Host Liam Spradlin reflects on the first 25 episodes of the podcast

Liam Spradlin
Jul 20 · 23 min read

In this episode, guest host Barbara Eldredge turns the tables, interviewing regular host Liam Spradlin about his own creative journey and reflecting on the themes that unite the first 25 episodes of Design Notes.

Listen to the interview 👆


Transcript

Barbara Eldredge: Welcome to Design Notes.

Liam Spradlin: Thank you. It’s-

Barbara: (laughs)

Liam: … very interesting to be welcomed. (laughs)

Barbara: Today we’re gonna be doing a little look back at some of the past episodes, and also dig into who you are, and what you do, and the lessons you’ve learned hosting. So to kick it off, Liam, who are you, what do you do? (laughing)

Liam: That is a profound question. I am Liam, I’m a designer, I am originally from Kentucky. I moved to New York in 2015. I first came to New York on the advice of a psychic.

Barbara: What?

Liam: (laughs)

Barbara: Okay, we gotta, you gotta explain that.

Liam: There was a time back when I was in college when I was a photographer, I worked for a small studio in town where I went to school. And one day at school during lunch they were having a psychic fair (laughs) so I went upstairs and talked to the psychic, and it was fine, whatever. I don’t remember anything she said besides us coming around to the fact that I was into photography. And, um, she was like, “Well, have you ever been on a real fashion shoot?”

Barbara: (laughs)

Liam: And I was like, “Oh, gee, I guess not.” (laughs) And she was like, “Oh, I know this great photographer in New York. I’ll connect you. Maybe you could assist on a shoot, or something.” And I was like, “Okay, whatever.” (laughs)
Barbara: Oh, so the psychic wasn’t like, “I predict that you will go to New York City-

Liam: No, no.

Barbara: … the psychic was just-

Liam: She was like, “You’re gonna go to New York City.”

Barbara: (laughs)

Liam: “I’m gonna make you go to New York City.” (laughs) And she actually did it, and I went, and it was such a chance occurrence, but it was so important to me.

Barbara: And how did you get from photography to design?

Liam: It’s a hard question. I mean there was a certain point that I reached with photography, at the time, where it wasn’t an industry that I was super happy about the idea of participating in, for a variety of reasons. And also, I reached a point with the craft where I felt like I had taken the picture that I wanted to take, at that point. I would go on after college to do more freelance gigs and stuff like that, for money, but I don’t think it was my passion-

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: … anymore. And in school I didn’t study design, I studied sociology and studio art. And my rational for that was just that those were things I was interested in. My story on it is that there’s something at the intersection of the way that people experience the world, and interact with things, and art, that is represented in design.

Barbara: I wanna connect the dots from psychic telling you to come to New York, to you sitting here at Google as a design advocate-

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: … hosting this show. Maybe it would help if you explained what a design advocate is, and what you do?

Liam: It’s a question that I feel like I answer all the time, but the answer is always changing. What I tell people, usually, when I’m working with partners is, “I’m a designer at Google who spends a lot of time working with designers outside Google.” And those relationships take many forms. It could be me giving direct design feedback and guidance to a partner team who’s trying to solve a challenge, or implement a new feature. Or, it could be me sitting at a table with another designer, talking about what they do and how it relates to the world, and to our experience as designers, together.

Barbara: So how did you get here?

Liam: During school I started writing for a blog called Android Police.

Barbara: I’m familiar.

Liam: As I started writing for them I started getting more connected with the community, and eventually the blog and these designs and stuff connected me to community developers who were making independent apps, and then Material came out, and-

Barbara: And so that was 2014?

Liam: Yeah. So, I started working with developers on bringing their apps to Material, inventing new apps, and eventually I applied for a job at Google, and I made it all the way to the in-person interview, which was stunning to me, first of all. (laughs) And I didn’t get the job.

Barbara: Wait. What was the job?

Liam: Oh, design advocate. This was-

Barbara: You interviewed for your job you do now, and you didn’t get it?

