Thanks to podcasts, it’s officially a golden age for the spoken word. Talented and fascinating people offering their views and skills to anyone who cares to click ‘play’ or ‘download’. Usually for free.
As a creative person, you owe it to yourself to fill your creative tank with a rich fuel of inspiration and knowledge from a wide range of interesting subjects – because you never know which direction your creative engine will need to take you next.
So, listen to these podcasts and let them take you to new creative horizons!
1: Being Freelance
The Being Freelance podcast does pretty-much what it says in the title – this podcast talks to many, many people who have made a success of… being freelance!
Presenter, Steve Folland, has spent the better part of five years putting together a very polished show.
Each episode features a creative practitioner – a freelancer – who has achieved a measure of success. Folland has talked to copywriters and bloggers, photographers and illustrators, designers, strategists and consultants of various stripes. They tell their stories, how they got where they are, and what they do to stay there. These are lessons any creative can learn from, whether you’re freelance or not.
The episodes get straight to the point and generally clock-in at the 30-40 minutes mark, so you have no excuse to not drop in regularly.
Folland also manages a Being Freelance Community on Facebook – where freelancers can meet and support each other.
2: North v South
The north-south divide is a big feature of English culture. It hasn’t erupted into a full-blown civil war (yet) but it is something that separates the English from each other by a few hundred miles of geography and generations of mutual disdain.
The North v South podcast, which “is, and isn’t about design”, features Yorkshire-born illustrator Rob Turpin, who trades under the name This Northern Boy, and Jonathan Elliman, a graphic and web designer whose studio can be found down south, in Hampshire. Together, they demonstrate that the north-south divide doesn’t really exist – it doesn’t really matter where you’re from, nor where you are, all that matters is what you do.
Like many podcasts, this is just a chat between like-minded friends. One of the bug-bears with such podcasts is they can ramble on for hours, where this one typically comes in at a tidy 50 minutes-ish.
What makes this podcast so useful is, yes, that they talk about the differences and the similarities in the design and illustration worlds, but they also talk about their own lives and jobs, their own problems with self-confidence and work-flow. This offers an insight that anyone working creatively can learn from and be inspired by.
And, if that doesn’t sell you on North v South, there are always the pies!
3: Arrest All Mimics: The Creative Innovation Podcast
Another northern boy pumping out quality podcasts, is Ben Tallon. His Arrest All Mimics podcast is taking a short break at the moment, but there is an archive of over 140 episodes to catch up on while he’s away.
Tallon is a passionate and energetic advocate for the power of creativity in work, and of the importance of freelancing, and he believes that knowledge is power. When you’re in business, you need help and advice on how to run a successful business. To this end, Ben shares his own knowledge and experience, as well as that of his expert interviewees, who come from many different creative fields.
4: Resourceful Designer
This podcast is run by Canadian graphic designer, Mark Des Cotes. He generally presents the show himself, and uses it as a platform to present talks on the various realities of running a small creative business. As the name suggests, Des Cotes’ podcast is designed to help make creative people more resourceful.
His ambition, then, is to help designers spend more of their day doing the fun stuff, because the business stuff is sorted. As such, any creatives can learn valuable lessons from the inspiring stories he tells.
He promotes the ‘home based’ business model, the privileges and the problems associated with it, and he discusses the week-by-week running of his own business. He talks about pitching (which he still has to do) and about business partnerships, he talks about his process and the technology he uses.
His matter-of-fact style helps demystify the business of running a small business, and his self-confidence (which never spills over into arrogance – he’s Canadian, remember) is contagious.
This British podcast isn’t nearly as niche as its name suggests. As with many of the other podcasts we’re featuring here, the stories this podcasts tells can offer suggestions and inspiration to creatives in any number of disciplines.
Award-winning logo-designer, Ian Padget, interviews a wide range of successful creatives, business-people and entrepreneurs, and they discuss subjects that relate to any creative practice: such as networking, strategy, creating a niche and marketing your business.
This frank episode features an interview with entrepreneur, Abi Lemon, about her issues with mental health. Something which many creatives deal with.
6: 99% Invisible
The brainchild of journalist, Roman Mars, these aren’t podcasts in the usual manner. They don’t feature a monologue or a conversation around a microphone. Instead, these are audio documentaries, layering commentary with interviews and audio recorded on location, mixed with music and sound effects.
These documentaries cover architecture, history and technology, but they focus on “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world”.
Asking how and why things are the way they are, is a core skill for creatives. So, while the subjects might not directly relate to your work, these documentaries are fascinating brain-food.
The 99% Invisible website also offers written articles on a similar range of subjects.
