Balance, Design, Technology
September 21, 2011
The last question we always ask Playlisters—“If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be?”—is notorious for stumping even the most creative of folks. But we think graphic designer Carolyn Sewell’s answer takes the cake. Take a look-see to learn what the Southern-born creator of Postcards To My Parents and Postcards To My Peeps listens to (and feels inspired by) in the home she shares with custom furniture designer and builder Richard Sewell of The Proper Carpenter.
What do you listen to while you work? Having to answer this, I’m realizing my listening style is quite manic…my process is a bit scattered (read: teeny tiny attention span) so my music shifts with my mood and focus. If I’m sketching or working in Photoshop or Illustrator then it could be anything from Black Keys and Beastie Boys to Arcade Fire and Heartless Bastards. If I’m working on copy edits or estimates, then I prefer to take it down a notch and listen to Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, etc. And I’ve recently started listening to Debbie Millman’s podcast Design Matters…not only is her voice like a caramel blanket, but the creative folks she interviews are so amazing and inspiring that my skin starts tingling and my brain starts oozing. It’s a great feeling.
How do you listen? I work by myself in my home (so no need for earphones) and usually listen from my computer. I used to listen to my iPod when commuting to meetings, but found that I kept missing my metro stops. I’d get so wrapped into my music that I’d forget that I actually had a destination. Have I mentioned my short attention span?
September 7, 2011
Paul Vanzella—the multitalented designer, photographer, owner of Vanzella Graphic Design and co-founder of RedBubble—is clearly a busy man. Nevertheless, he’s agreed to create a very-chill new mix to help our Playlist series shift into autumn with ease. So grab your earphones and sit a spell to find a little inspiration all the way from his warehouse studio (below) in Melbourne, Australia.
What do you listen to while you work? Mainly ambient music—Brian Eno, Phillip Glass—sounds that permeate the atmosphere subliminally and operate sympathetically with the visuals I am working on. And also, if the mood shifts, I go to 50s and 60s orchestra music—love early Miles Davis, Julie London! And then, on the flip side, I can do Joy Division and The Smiths even.
August 31, 2011
Is it just us, or does it feel like the summer was over in a flash? At least we’ve still got the long Labor Day weekend to keep it going for a little while longer. Make it a good one with this easygoing compilation—a mix inspired by our 2011 summer Playlisters. We’d love to know what song typified you summer this year. Let us know in the comment section and we’ll put together a Lifework Reader’s Playlist for you.
1. I’m Not Ready by Surfer Blood from The Playlist: Designer Matt Singer
2. We Oh We by The Hidden Cameras from The Playlist: Industrial designer Matthew Weatherly
3. Kicked It In The Sun by Built To Spill from The Playlist: Art Director & Graphic Designer Rick VanderLeek
4. Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys From The Playlist: MacFadden & Thorpe
5. Run the Heart by Sleigh Bells from The Playlist: Designer Mike Devereaux
6. We Have Everything by Young Galaxy from The Playlist: Designer Katarina Häll
7. Norway by Beach House from The Playlist: Graphic Designer Timothy Goodman
8. Street Life by Roxy Music from The Playlist: Designer, Animator, & Filmmaker Todd St. John
9. For Today by Jessica Lea Mayfield from The Playlist: Jerinne Neils & Scott Flora of Blik
10. Unchain My Heart by Maria Minerva from The Playlist: Graphic & Web Designer Jonathan Rahmani
Image sources: Timothy Goodman, Mike Devereaux, Matthew Weatherly, Rick VanderLeek, Matt Singer, Todd St. John
August 24, 2011
Keep the end of the summer feeling sunny with our latest Playlist from Todd St. John, founder of HunterGatherer–the Brooklyn-based studio/workshop that counts, among its many cool accomplishments, this commissioned music video for Yo Gabba Gabba.
What do you listen to while you work? I usually switch between radio, Internet radio, and iTunes. I have a turntable in the studio, but it doesn’t get played all that often when I’m working.
How do you listen? I don’t really like headphones if I can avoid them. I usually listen over speakers.
Do you have any favorite music providers? KCRW has some good shows. WNYC, though not for music. Sometimes Newtown Radio. I’ll check out the usual blog downloads sometimes as well: Pitchfork, Gorilla vs. Bear. I’ve been listening to some of the mixes on indoek.com recently as well.