Liam: I didn’t get it. But what I did get was feedback from the hiring committee. The feedback was basically my public speaking skills were not where they need to be for a role that’s really public facing, and has you talking a lot. Which was fair, and accurate, and true.

Barbara: But how did you feel?

Liam: Oh, how I felt was, “I will prove them wrong.” (laughing) So I started applying to conferences, and conference that I applied to was droidcon NYC, which is like a global community-run conference that happens in different places around the world. But when I was applying for that conference I noticed the company that organized it, Touchlab, I went to their website, and I saw that there was a job listing for mobile designer, and I was like, “I might as well just send in my resume.” I was at Touchlab for probably like 18 months. I worked on a huge variety of stuff, from Android apps for, like, ClassPass and Tim Hortons, to smart appliances, to sneakers that would order pizza when you press a button in the tongue, to-

Barbara: (laughs) Oh, of course.

Liam: … street kiosks. It was a really fun experience. And-

Barbara: And you also did public speaking?

Liam: Yeah. And then, eventually I felt like it was time to apply to Google again, and it just so happened that the same role was open again, and I was like, “This is pretty much what I’m doing now, except it can be my full time job.”

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: “Plus, I can be at Google where there so much cool stuff going on.” So I was like, “All right, let’s do it.” And that time I got it.

Barbara: So, maybe this is a good opportunity for us to dive into Design Notes. Because you started it before you came to Google.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I started it when I moved to New York. Um, I- I was looking at the old SoundCloud the other day, and it said three years ago.

Barbara: Wow.

Liam: So, that was when the first episode was published.

Barbara: And what sparked the idea to do a podcast, and about design, about creativity?

Liam: I distinctly remember I was going to write an article about a new app, it was about YouTube Gaming actually. It had just come out, or there was a pre-release build going around, or something, and I looked at it, and I was like, “There are a lot of really interesting decisions going on here. There’s a very unique design in some ways.” And, um, I was going to write an article called Design Notes. (laughs)

Barbara: Oh.

Liam: I don’t think I’ve ever said that before, but it’s the truth. I was going to write an article called Design Notes. It was going to point out, like piece by piece these really unique things about YouTube Gaming, and like what they’re doing, and what I thought the rational was, and what they meant for the interface. As I was writing it I was like, “Actually, this is a conversation that could be a series. Like it could be something that I talk to a lot of people about. I’m curious what other designers are doing, and what they’re thinking about, and what the important parts of their work are to them. And it would be great to talk to them. And if I can record that conversation then everyone else can hear from them, as well, and learn the things that I’m learning.” I felt like a podcast would be, I don’t know, it felt right, and it was something I hadn’t done before, so I wanted to learn about it, and I did it.

Barbara: And then when you came to Google you relaunched it?

Liam: Yeah. I-

Barbara: And so that’s the latest 25 episodes?

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: And how is that different?

Liam: It’s quite different. Before launching at Google, obviously I’d taken a little bit of a break from it. But it was something that I wanted to work on, especially after meeting the [GDS 00:07:25] team, who are the ones who run the studio that we’re recording in right now, who edit all the footage. I had talked to them about series ideas, and I was like, “Well, I have a series.” (laughs) And then I talked to [inaudible 00:07:38] Design, and I was like, “I have a series.” And Google Design was like, “Cool, that sounds like a cool series, let’s try it.”

Barbara: Yeah, I remember you sent us the link to your old episodes, and I was like-

Liam: Oh, yeah.

Barbara: … “Oh, this-

Liam: (laughs)

Barbara: … this is cool.”

Liam: And through the work of people like Victor, who did the music, and Anthony, who proposed the original concepts for the identity through you, who have so graciously edited the content to make the show not two hours long, and make it something focused, and something with a story, to Amber, and Bryn, all the folks on the team who have contributed to it, just made it better-

Barbara: Hmm.

Liam: … and more focused, and more polished, and more communicative.

