite designers from the community. The podcast really drills down in to the artists process, the tools they use and is an excellent place to find new ideas and ways of working. Here are some recommendations for you to try:
"A lot of it is just about being at the right place at the right time, and ultimately it’s about getting lucky, but I think also being lucky by just continuously putting yourself out there, and making sure when you do that it’s a positive experience for whoever you’re dealing with." — Haraldur Thorleifsson
The Adventures in Designer Podcast is part of a strong network of podcasts I've recently gotten in to and thoroughly enjoy. Adventures in Design is more on the gossipy, conversational side of the spectrum but it's a really motivational, inspiring and funny podcast with a big personality in host Mark Brickey. My favourite part of the show is just how detailed Mark gets when questioning his guests, asking super specific questions if he's genuinely curious about their work. The podcast is a bit of a machine and I can't say I listen to every episode, like with most podcasts that offer daily content I only choose to listen to episodes I feel will give me value. For example, being a big poster and album art fan boy I always make sure I have the DKNG episodes downloaded and ready to deliver nuggets of design truth straight in to my noggin, incidentally they have their own bi-monthly show on the AID Network now which is epic. There is always great information in every episode and the host is probably the most entertaining and engaging personality on this list. Subscribe and get this podcast downloaded to your device and start picking up some ideas that will help take your designs to the next level. I would suggest starting out by listening to only the DKNG Show and Brand Practice by Lincoln Design episodes as those are my personal favourites and there's plenty to go at.
Design Matters is the longest running podcast on this list. Host Debbie Millamn Millman has interviewed over 400 artists, and creators from Milton Glaser to Alain de Botton. Given her long history of podcasting Debbie is extremely assured navigating wide-ranging conversations with the world's most respected designers, writers, artists, curators, musicians, and thinkers. This show gets straight to the point and the conversations are always fruitful and worth your whole attention.
“What we have to figure out is how to disconnect ourselves from the circle of fear and from the circle of contempt and even panic and make something that matters instead.” - Episode 216, Seth Godin
October 31, 2018
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