Does music influence your work? I think on the obvious things, like a record cover—definitely. When I animate, I do like to have music to work to if possible. In something like the “Sea Friends” animation, the music structurally drives the piece. I can’t say that for other things music affects them in any direct way. Maybe indirectly.
Where do you find music recommendations? Friends, mostly. People in the studio. I used to buy more vinyl, so that was always a way of stumbling into new (or new old) things.
Above: Untitled silkscreen on paper by Todd St. John.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? I have no idea. I actually had seriously thought of being a composer before I was a designer. The two things are very related in my mind. Things like contrast, pacing, restraint, and texture all translate directly.
Love and Peace, Quincy Jones
For Beginners, M. Ward
Don’t Toss Us Away, Lone Justice
Paris 1919, John Cale
Substitute, The Who
Street Life, Roxy Music
Erase You, ESG
No Such Thing, Agent Orange
Watermelon Man, Herbie Hancock
The Vibrator, Jack McDuff
Walkabout, Atlas Sound
Sweet Jane, Velvet Underground
Images: Todd St. John
Balance, Design, Technology
August 17, 2011
We first spied the work of designer, illustrator, and art director Timothy Goodman when Ace Hotel asked him to create a hand-drawn mural in one of the rooms of its New York outpost (below).
Since then, the Cleveland-native has moved to San Francisco to set up shop with Apple Inc. Check out a few of the tunes he’s blasting through his earbuds in this week’s Playlist.
What do you listen to while you work? I love listening to TED talks and raunchy stand-up comedy while I work (I always need the ying and yang!). During basketball season, I like to have an NBA game on the background while I work at night. As for music, I listen to an array of stuff like indie rock, oldies, hip-hop, jazz, blues, classic rock, chillwave, and Latin—it just depends if it’s 2 AM or 2 PM!
Above: Goodman’s illustration for the May 11 Time cover.
How do you listen? When I’m working, I usually listen to my computer speakers or my iPhone with headphones. But my favorite time to listen to music is when I’m walking down the street, or while in a car on a road trip.
Balance, Design, Technology
August 10, 2011
We are trying something different this week. Here are two playlists – one to get you fired up and the other one to keep you focused. We approached two men who are deeply involved in the music world. Andy McGrath is the general manager of White Iris Records which launched last year. It’s the label counterpart to commercial music collective Black Iris – and Rob Lowry is the assistant producer at Black Iris. They recently renovated their offices and studio in Los Angeles’ Echo Park with the help of interior designer Wendi Weger (watch out for an interview with Wendi next week).
Above and below: Wendi Weger “We needed to transform a pretty gray and drab office space. One requirement was that the design be functional in terms of soundproofing certain areas, so we made a curtain out of accordioned industrial felt, covered one wall entirely in cork, wrapped sound-absorbing panels in burlap, and incorporated lots of rugs and other textiles.”
Above: Wendi “With this part of the office we started to skew west coast beach rather than midwestern lake because Daron has his surf boards hanging up, so we gave him a 10 foot marlin over his desk and at that point each room took on a unique identity.”
Andy McGrath’s Inspiration Playlist
1. Chad VanGaalen ‘Phantom Anthills‘ - for me, this is productivity and inspiration embodied in a song!
2. FIDLAR ‘Wake Bake Skate‘- this one puts a hop in my step every time I hear it.
3. Computer Magic ‘Grand Junction‘- this track is super fun.
4. Dawes ‘Love Is All I Am‘- these dudes have a super classic, bright, SoCal sound. This is the first Dawes song in a line of many that that would encapsulate so many emotions for me. Probably my favorite music video of the past 10 years, too. These guys inspire me everyday. Yes. Every. Day.
5. Guards ‘Sail It Slow‘- this song is huge.
6. Averkiou ‘Holland & Headaches‘ - This band rips so hard. It’s Jesus and Mary Chain meets Ride meets My Bloody Valentine. They get extra points for the inspiring Boyd Shropshire created album art.
7. Other Lives ‘Landforms‘ - there’s a calm and focused aspect to this song. It’s like a cool breeze or a cool wave rushing overhead. Refreshing.