Barbara: So this phase two of Design Notes has this whole team behind it, and, uh, perhaps a higher production value-

Liam: Oh, absolutely. (laughs)

Barbara: … but I suspect that there are certain things that have not changed, and part of that is you and the things that you’re interested in, and the threads that you pull out. So one of the things I wanna get into is what are some of the common themes you’ve noticed in these last 25 episodes? Or some of the moments that really stick out to you, and impact your creative work?

Liam: Yeah. Everything impacts my creative work, for sure. I think any information, or experience, or person that you encounter, there’s something in that that applies to you. It’s all related. And you can take something from that and apply it to your own life-

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: … and I think knowing how to do that is so critical, and I hope that that’s what I’m doing with the show. So everything applies to my creative work, that I’ve learned on the show. One thing that I’ve noticed that’s always the same, I don’t tend to ask questions about process that often, unless it’s like a very specific sort of process, like how do you make X? Because I found that when people talk about process it turns out that everyone who’s doing creative work, and especially design, is actually just concerned with solving problems. I also always ask people about their journey, and I had one guest recently say, “If I tell the story of how I got started in my career one more time I’m gonna scream.” (laughing) And I was like, “Well, I’m gonna ask you, but …” (laughs)

Barbara: And did they scream?

Liam: They didn’t scream-

Barbara: (laughs)

Liam: … but it’s because I explained that the reason that I ask the question about your journey is not because I wanna hear how people got started in their career. It’s not even about the answer. It’s because I want to point out the fact as often as possible that people come to this from like very different backgrounds, and directions, and perspectives. I didn’t study design school, and a lot of the folks that I’ve talked to didn’t study what they do in school, either. They came to it over time, and for different reasons, and they get something different out of it, and I think that’s so important.

Another thing that I feel like has really emerged recently is how our work relates to us, how it relates to other work, and how it relates to the world. And also, how either our identity, or some expression that we’re trying to make, flows through those relationships, and either comes out on the other side, or doesn’t.

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Break that down for me. I really like this idea of personal identity. I think it was, was it [Ksenia 00:10:58] who said, “I don’t really believe in neutrality. I think our values, and our histories, and our experiences are everywhere, and in everything we do. And instead of trying to hide them we should own it.” And she’s basically saying like, you can’t help but put yourself-

Liam: Yes.

Barbara: … in your work.

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: So that’s the identity side.

Liam: I absolutely believe that. It’s like another discussion I had recently with Conor Grebel. He said, essentially, “I try to put my experiences into my work, because I think that’s all I am, so it has to come through in whatever I make.” And I think that’s true. One’s work exists in a dialogue with one’s self. You have to recognize … well, you don’t have to, you don’t have to do anything … but (laughs) it’s important to recognize that we are in our work. And I said this in a post that I wrote, but as a designer, especially working in a corporate setting, it’s important to be able to detach yourself, and your personhood from the work that you make, but it’s impossible not to see in it your own reflection. So that’s one kind of relationship.

Barbara: I wanna tie that to Alexandra Lange’s episode, too. Because one of the things that stuck with me is that Alexandra was a design critic, and then she became a mom, and then because of that she said she couldn’t turn off her design critic-ness. And so all of these toys that she was getting, all this kid stuff, she couldn’t help but look at it and be like, “What is this trying to teach us? What is the pedagogy? What is the cultural importance of this kind of block, versus this kind of block?” And it all ties together with this common thread that you just pointed out about how we see ourselves in the things, or we can’t help but apply our own lens.

Liam: Right.

Barbara: And we should embrace that.

Liam: Yeah. There’s an impulse to moderate that-

Barbara: Hmm.

Liam: … and to say, like, “Don’t overthink it. Don’t think about things so much.” But I think it’s okay. I think it’s good, actually.

Barbara: Well, where do you think that impulse comes from?