7: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
Unlike the other podcasts we’ve discussed, this is a limited series – so you’ll have no problem binge-listening to the whole collection.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and, following on from her exploration of creativity, she gave one of the most celebrated TEDTalks – 18 million views and counting – and she also created this series of podcasts.
These interviews are heavy on supporting and inspiring creativity – Gilbert’s interest is in the creative process and the way people overcome creative obstacles. She calls up creative people from all walks of life and encourages them to share their own creative journeys. In her capacity as a successful novelist, she can offer support and advice – and, it has to be said, she’d make an excellent teacher!
As well as offering her own invaluable insights – as a practicing creative, struggling with keeping the creative tap flowing – Gilbert talks to other professional (not just other writers) about the magic of creativity. You’ll find dancers, photographers, comedians, and even the odd million-selling, award-winning novelist.
8: TED Radio Hour
Since we’ve mentioned TEDTalks, it’s only right we share with you the TED Radio Hour, which bundles together those 15-minute TED Talks by theme to give you approximately an hour of distilled wisdom.
Hosted by Guy Raz, these ‘greatest hits’ compilations explore the emotions, insights, and discoveries that make us human. The TED Radio Hour calls itself “a narrative journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, and new ways to think and create”. We could all do with some of that, don’t you think?
A couple of jumping-on points include this episode, which discusses the importance of play in helping keep people productive and sane.
While this episode looks at some of the ways modern technology is turning from science fiction to present day fact:
9: BBC Arts & Ideas
This is the podcast version of the Radio 3 show ‘Free Thinking’. Episodes are uploaded about three times a week and, as the name suggests, they look at the arts and the ideas behind them. They bring the resources (and the reputation) of the BBC to look at history and culture, they draw on the expertise of artists, writers and academics to discuss the ideas that shape our lives and the links they have to the past.
Even presented by the always amiable Matthew Sweet, this can be a bit of a challenging listen, but it never hurts to have a few long words thrown at you, now and then. Listening to academics talking passionately about their subjects can often offer up ideas and inspirations which creatives can apply to their own thinking about their creative work.
The thinking is the bit clients rarely pay you for – because it can look an awful lot like doing nothing – but it’s the bit that is most important. Arts and Ideas is certainly food for thought.
10: Joe Rogan Experience
You know how British comedians tend to be fairly unassuming types, possibly a bit shambolic in appearance, who often make themselves the butt of their own jokes? Joe Rogan is an American comedian who is ripped, tattooed and a Mixed Martial Arts commentator. They do things very differently in America! But, what Rogan shares with all great comedians is a fearless intelligence.
Let’s be honest, this is a chat-show. But, what makes the show different is the depth of the research Rogan does, and the time he gives his guests to talk. When a celebrity appears on a TV chat show – whether its Graham Norton or Jimmy Kimmel – they get about five minutes to talk. With Joe Rogan, they talk ’til they’re done. Yes, they promote the thing they’re trying to sell, but they very quickly take the chance to talk about something else. At length.
Want to spend two hours listening to Rob Zombie talk about everything from impostor syndrome to channelling his rage? Check. Fancy listening to Prof. Richard Dawkins spending an hour talking about existential angst, faith and atheism? Here you go!
The other thing that impresses about this show – is the frequency Rogan turns out new episodes – sometimes daily – and he’s been doing it for ten years, so there is a vast archive of interviews to explore.
You might see this as the yin to Joe Rogan’s yang.
One of those fairly shambolic British comedians, mentioned above, is Richard Herring, who has been a serial podcaster for many years.
In this series (the rather unhelpful name of which is a contraction of Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast), Herring mostly talks to other comedians. Why should you care? Well, comedians are creatives. They also tend to be successful small-business people.
Get two time-served comedians together (in front of an audience) and you’ll get a wildly divergent stream-of-nonsense, interspersed with cultural insights and behind-the-scenes revelations.
12: Making Sense with Sam Harris
No list of significant podcasts is complete, without a healthy dose of Harris. He is a philosopher and a doctor of neuroscience who, as well as hosting this podcast, also produces a meditation app.
Harris has a brain the size of a planet, which he applies to political, social and historical subjects, as well as to understanding cutting-edge technology. This podcast is a great way to get some perspective on the modern world – and that deeper understanding is something that a creative can feed into their thinking process.
Here, he spends two hours talking to Stephen Fry about what motivates the swathe of creative endeavours Fry has engaged in, over the years.
While here, he looks at AI in healthcare and considers where Artificial intelligence is now, and where it can be in the future.
Over to you
Hopefully you’ll find some new and inspiring listening here. But what would you recommend we listen to? Share your thoughts and we could put together another list of podcasts which will help creatives like you fill up their think-tank and fire-up their creative engines.