Five great podcasts for communicators, writers and designers

Last month I attended a presentation by Stephan Sagmeister at the Broadway Theatre. He’s a renowned graphic designer based in New York City, with a client list including HBO, Time Warner and the Rolling Stones. His talk centred on achieving happiness as a person and as a designer, but you could apply his message to any creative field. He stressed the importance of making time to create beyond your typical client work. Often, paid work takes precedence (as it should), but it’s important to carve out time to create simply for the sake of it. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for an article, but if no one is paying me to write it, it goes to the back burner and I keep telling myself I’ll get to it “tomorrow” or “next week.” Needless to say, his message resonated with me.

Stephan takes a sabbatical every seven years. He travels and doesn’t take on any client work during that time. Instead, he creates whatever he feels like. One of those creations is his documentary, The Happy Film

The Happy Film Sagmeister

Following his presentation, there was an after party at Amigos. I headed there with a few friends for drinks and free nachos (sponsored by the local chapter of the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), who organized the event). It turns out Stephan had missed his flight the previous day, so the GDC saved one night on his hotel room booking, which they offset by buying nachos for everyone (great idea!). When Stephan’s table ran out of nachos he came and sat with my friend and I, asking if he could share ours.

I hadn’t intended to go introduce myself earlier that evening. What would I say? I’m a writer, not a graphic designer, so I wasn’t sure where I’d even start. However, when he came to our table I remembered I had just listened to a podcast interview with his partner, Jessica Walsh — with whom he founded the design firm Sagmeister & Walsh.

Jessica, along with Timothy Goodman, was a guest on Debbie Millman’s Design Matters podcast. The two discussed their new book, 40 Days of Dating, which will soon be turned into a movie. That podcast episode gave me something to chat with Stephan about, which led to him telling us a funny anecdote about the first time he met Debbie Millman.

Podcasts are how I stay informed about the world of journalism, writing and design. A friend recently asked me how I carve out the time to listen to so many. I explained that I find that the format easy to squeeze into my everyday life. I listen to podcasts when I’m driving, when I’m cooking, and when I’m eating lunch. I listen to them when I fold laundry, when I wash the dishes and clean the house. Almost everyone has time to squeeze in a podcast or two.

Here are five podcasts I’d recommend to anyone interested in communications, journalism, writing and/or design:

  • Design Matters with Debbie Millman – Debbie expertly interviews graphic designers, artists, writers and educators. Her recent interviews with Julia Turshen and Elle Luna were favourites of mine.
  • The Longform Podcast – A weekly podcast hosted by Aaron LammerMax Linsky, and Evan Ratliff, the three writers interview journalists who write longform articles. I loved the Q&A with Sarah Maslin Nir, the reporter for The New York Times, who recently published an exposé of labour practices in the nail salons of New York. I also enjoyed the episode with writer Rachel Syme — particularly when she discusses her interview style and practices.
  • Employee of the Month with Catie Lazarus – Catie interviews actors, authors, TV writers, comedians and even Martha Wainwright (the later being a very entertaining episode) about the work that they do, and the “why” and “how” they do it.
  • Slate’s Double X Gabfest – Hosted by Hanna Rosin, June Thomas and Noreen Malone (Hanna and June write for Slate, Noreen is a former writer for Slate and current senior editor at New York magazine), they discuss current events, media, pop culture, and feminist issues.
  • Book Review by The New York Times – Because 99.99% of writers love to read.

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