Liam: I think for me it comes from a place, like, if we’re talking about this inability to switch off, it comes from a place of like, “Well wouldn’t things be a lot easier if I weren’t thinking about how things are designed all the time?”

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: And like certainly it would. I would just live my life and use the things that I use without thinking about it. But I also wouldn’t be myself in that case.
Barbara: One of the others threads in all of these conversations is tension between the system and intuition. And I feel like a lot of people lean maybe too hard on the system. Like they want a set of rules, we want a set of rules for how this thing should be, and how it should look and behave, and maybe they don’t trust their intuition or their identity.

Liam: Yeah. This is why I have such a problem with the term best practices-

Barbara: Ooh.

Liam: … in design. (laughs)

Barbara: Why?

Liam: It’s just that I think there’s no such thing. I think that terms like that are empty containers into which we put our ideas about the things that we want. (laughs)

Barbara: Okay. But I wanna push back on that, because you work so much with Material Design.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: With Google’s design system.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: A set of best practices.

Liam: I would disagree that they’re best practices.

Barbara: Oh.

Liam: (laughs) I think for me what Material provides is a set of components, basically like a palette of colors, all the colors in one system of Material, I would compare the entire system to a palette that you can mix to create something. Especially now that it’s more customizable. The thing that I’ve always talked about when I talk about customizing Material is that the important part of Material is the mental model that it provides about how interfaces should work, and what they’re made out of. And the rest is kind of up to you, as long as you’re respectful of that, and respectful of user expectations.

Barbara: That’s super interesting, ’cause that actually reminds me (laughs) in Mitch Paone’s episode, episode five, he talks about practicing musical scales, and so maybe like a design system is like a set of musical scales, it’s like your toolbox. And then what he does as a musician is he’ll remix it, or he’ll improvise with that tool set-

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: … to create something new.

Liam: Yeah. And he says, like, “As long as you know the song you’ll recognize it no matter how I play it.” Which I think is part of that, I call it like intuitive composition. I believe that intuition has power and design. But it’s so important to also recognize what we said earlier about how we bring our own experiences and perspectives to the design. If you’re going to impose intuitively you must collaborate. Because one’s intuition will only apply to oneself, and people like oneself.

Barbara: Ah. So- so the danger there is boxing yourself in, or only designing for people who are like you-

Liam: Yes.

Barbara: … or only for yourself.

Liam: Yes.

Barbara: How- and a way to get out of that is to collaborate?

Liam: Yes. It is to take from everything what you can.

Barbara: This is tying into that middle ground, right? So we’ve talked about like design for oneself and identity, and then there’s sort of how design relates to other design?

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: ’Cause the other thing that I remember from that Ksenya episode is the Barcelona typeface.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: Do you wanna explain that idea?

Liam: Yeah. So basically Ksenya was saying like type can absorb identity or meaning from what’s around it. So she said if a certain typeface is always used in cafés in Barcelona, before long that typeface will feel like a typeface from a café in Barcelona, even when you don’t see it in that context. So that just highlights, I think, beyond the dialog that we have with our work, the dialog that the work has with the world, and the context-

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: … in which it exists.

Barbara: That also reminds me of the William Okpo episode with Darlene and Lizzy Okpo, these fashion designers, because they talked about creating like normal looking clothes. It’s Lizzy, and she said, “Oh, we can make just another button up shirt, or- or another A-Line, whatever’s in style, but I’m just like how can I make that one rude? How do I make that so rude?” Because she wants to create something surprising. Like we know what a button down shirt looks like, but if she adds another button down shirt under it, or like a weird ruffle, or she like tweaks it in a way that it breaks that expectation, because it breaks the pattern.

Liam: Yeah. There’s something really important to that, because clothing can be a really functional design, too.

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: We think of UI in apps, I think it’s very tempting to think about that. It’s like the height of utilitarian design. It just does a purpose, and it gets you to checkout, or whatever, and that’s all we want. And in the same way, clothes can be very utilitarian, as well. But there’s a power in like achieving the utility of the object, but making it just challenging enough, just interesting enough, just unique enough, through your own expression, that it becomes something more than what it is.

