What’s Your Design Diet? Music, Podcasts & Books to Keep You Inspired
Some days are harder than others when it comes to sparking creativity. I find that keeping a solid rotation of other art forms in my routine can keep those juices flowing a little better.
It’s all part of your design diet – music, podcasts, books, challenges, and other design goodies that keep you inspired to push forward, try new things and work at your full capacity.
Your design diet can change from time to time. For me, it ebbs and flows in what type of media and art I consume. From binging on podcasts, to listening to new musicians that help me find a groove, I rely a lot on others to share some of the best new things.
And that’s what this article is primed to do. I’m going to share some of my favorites with you and I’d love it if you shared some of yours with me on social media.
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Music for Designers
There’s a lot of scientific research out there about how listening to music can boost creativity. I’m 100% on board with this concept.
Spotify is running in the background on my computer all day every day. But there’s this magic spot and volume level that results in productivity versus pulling me into a spontaneous dance party in my office. (So, you’ll probably want to figure out where that magic productivity level is for you.)
A study by researchers at Radboud University found a certain song that can jumpstart creative vibes (seriously) – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Spring (Part 1), above.
But that might not be your jam.
I work best with music in the background that I know so that I don’t stop and listen. I like a melodic beat but nothing too loud or frenzied. If you want to classify it musically, this falls in the territory of pop-rock. (And nothing beats the 90s for me.)
Top 5 playlists:
- Soul Food, just good music from artist Devon Gilfillian
- The Hamilton Mixtape, songs from the Broadway show remastered with a few names you might have heard of)
- All out 90s (you can find these for other decades, too)
- Friends Rewind, packed with more 90s hits from the TV show
- Yoga Girl Playlist of the Month, changing list of songs with a chill vibe
Podcasts for Designers
When I turn to a podcast for inspiration, it usually has absolutely nothing to do with design. I use this audio format as a diversion from work when I go for a run or walk the dogs.
As a part of my design diet, podcasts are the place where I let go from creative challenges and just be. Yes, science supports this too. (That’s why you have the best ideas in the shower or at other times when you aren’t so focused on the problem or challenge you are working on.)
Podcasts are a true guilty pleasure and true crime is my weak spot. But anything with a good story, excellent narration, and quality production can keep me binging for weeks on end.
Top 5 podcasts:
- Criminal, short episodes that focus on a single crime (so you don’t have to listen in order)
- Dolly Parton’s America, a look at the cultural phenomenon that is Dolly
- Freakonomics, smart and witty look at money and culture
- Mogul, with a focus on iconic moments in hip-hop with plenty of drama
- Murder Etc., tells the story of a decades-old crime that’s still making headlines
Books for Designers
Unlike podcasts that take me away from design, books bring me back to the roots of design when I need a creative push. Flipping through the pages of a classic book on typography or perusing great examples of branding can be mentally stimulating.
It’s less about reading and more about going back to some of the visual roots of design, so physical books with plenty of images tend to be my go-tos.
That’s not to say I won’t dive into some theory on an audiobook though. (These can be great particularly when you want to think about the business of design or how to navigate leadership, teamwork, or pushing through tough phases.)
Top 5 books:
- ”Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming,” Ellen Lupton, editor; or anything with Lupton’s name on it
- ”Art Direction for the Web,” Andy Clarke
- ”The Visual Miscellaneum,” David McCandless
- ”How to Draw Type and Influence People: An Activity Book,” Sarah Hyndman
- ”Design for People,” Scott Stowell et.al.
Other Challenges and Goodies for Designers
And then there’s everything else you can add to your design diet to round out creative thinking. This is everything from email newsletters (Design Shack has a pretty awesome one if you don’t already subscribe) to shows on Netflix to taking part in networking events, and design challenges.
There’s good design happening all around. Think about how the typeface and title for “Stranger Things” have inspired a whole resurgence of serif typefaces, neon, outlines, and 1980s design.
It’s all about being aware of those things around you and pulling the best of it out in a creative way. Look for the beauty and brilliance in the design of others, think about the usability of toothpaste packaging (or not), and how you can apply these things to your work.
Top 5 goodies:
- Adult coloring books (make sure to get some awesome pens or pencils, too)
- Codrops Collective, there are so many good ideas in these collections
- Sharpen, daily design challenges
- Learning communities such as the Interaction Design Foundation
- Awwwards, gallery of website design