is the design of kevin kennedy

Listen While You Work

The life of a graphic designer can be a lonely one, especially when working remotely.

Early on in my career I began to grow weary of only listening to music during the day. For starters, I began to feel disconnected from the world at large. When news stories broke or some hot topic became a conversation in the mass media, I was still staring at brackets and pixels.

I started hearing references to Podcasts right when I got out of college, but I wouldn’t actually investigate them until years later. At its core, a podcast is just an audio file. Apple’s iTunes software and other streaming services have enabled methods by which this audio files can be automatically downloaded or streamed to desktop and mobile devices.

Most podcasts these days are on a weekly schedule, some are biweekly, and still others are daily, much like a traditional radio show.

Today, my podcast appetite is quite large. I subscribe to about 40 podcasts, and I currently have 95 downloaded, but un-listened to tracks. My tastes range from comedy to technology to art. I have deleted many, unsubscribed to some, only to re-subscribe to them later. I have some podcasts I only listen to on laundry days when I can give them my full attention. I have others that I like to put on in the background while I am working, and still others that I listen to while cooking or getting ready to leave the house.

The ones I save for laundry days are the ones I probably enjoy the most. These are story-driven, beautifully produced, and typically have a life on real radio in addition to their digital form.

Below is a sample of some of my personal favorites. These are the ones I would recommend to anybody new to the form.

This American Life
This is that show you hear on NPR that makes you stay in your car after you arrive somewhere to hear the end of a particular segment. Ira Glass is truly a master of the form, and every week his team produces some of the most engaging and powerful stories I’ve ever heard. The music, the voiceovers, the themes, there is nothing I don’t love about this show.

WNYC’s Radio Lab
Truly a revelation. Think of it as science plus audio art. This is a show you should not only subscribe to, but go back and download all the older episodes as well. It is best enjoyed with a set of headphones because they are pushing the limits of this form, and each episode is a joy to behold.

Yet another NPR darling, is there a theme developing here? This show has a format similar to the above two shows, but it focuses mostly on taking things you know or think you know, and blowing them up in your face. They call it the “hidden side of everything.” One of the most recent episodes contemplates how much a human soul is worth. Awesome.

The Moth
A version of this show gets produced on NPR as well, but the podcast is a unique thing unto itself. The format here is individual story tellers getting up on stage and telling a story live to an audience, without notes. There are no themes or guiding principles, so every episode becomes a grab bag of human moments. There are stories about running with the bulls, the heartbreak of young love, and growing up under dictatorial rule. For this one, I also recommend a box of tissues.

And that’s my list. About once a week I still check in to the iTunes podcast page to see what’s new, and more often than not, I find another stream I want to subscribe to.