May 27 2011

Designing the Airwaves: Podcast’s Part in Design

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One powerful outlet that many designers have been turning to over the recent years, which in turn has allowed for a further evolution of the design community and conversation, is podcasting. This completely accessible, and open format for extending the design dialog is proving a viable solution for many seeking to lend their voice to the field in another way altogether. And by actually lending their voice to the process, no longer in just a metaphoric manner.

Image Credit

So how does one go about throwing their proverbial hat into this ring, and just exactly why do they do it? Those are a couple of the questions that we will tackle in this post, which will then end in a showcase of outstanding contributions to the design airwaves. So if you are either a fan of the form or perhaps looking to find your own footing in this continuously burgeoning market for designers then hopefully this post can give some food for thought for the weekend to accompany the new listening material provided.

The Why

There are many reasons that designers have opted for this direction in order to engage the community. However there are three major headers that most design podcasts fall under, when you begin looking into the reasons they cast. It is more than the accessibility it offers, in fact, it tends to be more tied to the community aspect of the field in one way or another.

To Teach

One of the main missions that we see when designers turn to the virtual airwaves, is so that they can educate the masses. So many podcasts are out there to provide the community with another resource that can be tapped when you are working in the field. Whether you are a relative newcomer to the market, or even a seasoned veteran, the design arena is constantly evolving and we have to keep up with those changes. In fact, it is a staple piece of advice within the field, that if you want to make it, then you need to always be learning.

Podcasts have provided yet another means for designers to reach this end, and so we see many moving to this platform in order to teach others what they have learned along the way, techniques that they developed over the years, or even what their guests have to offer. It is one thing to set up a tutorial, but some people learn better with more auditory instruction, and so podcasts can work better for them overall. Not to mention that some lessons that need to be taught are handled better more anecdotally. Just like blogging can achieve this connection and impart these lessons, podcasting can do the same thing in via an auditory presentation.

To Preach

Another powerful motivator that drives designers to the casting side, is to further that engagement that they have through their blogs. They can use this platform to establish themselves as an authority in the field. Be it in a particular niche, or in more general terms , some designers come to these waters because they feel their perspective is a valuable one and they are going to share it. They want to help steer the directions the field might take and they set out on the airwaves to make their mark.

To help guide the community down an alternate path is a mission that brings some to the format. Image Credit

While blogging can help designers to plant their authoritative seeds, podcasting can engage with the community on a much more personal level. With writing it is easy to keep the tone professional and the personality reigned in. However podcasting is a different beast where personality goes a long way. So it does take a slightly different approach than blogging, though the paths are somewhat parallel. And given that both can prove essential with the authority establishing, it is easy to see why many in the field are walking both roads.

To Reach

The third major reason that designers opt for this form, is to help extend their reach with their audience. This needed reach extension could be for helping them to build their following, develop their brand, or simply to offer an added source for revenue. Whatever the purpose they use this reach for, it is often the extra mileage they can attain into the heart of the community that pushes them towards the podcasting outlet. And when they consider how easily one can break into this field it does improve their chances of being found and heard above the horde.

The How

As previously mentioned, podcasting is a very accessible market, which you can dive right into with a small investment of capital or a large one. It really is up to you. Either way you go, the only other investment required on the part of the podcaster is time. This too can vary depending on the style and length of show you are wanting to produce. But one that must be considered nonetheless. And if you have the time to commit, then it can really prove worth your while to try your hand at the casting.

The Gear

First off in order to get started, you are going to need the proper equipment, and again, the amount that you invest in the equipment is really up to you. Most designers already have the computer covered which can be the biggest hurdle on this path. Some sort of microphone is required, as well as some sort of recording software. That is about it. And the great thing is that when it comes to software, there are both free and premium options that rank highly among users. And if your computer is a laptop with a decent built-in microphone, then three of your bases are already covered.

If you plan to add an interview or call in element to your show then naturally things get more complicated, as does the equipment or software necessary to pull it off. Skype is a wonderful free tool for being able to connect with others and have them on the podcast and there are free programs like MP3 Skype Recorder that will do just that. Record your entire call and save it as an .mp3 file. So high priced mixers and attachments are not that necessary for a more modest program. Mac users may find getting started particularly easy if they already have Garageband installed. It even has added sound clips and effects to juice up your program that free apps like Audacity lack.

More Tools and Resources

  • TalkShoe is a web based service that allows you to create calls and have podcast participants join in on the show.
  • Propaganda Podcasting Software is a relatively inexpensive program for windows users for recording their shows.
  • Adobe Audition CS5.5 is Adobe’s premium recording solution.
  • Podcasting Tools is a site that can help point you in the right direction with any of your podcasting needs.