Barbara: So creating something that goes beyond itself, like a design, or a technique, or a typeface that accrues this cultural meaning, and impacts the world, I do think part of that creative process is taking something that has meaning, and then flipping it, or tweaking it like-

Liam: Yes.

Barbara: … Lizzy and Darlene do. Or like taking it out of context and putting it somewhere else.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: And I feel like you’ve had a few conversations that have that-

Liam: Yes.

Barbara: … theme, too.

Liam: That is definitely another thread that has emerged, is that re-contextualization is such a powerful tool. It’s so powerful, because even removing something from its context is enough to break your expectations about what it is.

Barbara: And are you thinking about anything in particular, like do you have an example?

Liam: One example that I always go to is Talbot and Yoon from the very first episode, their soap dish. Which they do this a lot, but the soap dish-

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: … is a really concrete example.

Barbara: Well they’re architects who create-

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: … also, like beautiful designed objects and furniture.

Liam: Right. Um, so this is one concrete example, no pun intended-

Barbara: Ha.

Liam: … that, um, they have a soap dish, and it’s called the Waffle-Slab Soap Dish, and for me, um, just some guy with no experience in architecture, I was like, “That’s a really beautiful soap dish. Like that’s very nice. And it has the slots, so, you know, the water can drain out, and all that stuff. Very beautiful, and functional.” And through the interview I learned that it’s not just a beautiful soap dish. Their experience in architecture showed them that you, as an architect, can’t really own and have the things that you design in your home.

Barbara: ’Cause maybe it is the home.

Liam: It could be the home, it could be much larger than the home. Not very portable. But what they found is that they could re-contextualize a piece of that into something that could fit in your home. So they took a waffle slab, which is like an architectural component, they took that and shrunk it to the size of soap dish. And even though it represents this huge utilitarian thing that is not necessarily meant to be decorative, or meant to be enjoyed at a four-inch scale (laughs) it can be approached as a soap dish, and that’s enough.

Barbara: But it has, in a way it still carries with it all of the cultural meaning that it has as part of an iconic building.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: And yet it’s in your bathroom-

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: … and it’s this beautiful, practical object.

Liam: The reason that I’m fascinated by it is that it does carry that meaning and that history, but only if you care to access it, and you don’t have to, but it’s there.

Barbara: Oh, I love that. Because I feel like one of the things that you pull out in your conversations are these stories that make you see projects in a different way, and I think about the interview with Madeline Gannon. She’s like a technologist, and a designer working on robots, episode 11. And she did this piece that’s like a giant industrial robot arm.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: She programmed it to see people, and behave in what feels like a social manner. And just hearing her talk about this project made me think about robots differently. Do you know what I mean?

Liam: Yeah. Like even seeing a robot in person is one thing, but then feeling like this arm, like this huge arm-

Barbara: It’s like a one ton metal-

Liam: (laughs) Yeah.

Barbara: … instrument that could cut open a car.

Liam: Yeah. But it doesn’t, and it can be friendly-

Barbara: Yeah.

Liam: … and like it challenges-

Barbara: And curious.

Liam: … your idea of what that can be.

Barbara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Liam: And also what robots can be in relationship to humans.

Barbara: Ah, yes. That’s another thing that breaks the pattern of what we might expect. Like she flipped it. She took that industrial robot arm from its context in a factory, and put it in a gallery-

Liam: Right.

Barbara: … and made it something that kids would wanna play with. What other episodes are memorable to you?

Liam: I think something that still really interests me is the episode with Bennett Foddy, who did the game Getting Over it.

Barbara: This was my favorite episode.

Liam: (laughs) Because it gets at two things that I think are really important to me. The first is the idea of creating a game that’s not fun on purpose.

