Podcasts are finally mainstream, and my days are now filled with gloriously interesting design interviews, panel talks and documentaries whilst I sketch, sew and build furniture. I have always been a fan of the spoken word, whether it be audiobooks or the soothing, gentle, voices of Radio 4 playing in the kitchen, but listening to some of my design heroes discuss how they made their way from small-town makers to international brands is incredibly inspiring.
So I've put together my favourite design podcast recommendations and do please let me know if you have anymore!
A podcast featuring LA-based interior designer Kelly Wearstler
Kelly Wearstler is an endless source of inspiration for me. Her interior designs are always leaning towards the dramatic, with hints of art deco, cubism, old-time Hollywood Glamour and as much colour and shape as a Picasso painting. One of my favourite things to do is to look at the objects and accessories section of her website because it feels like you are visiting the most exquisite flea market where every piece references a thousand moments in design and yet it is so original you can't find it somewhere else.
Picture Kelly Wearstler sat on the floor of her walk-in closet, chatting down the phone to you about how she waited tables to put herself through art school, how she is continuously working to train her eye so that she finds the treasure amongst the junk, and how she has built her brand over the last twenty years.
A podcast with legendary architect and designer Dame Zaha Hadid
Now I know it's bad to speak ill of the dead, but I am yet to come across an interview with Zaha Hadid in which I like her. No matter the format she never comes off well and I am not the only person to say this, in this podcast the interviewer actually questions her on how she is perceived and how people say she is difficult. Zaha shrugs it all off as 'nonsense.'
Yet there is no denying she was a genius and listening to her talk about her life in Iraq before she came to London, her disappointment when building projects fell through and her obvious bitterness that she hadn't yet been given a project in London (this was 2015), you get a sense of a complex character and perhaps even, a slight insecurity behind the very spikey exterior.
The interview is available as an episode of Desert Island Discs on the BBC website you can download it from most podcast hosts as part of the Desert Island Discs series or here:
A podcast with interior designer Kelly Hoppen on Radio 4's The Bottom Line
This is a really interesting format because Kelly is with two of her peers from the industry (Andrew Graham, CEO Graham and Brown and Lois Jacobs, Global CEO Fitch) talking about how they develop ideas, how they learn from what sells, how they create trends for the press and how they have always had to keep a firm eye on the numbers whilst being creative.
The most interesting part for me was the interaction between East and West and how they worry about being copied in China but hope it will start to fade as design intellectual property is ever more revered. Also how the Chinese market want products that are made outside of China in Britain, Germany and the rest of Europe and the US. During my time in Hong Kong, many people said this to me as well, and it formed part of the reason that I chose to create a business that manufactures solely in Germany but has a global outlook.
A great interview with Nick Law on the Design Matters Podcast
So I can't honestly tell you much about the content of this podcast other than that he has the most beautiful Australian voice you will ever hear. Nick Law is the Chief Creative Officer of Publicis Group, he has a wife (sadly), and a ton of kids, and talks about how he was never good at much in school but began his career by drawing comics and eventually training as a graphic designer.
Now living in New York and heading up the creativity of the third largest communications company in the world it's a great story of achieving creative dreams in the corporate sphere.
All of the Design Matters podcasts are an intersting listen, from artists sharing stories of Andy Warhol in New York nightclubs or creatives explaining where the industry is going next.
A podcast with interior designer Laurence Llwelyn Bowen hilariously berating the hegemony of the Scandinavian aesthetic
So Laurence Llwelyn Bowen is divisive when it comes to opinions on his style but this radio programme is fascinating. It traces back the emergence of the Scandinavian countries from poor European outposts to world-leaders in the field of home design and how this boosted both their economy and their image. The prevalence of the Billy Bookcase (60 million all over the world) is frankly astounding, and although I agree with him that the all-white-everything is a very boring and slightly lazy approach to design, the story of 'chuck out your chintz' is an interesting one.
Look out for gems such as 'it's the blonde leading the bland' and 'it's burying the British landscape in boring' and referring to icons such as Hans Wegner as Scandi Designasaurs. They even follow an Ikea fanatic who camps outside the new stores the night before they open.
A podcast with Ceramics designer Emma Bridgewater
Get your hankys ready. Emma Bridgewater is a renowned ceramics designer who appears on Desert Island Discs talking about her childhood in a large farmhouse in the countryside, her mother's dresser with beautiful plates inside, and how her mother's tragic accident impacted on her life.
So many people who have built great businesses and enjoyed such a level of success in their professional lives, often have a sad story to tell that was going on simultaneously in their personal lives, this seems to be part of life's great balancing act. But for some reason, Emma's story really got me, and when I listened to this I had a good old sob around about the same time as she does in the interview.
Have a listen:
A design themed podcast with designer Jonathan Adler
Another from the series Design Matters, this time host Debbie Millman sits down with Jonathan Adler, the renowned ceramicist who is now a house-hold name. Jonathan Adler's motto, 'if your heirs won't fight over it, we won't make it' really sets the tone for the interview, as they discuss his sense of aesthetics mixed with a keen wit and sense of fun.
What I loved most about this podcast is that Jonathan is brutally honest about himself. Claiming to have been completely unemployable in his twenties, he paints the picture of a young man struggling to find himself, who stumbles across pottery as a way of saving himself and really makes it work. It's totally inspiring because I listen to a lot of interviews of people who seem to have been 'born into it', in the sense that they take to design and business like a duck to water. But Jonathan is the first super success story I've heard, where he really has to learn it all himself. He is even refused a post grad position on the grounds of him being utterly talent-less. Just goes to show...