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15 Podcasts that Inspire Creativity

Sep 29 2016

by Neil Stevenson & Jane Ha

We're living in a golden age of audio. Whatever your interest, passion, or taste, there's a podcast out there that will cater to it, available free of charge. These podcasts don't just provide entertainment while commuting or walking the dog, they also provide fuel for creativity, by opening doors into unfamiliar cultures or scenarios. We asked IDEO designers to nominate the podcasts that they find most inspiring. 

Podcasts 1

1. Myths & Legends

“This podcast tells original stories that have become myths, in cultures ranging from the Romans and Greeks through to Disney princesses. Understanding how common themes have turned up in stories through the ages helps me think about fundamental human needs and behaviors that stay unchanged over time.” Listen here.

2. On Being

“This podcast considers the ‘big questions of life’ through interviews with creatives like Yo-Yo Ma, Paulo Coelho, and Sarah Kay. It reminds me that our human condition is so much more vast than we could ever fathom, and that the answers to the secrets of our existence are mere approximations, at best.” Listen here.

3. a16z

“This is an in-house podcast from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which is famous for the phrase ‘software is eating the world.’ It’s not a ‘creative’ podcast per se, but it covers bleeding edge technology and indicates emerging fields and mediums for creative expression, new experiences, and potential effects on society at large.” Listen here.

Podcasts 2

4. Meet the Composer

“I find this podcast incredibly inspiring because it asks the listener to really engage with contemporary classical music. It's both exploration and art criticism, a prompt to get out there and listen more deeply, and a glimpse into a small and vibrant world that really only exists in New York and LA.” Listen here.

5. The Moment with Brian Koppelman

“Koppelman talks to creative folks about their creative process, how they do what they do, and the ‘moment’ that changed things for them. He's able to be very vulnerable, so his guests open up as well. This podcast always makes me feel more sane. Or at least like I belong to some really awesome club of weirdos.” Listen here.

6. Radiolab

“I’m inspired by the fascinating science and the polished stories, but most of all by the sound design. The way the show experiments with sound to tell better stories inspires me to think about how to make the experiences I create more engaging.” Listen here.

Podcasts 3

7. The Allusionist

“Linguistic adventures with the very funny Helen Zaltzman. This show reminds me that language is so mutable and fungible. And that when we humans talk with each other, it is a miracle that we know what the other person is saying.” Listen here.

8. Death, Sex and Money

“This is a podcast about the big questions in life. It reminds me of how to talk to people about sensitive topics and get deep insights from individual stories that speak to both the commonality and the variety of the human experience.” Listen here.

9. Magic Lessons

“Elizabeth Gilbert's creativity podcast features her interviewing people about how they overcome the fears that are inherent in the creative process, and calling up famous creatives to get their input. I like the fact that she actually provides advice to her guests, and acknowledges the challenges we all face in being creative.” Listen here.

Podcasts 4

10. Song Exploder

“Musicians and artists break down a track and talk about their process. A lovely parallel to any designer’s process. We hosted the creator of the podcast at IDEO earlier this year and he talked about his background as a graphic designer and how that’s influenced his approach to the show.” Listen here.

11. Becoming SuperHuman

“This show interviews people who have achieved ‘superhuman’ performance in their field in order to understand their strategies. The podcast provides insights into the lives of people who live at extremes, which provides inspiration for designing ways to meet more conventional human needs.” Listen here.

12. Imaginary Worlds

“This a is podcast about science fiction and fantasy worlds, both about how they are created and why audiences are able to suspend their disbelief. Of all forms of creativity, I figure that creating a fictional universe is the most expansive, and get inspired by such a broad-brush imaginative exercise.” Listen here.

Podcasts 5

13. 99 Percent Invisible

“This podcast reminds me that pretty much everything in the world has been designed, and that there are so many opportunities to improve things. I also love to hear the backstories behind things that have been designed and are now part of our everyday existence. It reminds me that so many things could easily have turned out differently.” Listen here.

14. Sampler

“Like the name suggests, this show features samples of other podcasts. I love it because it introduces me to other podcasts that I would never have known about or thought to try. And it's the unexpected or different stuff that turns out to be most inspiring.” Listen here.

15. TED Radio Hour

“This podcast repackages TED Talks into an accessible radio format. The way the show focuses on shared human themes, such as ‘growing up’ and ‘becoming wise,’ helps me zoom out my perspective and realize how the things I look at in life and in my work can be connected.” Listen here.



Honorable mentions: Surprisingly Awesome, The Memory Palace, Invisibilia, The Moth, WTF, Theory Of Everything, Planet Money, This American Life.

Thanks to Chris, Magen, Andrea, Grace, Maggie, Geoff, Jayant, Deirdre, Piper and everyone else who suggested podcasts.

Header illustration by Jane Ha.

  • Neil Stevenson

    Executive Portfolio Director, IDEO Chicago

    Neil Stevenson is on a mission to understand creativity and find new ways to enable and encourage it in others. He's particularly interested in how the slowly-evolving human brain interacts with the rapidly-changing tech environment we live in, and the strange and wonderful new behaviors that emerge as a result.

  • Jane Ha

    Visual Interaction Designer, IDEO San Francisco

    Jane is a designer with a notorious reputation for drowning her house plants in love. If she’s not whispering sweet nothings to her variegated rubber plant, she’s finding some other crafting hobby to obsess over, then discard shortly after.

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