Born and raised in Michigan, Evernote’s Jeff Zwerner attended high school at Cranbook. Connecting with the noted institution’s design resources, Jeff gained an early appreciation of Cranbook’s — and Herman Miller’s — role in American design history. The impact is clear amidst his collection of classics including Eames Molded Plastic and Plywood Dining Chairs, and Case Study units among others.
Jeff’s work ranges from product and experience design, to designing Evernote’s building and physical workspaces. Previously Jeff founded the SF office for Hamburg-based Factor Design, launching products for Apple, Google and Coca-Cola just to name a few. Take note of Jeff’s diverse work and listening habits in our first Playlist of 2013.
What do you listen to while you work?
I usually need to listen to music that is more ambient so I can keep my thoughts straight and do the writing I need to for my work. My early years were spent listening to groups such as the Austrian duo Kruder and Dorfmeister. I also lived and worked in Berlin during the early 90′s when this kind of music and techno was booming.These early experiences made it easier for me to enjoy a wider range of music today.
How do you listen?
At the office, when I am working on a deadline or if I have uninterrupted work time in the evening, I will wear my basic Apple ear buds so I can still hear the ambient noise around me while signaling to others “I’m busy.” At home, I have multiple Sonos speakers set up throughout the house so my wife and I can listen to music in say, the dining room, and the kids can listen to their music downstairs while they are playing. In addition to being a great wireless system for an old house, the desktop and iOS controllers make the Sonos system perfect for a connected family like ours.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers?
I have been a happy paid subscriber of Spotify since their launch in 2010. Buying music one song at a time through iTunes is too prohibitive and kills the discovery process for me. The lack of control with other subscription services such as Pandora and Internet radio services are annoying. I really appreciate the flexibility and the control Spotify affords. Plus, the Sonos system integrates seamlessly with Spotify.
Does music influence your work?
I rely on music more to help push me to get work done rather than provide inspiration or open up new avenues of exploration. I have been fortunate to work with and meet some famous rock-and-roll photographers on a few projects, ranging from the launch of the Apple iPod to some charity work we did through my studio, Factor Design. The most notable of those photographers was Jim Marshall, the famous photographer responsible for iconic images such as Johnny Cash flipping the bird, the last shot of the Beatles coming off the stage at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and thousands more. We did pro bono work for a Multiple Sclerosis organization in San Francisco Jim steadfastly supported up until his death called “MS Friends.” MS Friends held a Rock and Roll photography gala and auction twice a year and we designed the identity and promotions for it. Meeting many of these photographers and hearing stories about touring with bands like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, and others illuminated decades of musical history for me and make the images that much more vivid to me.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste?
Now that there are third-party apps that are integrated within Spotify, I like to use many of those to help find new artists and broaden my horizons. I frequently listen to the We Are Hunted app which features emerging artists.
What song or artist best represents the work you create?
On a purely aspirational level, someone like Peter Gabriel. I grew up with his music and the stories they presented. As an artist, he has clearly been on a life-long quest to listen, learn and recast himself based on his experiences and influences at every given stage of his life. You certainly would not call him one-dimensional.
Ideal place to sit and listen to your playlist:
Kicking back in the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, MCL black leather with oiled walnut. It’s relaxing and comfy and is the perfect place to listen and think — regardless of how comfortable the couch might be.
1. Dirty Little Secret, The Chevin
2. What’s The Matter, Milo Greene
3. Ho Hey, The Lumineers
4. Escape in the Afternoon, French Films
5. It’s Alright, Matt & Kim
6. Daniel, Bat For Lashes
7. Sun, Two Door Cinema Club
8. Demons, Imagine Dragons
9. Love Is Greed, Passion Pit
10. Aeolus, Freelance Whales
Photos: Jeff Zwerner