Published on February 1, 2021
The time-management gurus all agree: if you want to augment your life in meaningful ways, listening to podcasts while commuting to work or walking the dog is one of the best methods. It’s never been easier to soak up knowledge from the cutting edge than now. But so many choices, so little time.
To help declutter your brain, we’re offering our curated list of podcasts for designers so that you don’t fall down any browser rabbit-holes in search of a good listen.
Billed as “the world’s first podcast about design,” Design Matters registers 5 million downloads per year at its perch atop the commentary about creative culture. Founder and host Debbie Millman has expanded the very notion of design to capture wide swaths of contemporary thought. Guests delightedly vary in background, expertise, and perspective. One show might feature performance artist Karen Finley and the next will have actress Claire Danes. Or an up-and-coming typographer. Millman has conducted over 300 interviews in eleven years, so there is a plethora to pick from.
User Defenders sits at the intersection of superhero worship and personal growth, viewed through a UX lens. Host Jason Ogle is passionate about all three and has managed to combine them into what he calls “a marriage of design and technology.” For Ogle, UX design is intimately linked to innate humanness, a bond he explores with guests who are famous (or not) but who share his transformative vision.
After 380-plus episodes of Design Details, it’s no wonder that hosts Brian Lovin and Marshall Bock have a natural flow between them, just a couple of chums who happen to sit at the forefront of the design industry. One works for YouTube, and the other for GitHub, and so there is an oracular quality to the episodes. If you want to up your Figma game or listen to an insider describe how What’s App got launched, this is your podcast. It is listener-supported, so many of the helpful tips come in the Sidebar, for which you must donate to gain access. Given the quality of the content, however, it’s worth it.
Big issues, ideas, and trends: this is the recipe for a weekly podcast that will keep you in the loop, especially since Courier Weekly focuses on issues related to starting or growing your own business. The motto of the show is “working better and living smarter,” and what it delivers are testimonials from entrepreneurs who have been there and done that, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. A recent episode featured an interview with the founder of kelp jerky…so be prepared for eclectic stories from around the globe.
Per Our Last Email
The life of a freelancer: you can never say no, you can never take a vacation, and you can never count on a paycheck. But you have no boss. Or everyone is your boss.
Per Our Last Email explores the exhilarating and perplexing world of freelancing, now formally known as the side gig or side hustle, depending on your mood. Hosts Elle Mitchell and Arabela Espinoza are photographers based in California, but they focus on many different aspects of being a creative mercenary. For the ultimate nightmare client, they ask: is murder still illegal?
Sit There & Do Nothing
Being creative is exhausting at times, and it’s important to flush away the detritus that builds up in our minds. Mindfulness is a tenant of Buddhism…and a word that marketers love. But there’s a science to back up the benefits, which is where Meg Lewis comes in.
Sit There & Do Nothing is a wholly unique version of mindfulness that is both relaxing and entertaining. Her affirmations (“bananas peel themselves when I walk into a room”) get a giggle and give a mental boost. If her oddly soothing stories can reduce some anxiety, then she’s done her job.
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if you work in the UX/UI space, in addition to your avocado toast, you might want to nibble on some UI Breakfast. But the episodes might seem much more meat-and-potatoes than milk-and-cereal. Host Jane Portman brings on guests who address technical UX/UI issues, such as designing for multiple devices or designing for financial services. Mental nourishment like this before work will expand your horizons and inspire fresh thinking.
Any podcast that has a member of the genius Monty Python’s Flying Circus on it is indispensable. Season 5 of Design Better kicks off with John Cleese, who talks about his new book on creativity, which is like listening to Mozart describe writing a symphony. Other luminaries from the tech sector routinely show up to chat with Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery, both from InVision, who are legends in their own right. This podcast is a masterclass in design theory and practice, and thus aptly titled.
To describe Chris Do, you’ll need a pretty hefty thesaurus. Maybe the best word is visionary, and he shares his visions about The Futur on his podcast. His own personal story, of being the child of immigrant parents who went on to manage global brands, meshes nicely with his current project of The Futur: an educational platform he hopes reaches a billion people, in effect a school without walls (or the high costs that go with higher ed). He is a force to be reckoned with and taken seriously, and this podcast is a great place to start.
The Design of Business
How design operates in large organizations is the central concern of The Design of Business. It’s recorded at the Yale School of Business and usually features a parade of academics (and other highly successful creatives) to address more complex design questions. The decisions that shape products, physical and digital, come with a host of intellectually stimulating discussions. Jessica Helfand and Ellen McGirt explore how the design of business interplays with the business of design, often in surprising and arresting ways. They are both well-respected experts themselves, and this podcast has a grad-school seminar vibe (without any annoying assignments).