8. Waylon Jennings ‘Lonesome, On’ry and Mean‘ - Waylon looking real rough in this video but absolutely crushing this MEGA JAM is inspiring in and of itself. Taken from Cowboy Jack Clements old ’70s show.
9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘Ffunny Ffriends‘- another breezy jam.
10. King Tuff ‘So Desperate‘- feel’s like a road song. Makes me wanna get outside, explore and interact..
Above: The vending machine is stocked with various snacks and drumsticks – just in case.
Rob Lowry’s Thinking Person’s Playlist
1. Superhumanoids ‘Mikelah‘ - There’s nothing like a great opening track; it sets the mood for the entire album. Unfortunately, this track is a single, so you have to build your own soundtrack around it (and they set the bar pretty high). Superhumanoids have a subtle and beautiful romanticism about them that puts them stories above the sudden resurgence in 80’s-influenced music. “Mikelah” is a sweeping, gorgeous accomplishment.
2. Julianna Barwick “The Magic Place” - One would think layered harmonies and strings of oohs-and-ahhs would become tired and redundant over the course of a four-minute song, but Julianna defies logic. This song feels like you’re flying blindly through the clouds only to come out on the other side to find everything you were ever looking for.
3. Bill Callahan “Jim Cain” - Bill has a voice that centers you upon impact. His spoken/sung vocal delivery, paired with the beautiful strings and finger-picking backing the track, brings to mind a walk in an enchanted forest at dawn. If your mind’s not clear by song’s end, there are deeper seeds planted.
4. Sade “Your Side” - No one does it better than Sade. The track is so smooth, it sounds like the entire thing has been auto-tuned. Her voice brings a peace of mind that few others can. Completely organic, completely intuitive.
5. Explosions in the Sky “Postcard from 1952” - Equal parts understated and epic, “Postcard” brings you from calm to chaos and back to peace in a way no vocal melody could have ever justified. This song’s able to heighten emotions within you without being overbearing or forcing you to feel a certain way. The soundscapes on this track are so wide open but immediately intimate, like you’re wrapped in a sleeping bag on an open field. Explosions gives so much and asks so little in return.
6. Josh T. Pearson – “Honeymoon’s Great! Wish You Were Her” It’s a powerful and strange feeling when you already know what the lyrics to a song will be before the vocals kick in. Josh T. Pearson has a Masters’ in this. And because you know what he’s going to say, it allows more time to spend focusing on the intricacies of his instrumentation and the feeling he’s emoting, which is a key to being able to concentrate on other various endeavors.
7. Twin Shadow – “Tyrant Destroyed” Sometimes, a song feels so familiar and comfortable it’s as if you were lying in a bed made of its arrangement. George Lewis Jr. has had this affect on me, and “Tyrant” is the perfect example of something that completely occupies and embodies your being while allowing you to focus your mind elsewhere. It’s the song in the background of your day-in and day-outs, complimenting but not overbearing.
Above: Wendi “My friend and frequent collaborator Matt Sams had that wallpaper in his house and I became obsessed. You can find it here: www.cavernhome.com. It’s called Blackbird.”
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
July 27, 2011
This week, Brett MacFadden gives us a look inside MacFadden & Thorpe, the three-year-old design studio he runs with business partner Scott Thorpe (and their musician-by-night intern Clive). Listen up to this smart mix compiled by all three designers from their San Francisco-based workspace.
What do you listen to while you work? Like most designers, music is an important part of our creative process and our tastes are eclectic, worldly, sophisticated, massively edgy, and, indeed, beyond pioneering. We listen to Internet radio a lot and to more classic rock than our interns might appreciate, but that they quietly tolerate. We love classic rock because it’s generally older than us. We also like classic-country, classic-rap, classic-jazz and classic-cal. Scott would like to emphasize that we do not like Vampire Weekend, and I (Brett) support that, even though I saw them last year in Berkeley and it was a not unpleasant experience.
