Ben's Top 3 Non-Obvious Design Resources for Designers of All Stripes


Ben Wilson
Ben Wilson

on 1/5/2016

A good understanding of design is crucial to almost every role inside an agency. Not just “graphic design” but design in general – understanding how the things we create are perceived and used. How we get better at design is by deepening our understanding of the motivations and incentives of the people viewing and using the things we build.

The following is a brief list of some of the entertaining and enlightening series that I listen to and watch on a regular basis which have broadened my understanding of design:

99% Invisible


“A tiny radio show about design, architecture, and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.”

Originally a podcast focused on architecture (sounds like a winning combination, no?), 99% Invisible has diversified to include anything related to design – sound, medicine, flags, buildings that used to be Pizza Huts, you name it. Always crisply produced and under 20 minutes or so, each “99PI” is the perfect two-bite audio snack for your inspiration… or binge-listening.

Greatest hits: Episode 38: The Sound of Sport (sound production for TV sports), Episode 65: Razzle Dazzle (camoflage), Episode 76: The Modern Moloch (roads, again) … many, many more.

Roman Mars, show-runner for 99PI even had the opportunity to bring his episode on “flags” to the TED stage:

You can subscribe to 99% Invisible here: http://99percentinvisible.org/category/episode/page/20/ (link goes to page 1 of their archives… you are welcome).

Every Frame a Painting


Film school, 101. To a major film fan like myself (who is blissfully unaware of the real artistry of film), Tony Zhou has cracked open the world of cinematography and filmmaking with his “Every Frame a Painting” series. For those of us, like me, who are blissfully unaware of the real craft behind filmmaking, his tight, short, yet clip-dense episodes expose and dissect editing, dialogue, camera angles, animation, fight scenes, and more.

Want more fun? Watch the episodes through and pay attention, then turn on the closed captions and re-watch. How many of the films did you recognize?

Greatest hits: Jackie Chan – How to Do Action Comedy, Silence of the Lambs – Who Wins the Scene?, Chuck Jones – the Evolution of an Artist


The Freakonomics Podcast

While this hip economics podcast isn’t specifically about design, I will tell you that it has much more to do with our craft than you might think. I’m sure your eyes just glazed over when I said “economics” – but with Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner dig into the big problems of the world and uncover the incentives and motivations that drive us as rational humans and consumers every day. Sounding more familiar? As a creative type, project manager, or user-experience-minded strategist, you’d be hard-pressed not to put some some nugget of Freakonomics learning into play while attempting to attract, retain, and convert your prospective audience.

Greatest hits: Why are Japanese homes disposable?, What do skating rinks, ultimate frisbee and the World have in common?, The Upside of Quitting.



In the same vein as Freakonomics, the NPR Money podcast deals a lot with economics and the everyday effects thereof. Recently, they published “A or B” – an episode that delved into A/B testing. In fact, they A/B tested different intros to their podcast (possibly the first experiment of it’s kind?) Worth a listen:


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