As well as being a great way to make the commute more bearable, the beauty of the podcast is that they are truly a democratic medium, and one of the most unfiltered ways to access real people’s real thoughts. They can give us unique insights into people’s lives, understand society and culture, and hear from those who are truly passionate about their subjects.

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At The Big Picture we know that “You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.” (thanks for the quote Deiter Rams) so we like to see a well-chosen podcast as a way to learn as well as a way to entertain.

But whether you’re a long-time fan or new to the podcast renaissance, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, and choose where to allocate your precious listening time.

We’ve rounded up 7 of the best society, culture and design podcasts our team has been listening to recently; go on, have a listen.

How I Built This

If you’re looking for a dose of motivation and inspiration, as well as a fascinating insight into the lives of entrepreneurs, NPR’s How I Built This is the podcast for you. Each episode talks to a different person who started up a successful business and how they went about it. It narrates the journey from initial idea, the trials and tribulations, and the huge amount of hard work that people had to go through to make a success of their product / brand.

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Rough Translation

A new release from NPR, Rough Translations takes a look at the western (US focussed) rhetoric on various issues, and then directs how they’re played out in other parts in the world. Although there have only been a couple of episodes so far, they have been fascinating and we’re predicting great things to come. Their first episode about what it means to be black in Brazil compared to in America highlights a radically different way of seeing race.

Reply All

Billed as a podcast that dissects the weird, esoteric and obtuse world of the internet, Reply All is actually a great exploration of about human beings today, their behaviour, and how trends build and die.

The Food Chain

A real winner for food industry nerds, The Food Chain takes a fascinating look at the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate. Each episode explores a different facet of the food industry, such as The Unlikely Power of Cookbooks, and McAsia: what fast food can tell us about the changing global economy.

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Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell examines how perspective changes with the passing of time, and influences our understanding of the world around us. Each episode looks back on a historical event, figure or idea from a contemporary perspective and questions whether we/they were right at the time

Design Matters with Debbie Millman

An oldie but a goodie, Design Matters with Debbie Millman was the first podcast dedicated to talking about design. Debbie Millman interviews leading figures from the world of design for insightful, interesting and inspirational conversation.

This American Life

Several members of our team swear by having episodes of the long-running The American Life saved onto their phones in case of podcast emergency. Spanning a wide range of topics, they will often introduce a story or memoir or essay and then discuss it from all sides, giving you a well rounded insight into areas of life you might never have considered.

OnDesign

And as a bonus number 8 on our list, try listening to our podcast, OnDesign. In each episode we talk to a leading light in (or near) the design industry about their world. In some of our most recent episodes, we’ve spoken with John Mathers, previous CEO of Brand Union and the Design Council, and Dr Morgaine Gaye, a food futurologist. In her role, Morgaine helps some of the world’s biggest brands navigate cultural, social and political trends to predict the future of food. We spoke to her about her process, the impact of Brexit on breakfast, and gained a glimpse into what the future of categories like beer might look like.

OnDesign: Banner with John Mathers