Wireframe S2 Episode 4: When Everything Looks Like Good Design

“When Everything Looks Like Good Design” by Lucas Wakamatsu

We’re back from a brief hiatus in season two of “Wireframe” with an all new episode. You should definitely listen to it because it’s great, but the returning podcast that you really don’t want to miss this week is “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.” That show is always hilarious, but it kicked off its second season on Monday with a phenomenal interview with David Letterman. The meeting of these two late night giants makes for a delightful treat for any comedy fan. It’s also a sterling example of how the podcast format can combine comedy and reflection like no other.

Back on topic though: this week’s “Wireframe” tackles the aesthetic monoculture that pervades the design of digital products circa 2019. Basically the show spends twenty-five minutes trying to answer the question: “Why does everything on the Internet look the same these days?” Listen below or subscribe in your favorite podcast player:

This topic has been on my mind for some time, inspired in part by insights like this tweet below from OH no Type Co, which almost says it all.

It’s hard to argue that this trend has abated much in the time since. Recent redesigns of Uber and Slack’s brands attest that, at the very least, we’re in the midst of some kind of prevailing stylistic trend. And while even calling it a trend might sound pejorative, the episode is not nearly as interested in judging the trend as much as it’s interested in trying to unpack they why and how of it.

To do this, we brought on a few amazing guests: designer and critic extraordinaire Jessica Helfand and critic and writer Cliff Kuang (our first returning guest of the show—Cliff helped kick us off way back in the first episode of our first season with an amazing story about UX at Three Mile Island), both of whom give this trend some much needed perspective. We also brought on Emily Heyward, founder of design and branding agency Red Antler, a company that has been instrumental in the popularity of many of the brands that have come to define this current moment in design history.

As with each episode, there’s plenty more background on this topic in a companion blog post at Adobe. If you’re not familiar with “Wireframe,” it’s a unique kind of design podcast produced by Adobe and Gimlet Creative and hosted by yours truly. Instead of merely interviewing well known designers, we dig into the world of interaction design via heavily researched reporting and engaging narratives. In other words, stories instead of résumés. If you liked today’s episode, be sure to check out all six of the installments from our first season as well.

Art by Lucas Wakamatsu, who is illustrating each episode of this season.