Design Podcasts for the Curious

10 Jan 2019

A good podcast can ease long commutes, spark new trains of thought, help to understand the world we inhabit — or just transport you elsewhere for a brief period. The design podcasts on this list do all of the above — we’ve treasured the time we spent listening to them, and have come away a little more informed. By no means is it a conclusive list, but if you’re looking for new listening fodder, you may want to read on. These are podcasts that are available wherever you get your podcasts from; we’ve linked to their websites for easy access.

Everything is Alive

Everything is Alive, of podcast collective Radiotopia, is one of our favourite finds of the last year. It’s not at all as spooky as its name sounds, but it does do a fantastic job of bringing alive ordinary things — like a subway seat, a tooth and a can of cola. This is personification at its peak — the inanimate objects have names (Sean the subway seat, Paul the tooth, Louis the can of cola) and are interviewed by Brooklyn-based podcast producer Ian Chillag. The questions — what is kissing like for a front incisor? — and their very serious answers are quite hilarious, and are bound to inspire giggles. Each episode delves into the life of the object, and also gives the listener a real-life peek into the workings of the industry it belongs to. In the subway seat episode, for instance, Chillag speaks to the person responsible for fetching lost things from the subway tracks in New York City. Listen here.

Letters & Lines

This one’s a deep dive into the world of comics and how they’re made. Creators Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou and Aditya Bidikar call themselves “comics fans, comics critics, and comics professionals”. In Letters & Lines, the two tackle a range of topics centred around comics — styles of lettering, the various roles of a comic artist, and the idea of productivity. Each episode runs for about an hour and a half, on average, so it’s ideal for long commutes, and for readers inclined to understanding what goes into bringing alive a comic story. It can get a little technical now and then, but stick around — the hosts’ enthusiasm for the subject is infectious. Listen here.

Design Matters with Debbie Millman

One of the longest-running podcasts — and the world’s oldest one about design — Design Matters with Debbie Millman has been on air for 14 years. The episodes have Millman, who’s also a graphic designer, speaking with established contemporary creatives about their lives, and asking insightful and well-researched questions. The people on the show aren’t all designers — instead, creativity is the unifying feature. The most recent season has seen episodes with performance poet Sarah Kay, pastry chef Christina Tosi and illustrator Christoph Niemann. Listen here.

Designed This Way

Hosted by graphic designer Kawal Oberoi, Designed This Way is an India-based podcast. Oberoi speaks candidly with leading designers — in India and around the world — about their work, their career trajectory and their experiences in the industry. These conversations are illuminating and informative, especially for young designers and students, but are also insightful for anyone looking to understand the contemporary design space in and around Asia. This is a no-frills podcast and Oberoi is quick to acknowledge the tech setbacks at the start of certain episodes. We enjoyed it nevertheless, and look forward to future episodes. Listen here.

99% Invisible

If you love podcasts, it’s highly likely you’ve come across this one. Produced by host Radio Mars — who’s also a founding member of the podcast collective Radiotopia — 99% Invisible is incredibly popular. It looks at the design and architecture that’s all around us but that isn’t necessarily obvious to the eye. There are episodes dedicated to the close relationship between New York’s architecture and the oysters that grew along its shores (listen here), how far the world’s come in the design for sports bras (listen here), or how singing trucks in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, made the city cleaner since the 1980s (listen here). This is one that never disappoints.


Wireframe debuted a few months ago. The podcast, produced by Adobe with Gimlet Creative, hones in on the world of interaction design and explores questions faced by UX and UI designers. “Good design” is a central theme through the episodes, which are hosted by Adobe’s Principal Designer Khoi Vinh. There’s one that deals with empathetic design which questions why, when things go wrong, humans are blamed instead of bad design (listen here). Another looks at how ethics factor into good design (listen here). Yet another looks at emoji design (listen here). We’re fans for the interesting, behind-the-scenes perspective on offer.

Failed Architecture

This podcast, produced by the Amsterdam-based Failed Architecture foundation, looks at understanding the place of built environment in contemporary society. The first episode, which went live in May 2018, examines data centres, which are buildings devoted to housing computing servers for remote storage — essentially the physical manifestations of the Cloud (listen here). It’s a good resource for considering the future of architecture, whether it’s the influence of video games on urban experiences (listen here) or how we design for kids (listen here). This essentially feels like the audio form of in-depth long reads — informative and engaging.

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