Today marks the debut of “Wireframe,” a podcast about user experience design brought to you by Adobe and Gimlet Creative—the host is yours truly. You can listen to the first episode embedded above, but be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss each week’s new episodes.
There are a ton of podcasts about design out there, but almost every one of them follows a standard interview format: the host welcomes a famous designer, asks him or her about how they got their start, goes over their background, their job, their challenges etc. Some of these podcasts are terrific; I’ve been lucky enough to have been interviewed by some wonderful hosts on shows just like that.
“Wireframe” is different though. Its format is the kind of high-quality, deeply researched storytelling you might be more familiar with from public radio, or shows like “This American Life.” There are interviews, of course, but instead of a single interview subject, each episode might feature snippets from interviews with as many as four or five different people. What brings these voices together is the theme for each episode. In the first episode out today, the theme is the role that user experience design has played in some near-disasters in American history, and how that has influenced the way we all think about design and technology. Future episodes will cover design’s role in city services, the origins and impact of emoji, the controversy of addictive design, and more. In short, this show is about stories, not résumés.
The ambition here is twofold. First, we wanted to elevate the discussion around design so that it’s treated with the same seriousness, thoughtfulness and sense of fun as any general interest subject matter—arts, culture, technology, sports etc. It’s surprisingly uncommon to hear or read about design in this manner, as we’re much more accustomed to how-to tutorials or inside-baseball articles. It’s much rarer to find stories about design that are exhaustively researched and fact-checked, that are produced to professional broadcasting standards, and that take a “big picture” view of the impact of our craft. And it’s no wonder why; each episode of “Wireframe” took dozens of hours of research, writing, recording, editing and production.
The second goal here is to talk about design in a straightforward, engaging way that draws in not just seasoned designers but also a wider audience of people who are curious about our craft. Put another way, we wanted to show how design is relevant to the world at large.
That’s why we partnered with Gimlet, a company with a fantastic track record for creating hugely popular general interest podcasts. They brought an invaluable journalistic sensibility that focused the whole effort on telling stories in clear, compelling language that anyone, regardless of their level of design expertise, can listen to and actually enjoy. It’s a fine line to walk between conveying the myriad of complex ideas behind design and portraying its wide reach in plain, accessible terms. But in my view it was exactly the right challenge. As I’ve said in the past, the more lucidly design can explain itself to the general population, the more the world will value its benefits.
This podcast has been a true passion project for me over the past several months. More goes into each episode of a show like this than I ever had any idea, and it was so humbling—and fun—to learn a bit of it from the folks at Gimlet. I honestly think you’ll get a kick out of it. Please give it a listen, subscribe in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, and let me know what you think.