Barbara: (laughs)

Liam: Because again, that’s like breaking your expectation of games in the first place. But it’s also exploring the concept of the magic circle, and like game experiences, and like-

Barbara: What’s the magic circle?

Liam: The magic circle, I hope I’m getting this right, it’s a concept where basically the things that happen in a game don’t leave the circle of the game. Those experiences stay associated with that, and like don’t come into real life. So it’s the idea that in a game, while you’re playing Getting Over It, you can experience frustration, and anger, and disappointment, and all of these negative things, and really sit with them, and have some time to feel that, and understand it in a new way. And it’s safe, because it’s in the game. So you come out the other side having learned something about yourself, and about emotions, but without anything bad happening to you, which I think is important.

Barbara: That makes a lot of sense, and it goes back to this phrase that Rob Giampietro said that I love about how design is this interface to the world.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: And so that game is like, it’s a way of unlocking this part of ourselves, or interfacing with ourselves-

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: … and with emotion in a new way.

Liam: It’s like an emotional interface.

Barbara: (laughs)

Liam: The other thing that stuck out to me in that interview is, again, concepts about identity and expression. Because we talked about how, for Bennett, a game is a complete expression. Like he’s making a thing, and expressing a thing, and it’s complete, and that’s all it is. And you don’t need to change settings, like the user shouldn’t have to customize everything, they don’t need to change the colors of the game, because it’s his expression, and he wanted to emphasize with that game that there’s a person behind that, creating it. And so he has a voice over that runs through the whole game, and he’s like, “Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.” Like, “This is me. I made the game. I’m here with you. My name is in the game. I expressed something through the game.” And I think there’s something so powerful about the idea of like creating a complete expression, and knowing when you’ve done that.

Barbara: Are there any interviews, or interview stories, of things that happen behind the scenes that a listener wouldn’t know about, but that were entertaining to you, or?

Liam: Oh, um, I’ve recorded all over the place. When I’m traveling I have a set of two mikes, two stands, two shock mounts, and a handy Zoom H6 recorder, and I’ve taken that to conference rooms, art studios-

Barbara: Where’s the weirdest location you’ve recorded an episode?
Liam: The weirdest location, for sure, has to be at SPAN last year in Helsinki, because we were recording in a hotel that used to be a prison, but beyond that we were recording in the chapel of the hotel-

Barbara: Slash prison.

Liam: Yeah. And also, we couldn’t use the overhead lights because they produced some kind of interference that was picking up on the recording, so as the day went on, I mean we were running like 10 interviews or something that day, so as the day went on it got darker, and darker, and darker. (laughs) And they eventually brought us this little tiny lamp to put on the table.

Barbara: (laughs) I’d love to know, since you’ve interviewed so many people, what’s your approach to interviewing, how do you like to think about interviewing people in disciplines that you might not be so familiar with?

Liam: I love interviewing people in disciplines that I’m not familiar with, because I think that’s like the area where I can learn the most really quickly. I want to ask questions that … First of all, a note on the format of Design Notes is that I thought audio would be a really good format, because we’re talking about things that are often manifested visually, but I think it forces us to have a different conversation. And the conversation that we have is less about the work itself, and the mechanics of the work, and how it was produced, and more about the rational, the relationship that we have to the work, how people think about things, how they conceptualize the ideas that they use in their work. And so I wanna ask questions that get at those things, and get at them in hopefully a unique way, and also a way that doesn’t get too esoteric.

Barbara: How do you do that? Do you ask particular questions, or?

Liam: I do a lot of research before an interview, where I learn about the person that I’m interviewing, the work that they do, and like maybe, if I can, what they’re thinking about when they do the work. And in that research I try to find things that I haven’t encountered before. Whether it’s a thought, or an approach, or like some combination of the work that they’re doing. And I wanna ask where those things come from, and what they mean. And I think through knowing that we can at least see some common origin among creative works, and from there it will hopefully be easier to draw connections between them.

Barbara: And I know we’ve talked a lot about certain past episodes and- and threads, but do any other connections come to mind?

