Learning through listening: some of my favourite design podcasts

Last year marked the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone, and within those ten years, the landscape of our digital realm has evolved and developed at such a rapid rate. We’ve seen the birth of new technologies, new tools and even new job titles (urgh... job titles… that alone is a blog in itself).

Digital product design is a discipline that needs to evolve rapidly to keep up with the changes. So there’s a need to continuously learn so that we can improve our understanding and push the boundaries of our work to always be one step ahead.  

For me, I enjoy learning different ways of tackling problems, and expanding my understanding of the needs of the end user. Most of all, I like finding the opportunity to apply these learnings in practice.

However, this is where I struggle. Learning in the conventional way, like reading a book or an article, is somewhat hard for me due to a learning difficulty I’ve had throughout my education and that still plagues me to this day. It’s is the inability to retain text-based information when reading it for the first time, which stems from my dyslexia. I can counter this by having to re-read a page or section of text multiple times for it to properly sink into my noggin, which is not ideal!

Listening to podcasts and audiobooks has turned out to be the most effective way of overcoming this difficulty, as well as giving me a degree of solace at the same time. With the wealth of podcasts available today, there are so many fantastic resources for anyone who faces similar challenges to me.

The sheer amount of choice can be daunting, so when looking for a podcast to listen to I ideally want to cover three areas of my continued learning and development as a User Experience Designer, this includes:

  • Hearing from some of the all-time great designers and creative types of our time, hearing what they do, how they got to where they are and what they were thinking about at the height of their careers.

  • Hearing from design leaders from some of the biggest companies in the world, and how they approach, communicate and deploy design at scale within their organisation.

  • Hearing from inspirational people who are helping to shape the future of user experience through the sharing of their personal experiences, struggles, successes and sources of inspiration.    

I would like to share with you three podcasts that I listen to regularly and that tick all of the boxes above for me. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them too.


Design Matters with Debbie Millman

Why do I listen to Design Matters?

As mentioned earlier, our digital world has developed and evolved at such a significant pace that it can be easy to forget and not fully appreciate how we got to where we are today. The interviews Debbie has hosted over the last 20 years provide such a variety of perspectives and experiences from so many influential creatives of our time; Massimo Vignelli, Bob Gill, Tim Brown, to name but a few. I enjoy hearing from such an eclectic mix of inspiring individuals and who they are and what they’ve achieved.

Debbie Millman

How does this podcast help me in my work?

Firstly, inspiration. With each interview I come away with at least one new piece of inspiration that in some way influences how I design an experience or interface. Secondly, perspective. Again, with each interview I come away with a different approach to my work, which can be very refreshing. This helps me to not get caught up in the details and retain focus and direction.

What is my all time favourite Design Matters interview?

Graphic Designer and Co-founder of the Design Observer, Michael Bierut.

You can listen to this interview from any of the following:

iTunes | Overcast | designmattersmedia.com


High Resolution with Bobby Ghoshal and Jared Erondu

Why do I listen to High Resolution?

It’s produced by two designers working fairly senior positions at Lattice and We Work, so as you can imagine, they have a pretty good feel for the overall industry. They’re not afraid to go off-piste and explore tangents, which makes for some really insightful chats. I’m not sure you’d get this kind of quality from a more traditional interview-style podcast.

It’s great to hear from some of the top industry leaders about their approach to communicating and deploying design. We hear new, fresh perspectives from people and companies who are taking the industry forward. This is a nice contrast against Debbie’s podcast, which looks back. This podcast very much looks ahead.

For me it is the curiosity of wanting to discover how company at scale successfully utilise and show the value of design. High Resolution provides unique and insightful look into how some of the best and renowned companies in the world have approached, communicated and deployed design within their organisation. Hosted by Bobby Ghoshal and Jared Erondu have interviewed 25 design leaders from the likes of Google, AirBnb, eBay, Spotify, IBM, Microsoft, to name just a few.

Bobby Ghoshal and Jared Erondu

How does this podcast help me in my work?

Hearing from the likes of Airbnb, eBay, Spotify, IBM, Microsoft and Google Ventures, it’s invaluable to get this intimate view of how everyone does it their own way, whilst all following the same unlying goal, which is user insight. It’s so interesting to compare brands’ different takes on all of this, and seeing what may or may not work for us at Kyan. We’ve found our process by seeing what the big guys are doing, and running with some of it, and also being brave enough to say what doesn’t fit with our strategy. We want to break new ground in our own way, after all.

What is my all time favourite High Resolution interview?

IBM’s Head of Design, Phil Gilbert, wields $100m and 1,300 designers to bring design back to IBM’s roots.

You can watch or listen to this interview on:

YouTube | iTunes | Overcast | highresolution.design


User Defenders with Jason Ogle

Why do I listen to User Defenders?

Possibly my all-time favourite podcast. User defenders are people like us, the people in this room right now. These people-focused origin stories make the podcast very approachable, relatable and down to earth. This podcast, to me, is all about sharing experiences and knowledge, because we are all in this boat together, especially when it comes to problem solving for our users whether it be business, consumer or both.

I listen to this because it brings all of designs great specialisms together (UX, design, copy, content, etc) and shares personal stories on the struggles, the highs and lows, and where people look for inspiration. It’s not every day that you find a podcast that strikes a real chord every time you listen to it. Hosted by Jason Ogle, a fellow seasoned UX Designer, and essentially the ‘Nick Fury’ of our field, interviewees include veterans of the industry and notable newcomers too. Each interview explores the User Defender’s origins story of where they have come from, the journeys they have taken, and their personal and professional experiences that have defined who they have become.

The reason, well reasons... for why I enjoy listening to User Defenders firstly the wealth of inspiration and resources you can take away, but most importantly being able to really empathise and relate with each and every person journeys and experiences.

Jason Ogle

How does this podcast help me in my work?

It’s really reshaped my approach to my work. You could say that my learnings from this podcast is twenty books in itself. These human stories are a great source of empathy and it feels good to reflect on people’s experiences over some commonly encountered problems.

And, imposter syndrome. It’s not uncommon these days for people to hit creative blocks, feel a little ‘behind the times’, or even ask “what the f*** am I doing!?” These feelings can be somewhat debilitating. I like to listen to how others have overcome these struggles. This podcast has done a lot for the community in this sense. In fast, he’s created a new community here and enabled us to talk to one another and share. Problems like this shouldn’t make you feel isolated.

So what is my all time favourite User Defenders interview?

Be a Good Ancestor with Alan Cooper

You can watch or listen to this interview on:

YouTube | iTunes | Overcast | userdefenders.com




I hope this blog has been of some use to you. We're always keen to hear what others in the design community are listening to, so feel free to continue to conversation over on our Twitter and let us know what's been in your headphones lately.

Whilst you're here, check out our upcoming Campus workshop this Wednesday in London – a showcase and hands-on session exploring our method of design sprints and design thinking. Perfect for Product Managers, Product Leads, Heads of Design and anyone keen to explore new ways to build digital products, faster. Sign up at joincampus.tech for free.