The Grind

Like with anything, there is a fair amount of work involved with putting a podcast together that also needs to be considered in this discussion. The grind is still fairly easy in comparison to most, however there are a couple of areas where you are going to need a little guidance. For example, in order to get started delivering your podcast to your audience, you are going to need to consider, coordinate, and implement a delivery system. The web is full of services to help you connect your podcast with an audience, iTunes, Podcast Alley, and so many more. WordPress users can also take advantage of various plugins that help in this area as well.

One of the most important elements to this delivery system, especially if you intend for users to be able to subscribe to your feed, or to set up that feed through these various sites and services, is to create and manage an .xml file for your podcast. Also when you begin trying to calculate how much time you must invest into the show, you have to account for not only the recording time, but also the time it takes to edit the show together, adjust your .xml file, create a blog entry for the new episode (if applicable), and the time it takes to convert and upload the necessary files. So it can become quite a project depending on the scope you have taken with it.

The Gab

Before when we mentioned the personality that the format carries with it, that was to highlight how important it is you bring some of this to the show yourself. If you want your show to connect with the audience, then the host tends to have to be somewhat personable, relatable, or otherwise bring something vibrant and exciting to the table. The gift of the gab is a common phrase that does apply in this context. In order for your podcast to rise among the rabble then you need to be able to engage your audience, and it tends to take a bit of that gift to make this happen.

The Bar

Below are some active design based podcasts that come highly recommended, and are certainly worth checking out. Especially if you are considering starting a podcast of your own, the bar has been set by these fantastic design related casts that have come before you, so you might want to give them a listen to see what is already being done, and how.

Workers of the Web

Web Workers, UNITE! Witness the molten glow of pixels as they strike your screen-burned face. Now raise your calloused, carpal tunnel twisted fist into the air and scream, “I. AM. A WEB WORKER!”

TEDTalks

Each year, the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference hosts some of the world’s most fascinating people: Trusted voices, and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses. These podcasts capture the most extraordinary presentations delivered from the TED stage.

SitePoint Podcast

News, opinion, and fresh thinking for web developers and designers. The official podcast of sitepoint.com.

Think Vitamin Radio

Think Vitamin Radio is a bi-weekly podcast, typically around 20 minutes in length. Topics will include web design, web development, and web applications as well as news and views from host Keir Whitaker with Ryan Carson and Mike Kus.

37signals Podcast

A look at the world of 37signals, the Chicago-based web application company. Discussions about business, design, experience, simplicity, and more. Featuring Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

The Boagworld Show

Boagworld is a podcast for all those involved in designing, developing or running a website on a daily basis. The show is divided into seasons consisting of 6 episodes. Each season covers a particular topic and is accompanied by an associated ebook. They also interview leading figures in the world of web design including people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Jeremy Keith and Andy Clarke.

Designer Roundtable Podcast

The Designer Roundtable Podcast is a podcast about design, business and freelance. Come chat with us!

Design Matters with Debbie Millman: 2009-2011

Design Matter with debbie Millman is a thought-provoking internet podcast, which profiles industry-leading graphic designers, change agents, artists, writers and educators.

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About the Author

Robert Bowen is an emerging author, celebrated podcaster and poet, and most recently the co-founder and imaginative co-contributor of the creative design and blogging duo at the Arbenting and Dead Wings Designs.

Comments and Discussions
  • S.K. (Insfired), 27 May 2011

    Podcast is certainly an overlooked medium in the design industry. Thanks for listing existing shows on the subject!

    • Robert Bowen, 28 May 2011

      I agree it is somewhat overlooked. Glad we could shine a spotlight in that direction!

  • inspirationfeed, 27 May 2011

    Wonderful article, enjoyed this alot!

  • german, 28 May 2011

    never know that 37signals has own podcast :) thx.

    • Robert Bowen, 28 May 2011

      Now you do…and knowing is half the battle! ;)

  • Dev @ wpkube, 28 May 2011

    Internet Post. Podcast is something that has been overlooked in design industry.

    Thanks for reminding us with this wonderful article.

  • Theo, 28 May 2011

    Holly podcast Robert, that’s great!

  • Robert Bowen, 28 May 2011

    Thanks for all the kind words, everyone! Glad that the post landed and has gotten more in the community moving in this direction. Either as listeners or contributors, we need more!

  • Pete Hjemmeside, 30 May 2011

    To many podcast’s to little time…

    :-)

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