Liam: I guess I believe everything is related, so in some sense (laughs)-

Barbara: You’ll always find-

Liam: In some-

Barbara: … the connection. (laughs)

Liam: Yeah. Maybe it’s a cop out answer-

Barbara: No.

Liam: … there is always a connection.

Barbara: Okay. I’m gonna, I’m gonna name two episodes-

Liam: Okay.

Barbara: … and you have to find a connection.

Liam: Okay.

Barbara: Cameron Koczon, episode nine, who is a partner at Fictive Kin, and Ryan Snelson, episode 14, who redesigned Myspace. Go.

Liam: Okay. Um, I think one thing that both of them talked about, or at least that came through for me, is the idea of being experimental, and iterative, and collaborative. In Ryan’s case he has an extremely unique aesthetic that he’s established overtime in his own work. But he also worked on Myspace. He felt like during that time in Myspace’s history, because things were pretty shaken up there was an opportunity to break out of convention or expectation for what the site would do, and like try new things. And similarly I think about Cameron’s work on the Rookie site with Tavi Gevinson, and how he talked about how they have such a unique community that you could really try a lot of things, and like bring a lot of things to them through the site. And those were both unique experiences that I think gave each designer an opportunity to try new things.

Barbara: Okay. You win this round.

Liam: (laughs)

Barbara: Do you wanna try one more?

Liam: Yeah, let’s do one more.

Barbara: Okay. Let’s try, um, episode 22, Punanimation’s Bee Grandinetti-

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: … and Hedvig Ahlberg. And episode 13, Sang Mun of YAW Studio.

Liam: Hmm. Oh, I think this one is quite easy, actually.

Barbara: Ah-oh.

Liam: (laughs) I think their creative output is quite different, but I think that in both cases the people that I talked to are motivated by a mission that they have to affect positive social change. In Sang Mun’s case, he made a lot of work that dealt with ideas of surveillance and propaganda, and like how we get information, and how we encounter it, how governments and corporations can manipulate that and just basically getting people to think more about it, and also to think about the tools that they have to exist in that system and remain critical. In Punanimation’s case, they created an incredible community, in their words, “… to answer the question of where are the women in animation and motion design?” And they answered it.

Barbara: They’re here.

Liam: They’re a great community of women, trans, and non-binary folks who are doing amazing work. But both of those creative pursuits are manifestations of their causes.

Barbara: Okay. I believe you.

Liam: (laughs)

Barbara: Everything is related. (laughs) So, 25 episodes so far.

Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Barbara: I assume you’re not stopping here.

Liam: No.

Barbara: What do you have in store for the next 25?

Liam: I’ve already recorded a lot of interviews, actually.

Barbara: Ooh.

Liam: I’ve spoken to an artist who delves back into the idea of like collaborating with robots, and what that means for art and creation, and how we relate to technology, and how we can be more aware of how it influences our lives, and the things that we’re doing. I talked to an artist about the expression of human vulnerability, and how our histories can influence the things that we create. I talked to a musician and animator about, again, how our past influences our present, and how expressions of ourselves come through in a very pure way, how you can communicate something through art and design that the other person receives, reliably. Like the message comes through, perhaps with even more information than you put into it. And I’ve also talked to a couple of folks who run a band and a record label about-

Barbara: Ooh.

Liam: … how you conceptualize sonic design, and design that you can’t see, and what are the characteristics of that, how do you think about it? How do you then translate that into a visible aesthetic? How do you approach that in a strategic way so that people can receive it?

Barbara: Oh, exciting. Well I look forward to hearing all of those interviews, and more.

Liam: Yeah.

Barbara: Thank you, Liam.

Liam: Thank you.


Design Notes Podcast

A show about creative work and what it teaches us, discovering what inspires and unites us in our practice.

Liam Spradlin

Written by

Google Design

Design Notes Podcast

A show about creative work and what it teaches us, discovering what inspires and unites us in our practice.

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