Design Without Pictures, A Few Audio Podcasts Favorites

Tom Osborne, Former VP, Design

Article Category: #Design & Content

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Living and working in the DC area is a blessing in that there is much to see, and business in the Nation's Capital is seemingly bountiful. The curse is the commute for people (like me) who enjoy living in the burbs. I spend a minimum of 7.5 hours per week commuting to my office. That’s almost a full work day for normal people. Mind-numbing, isn’t it!? If any unexpected roadblocks occur, you can add to that figure.

That said, I don’t find a whole lot of time to do things like read blogs, even though it's probably being done by others on the road (not recommended). I do, however, try to use my commute time wisely. As I travel to work, I listen to at least one design or business podcast per day -- while sipping my first of several daily cups of coffee. Going home … that’s when I rock the tunes!

One of the things that I’ve learned is that a good audio podcast is generally anchored with an interview. News, updates, comments, and random banter can also fill the void, but it’s the interview that seems to be the necessary core component -- at least in my opinion. I’ve opted for the audio podcasts simply because I’d much rather make use of my commute time than stare at a video podcast on my laptop when I’m not driving. The temptations to multitask are just too high.

That is not to say that audio is a better format. It's just that it works better for me considering how I intake the media. There are plenty of good reasons for video podcasting, particularly when tutorials are involved. Alas, I’ve discovered several great audio podcasts related to design. Here are some of my favorites:

Boagworld podcasts


If there’s one podcast to listen to about web design, it's Paul Boag and Marcus Lillington’s Boagworld. Clocking in at one hour (usually), the co-hosted podcast has exactly the perfect ingredients needed for a useful-yet-entertaining show.  It typically starts with intro banter, followed by some recent news, leading into a deeper dive on a particular topic, sometimes an interview, then some listener questions and answers, all climaxing with a final joke delivered by Lillington. You always kind of know what to expect, but it's still loaded with surprises since the self-deprecating Boag and Lillington consistently poke fun at each other and themselves. The show complements their regular responsibilities they fulfill during their day jobs at Headscape. They've build a strong following, and their podcasts appear on an almost weekly basis.

Adaptive Path podcasts

Adaptive Path Podcasts

San Francisco’s Adaptive Path is one of the best user experience research and strategy agencies around. Their podcasts are hosted by a variety of staffers, including Peter Merholz and Jesse James Garrett.  The shows consist of a variety of UX topics, expert interviews, and good coverage of their UX Week and MX: Managing Experience events.

Design Matters with Debbie Millman podcasts

Design Matters

Many great designers are equally good writers, and, sometimes, they are amazing storytellers. Sterling Brand’s Debbie Millman is one of those designers who can write like a novelist -- her talented writing style comes across when she introduces every one of her interviews.  She always seems to find a match for her personal life experiences and her diverse list of participants, which has included many design extraordinaires such as Chip Kidd, Ellen Lupton, Jeffrey Zeldman, and Vaughan Oliver.

Creative Xpert podcasts


Much like Debbie Millman, Alan Houser is a natural born podcast host. Whereas Millman’s interviews have included well-known figures, Houser’s podcasts focuses primarily on emerging designers and developers of the web industry -- including Jason Santa Maria, Michael Boyink, and Stamen Design, to name a few. It’s the natural charm and quick wit that make his one of my favorite design podcasts. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a new podcast since the July ’08 interview with Santa Maria. Let’s hope that wasn’t the last.

SXSW Interactive podcasts

SXSW Interactive

The South by Southwest Interactive conference is the Spring Break of web design. Web professionals from all over the globe gather in Austin, Texas for four full days of geekery. The topics are diverse, plentiful, and trends are known to accelerate here as did Twitter in 2007. For some reason the podcasts aren't as easy to find on iTunes as they used to be which is a shame for lazy people like me. If anyone can shed light on that let me know. For more on SXSWi '09 happenings see Jack's post.

dConstruct Podcasts


Pound-for-pound, dConstruct is another annual web design conference that packs a punch.  The conference last year --  which was organized by the talented folks at Clearleft -- featured notables like Jeremy Keith, Tantek Çelik, Daniel Burka, and Joshua Porter. Access to UK conferences like this don’t come cheap for any of us Stateside admirers, so many thanks to the organizers for making these podcasts available.

TED Talks

TED Talks

The TED conference was founded in part by designer Richard Saul Wurman in 1984. The graphic designer and architect has since left the conference, but, under the guidance of Chris Anderson, TED Talks have emerged. The talks have made some of the world’s greatest minds accessible and digestible, and they feature speakers like Al Gore, Bill Gates, and Bill Clinton. The talks are intentionally in the 20-minute range to allow for plenty of useful knowledge. The TED organizers have done a great job of promoting and syndicating this content for the good of all humankind.


Searching “web design” in iTunes will offer several other options of popular audio podcasts, as well as some video options. Plenty of other people regularly follow Boxes and Arrows, You Suck At Web Design, the 101 Web Design Show, and The Rissington Podcast, yet there still seems to be room for more quality podcasts specific to web design. Are there others that we should tune into? Please share.

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