How do you listen? If we listen together, it’s traditionally though my iMac, which has decent speakers. But I recently brought a small Altec Lansing speaker in from home (a great product by the way) and now Scott is enabled to play music as well. Often I like to stream one of two great public radio stations—KEXP in Seattle or The Current in Minneapolis—then it takes the pressure off of being the DJ, and provides a steady wash of new music. Although, lots of times I’ll be playing one of these stations and I look around and everyone else has put their headphones on.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
July 13, 2011
Photo: Cara Robbins
I asked Alison Williams, who is the co-founder of The Academy of Archivists, to help me pin down exactly what she does. “I’ve been describing myself lately as a creative entrepreneur. I have my own company and I work with other companies, brands and artists to help develop their identities and get their work to the people who should see it, in whatever form that takes. I talk to people, think about things, observe, strategize, write, create. I feel lucky to have a job that I enjoy, working with amazing people.” And what role does music play in all that? Well, read on to find out.
What do you listen to while you work? When I’m writing I need music that is inspiring but not distracting, so I’ll listen to opera, or something without words. I love the soundtrack from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain by Yann Tiersen. On the other hand when I am feeling daunted by a project or need to brainstorm I’ll either go to an album that I am entirely familiar with or something totally unknown. When I’m working with other people I am open to what they want to listen to.
Photo: Cara Robbins
March 8, 2011
Maybe it’s about time you finally update from those tiny and tinny sounding computer speakers you’ve lived with. For small space dwellers, an iPod dock can be an advisable option for music/audio entertainment. Consider one of these higher end docking units, a little bit pricey compared to cheaper, more common models. But what they lack in budget conscious price, they make up in sound quality…and looks. Here are our favorites.
B&W Zeppelin The Zeppelin is a speaker system with an iPod docking station that fills a room with deep, lifelike sound, and delivers musical detail that you won’t believe your iPod is capable of. We love the simple design and easy to use interface. 30-pin iPod connector, 3.5mm mini jack analogue/optical, digital USB 2.0 slave (for software upgrades) it also outputs S-video (via mini DIN).
We’re currently in the process of testing out their latest Apple Airplay-compatible, Zeppelin Air, an updated model which improves on the original in both features and sound. Review in detail coming soon.
November 17, 2010
To say that music and technology have guided the career of James Lynch III is putting it mildly (read his extensive bio here). Now the Chief Technology Officer at ecoReserve.org, he’s working to help protect endangered land—all while listening to a library of music that’s almost 14,000 songs strong. Here’s a list of tunes that recently showed up after he hit “shuffle.”
What do you listen to while you work? Although I will occasionally listen to entire albums, I usually put my 13.5K song collection on random.
How do you listen? Through Bose speakers or with my headphones on.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I have feeds from a ton of music blogs coming into Google Reader, and I hear about new releases from them, and from friends of mine. I used to share office space with The Rights Workshop, a music-supervision and licensing company, and discovered a lot of new music through Brooke Wentz and her team.
Does music influence your work? Before ecoReserve, I worked as software architect for Creative Allies, a startup that enables musicians to post jobs for creative content (CD covers, t-shirts, etc.) and have their fans compete to create the piece chosen by the musician. The team behind the project was made up of music business veterans as well as younger folks, and we all wound up listening to a lot of music by the artists involved in our initial launch. This is an example of the opposite of what you’re asking… for years, my work has influenced the music I’ve heard, rather than the opposite.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? I use SonicLiving.com to find out about gigs that interest me. Having spent years in and around the “music biz” such as it is, there are friends whose taste I trust implicitly (Cerentha being one of them!), and I always check out anything they send my way. I probably recommend more music to friends than they recommend to me.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? What a question!!! Hmm. ecoReserve, my current project, allows people to create their own nature preserves for as little as $25… so it would be something connected to nature—maybe Peter Gabriel, something apocalyptic: “Here Comes the Flood.” When I had my prepress company in New York, things ran at an insane pace… perhaps “Burning Down the House” by Talking Heads.
Good Ol’ Boy (Gettin’ Tough), Steve Earle
Capital Punishment (from “Back in Town), George Carlin
Sparrow, Ken Stringfellow
I Feel Fine (Beatle’s cover), The Harvey Averne Dozen
Bottomliners, Brian Eno
I Want You Around, The Hunting Accident
My Son Cool, Guided By Voices
Eleanor Put Your Boots On, Franz Ferdinand
Tough Guy, Beastie Boys
Bummer In The Summer, Love
California Stars, Billy Bragg and Wilco
Under Your Breath, Whiskeytown
Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out, John Lennon
Fussing and Fighting, Bob Marley and The Wailers
See How We Are, X
Images: James Lynch III