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Comments (169) Posted 04.18.08 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Adrian Shaughnessy

The Design Observer Playlist




I’ve never worked in a design studio where music wasn’t played pretty much constantly. Nor can I recall visiting a studio where music wasn’t being played, or where designers weren’t wired up to headphones and bobbing rhythmically to unheard sounds. What is it with graphic designers and music? Is there a symbiotic relationship between the two? Are there studios where music is considered a hindrance? Or does music aid creative thinking and make us better designers?

When I launched my own studio in 1989 my first purchase was a CD player. With five or six people all in the same room, we had music playing all the time. I’d just come from a studio where the radio was tuned to London’s main commercial station. British commercial radio in the 1980s was dire – it hasn’t got any better, last time I checked – but somehow we learned to live with what the poet Simon Armitage has called the “tinnitus” of pop radio. Thinking back though, I can remember hearing Kraftwerk tracks amongst the wall-to-wall, synth-drum induced nausea of Billy Idol and Bananarama, so perhaps it wasn’t as bad as I remember it.

To provide a round the clock soundtrack for the new studio, we even had a CD budget. But it was rarely used because people preferred to bring in their own music, which resulted in a low-cholesterol diet of The Pixies and Brit indie shoegazers like Ride, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and the Cocteau Twins. My own preference at the time was for David Sylvian (a taste I still have) but I could only play his lachrymose balladry when my business partner left the building. “Boys music,” she said, witheringly.

As the studio grew to around 10 or 12 people, it became harder to get agreement on what should be played: arguments erupted and factions fought over control of the CD player. We had a leather-jacketed artworker who was obsessed with guitar wizards like Yngwe Malmsteen. It wasn’t easy to accommodate his musical tastes, but he was a good artworker so he was given the CD remote from time to time – usually when I needed him to work all night.

We had another growth spurt in personnel in the late-1990s (to around 20 people) and that meant the end of any sort of musical consensus. Not that it mattered, because this was now the era of the personal CD player and it became normal to see nearly every designer in the studio wearing headphones.

Today, the headphone-clad designer locked into his or her own audio bubble is a familiar sight. Graphic designers it seems like music and abhor silence. But is it possible to claim that music contributes more to the creative output of a studio than, say, comfortable chairs and a good coffee machine? There is no shortage of theories about the way music influences behaviour. It began with Pythagoras and his discovery of the music of the spheres, and can be found today in such disparate musicological thinking as Brian Eno’s theories of ambient music, and in the way institutions are using classical music to reduce violent behaviour in public places. Music’s ability to act as a sedative has long been know to medical science, as are the mesmeric effects of music as a means of inducing heightened states of emotion.

For me, I need music pretty much constantly. Having given up studio life in favour of working on my own, I gravitate towards introspective, trance-like music. This can be anything from Morton Feldman to Harold Budd. From late-period Coltrane to the latest backwoods drone rock. From Nordic electronica to exotic soundtracks. My only stipulation is that it has to be music without words: lyrics distract. Other than that, anything goes.

So, let’s try a bit of blog based research here. Let’s try and find out what Design Observer readers are listening to, and build up our own blog playlist. I’m predicting a mixed bag, with not very much Yngwe Malmsteen. But I could be wrong.

I’ll set the ball rolling. I’ve currently got Eric Dolphy’s deathless Out to Lunch playing. What about you?
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Comments (169)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Great post Adrian

I can’t work without music, and find the choice depends on the nature of the work in hand. Right now it’s Portisheads new album, Third, as I'm designing. But if I was writing it would be something quieter – Boards of Canada for instance.
jeremy
04.18.08 at 10:57

My favorite band to work to is a Chicago native, Dianogah, 2 bassists and a drummmer (with the occasional vocalist). Very good work music. Or driving, or shellacking your roof etc.
rr
04.18.08 at 11:05

Tunng: Bullets, Bricks, Cans.

The great love of my life introduced me to them, and I can't get enough.

Of them. Of her.
Scottie
04.18.08 at 11:05

I find it really hard to work in silence, just like I find it really hard to work in a plain white room.

For me pretty much anything goes, from the very heaviest doom metal to the lightest whispered post rock, guitars, electronica, classical, blues, jazz, lyrical or not. Everything that provides some stimulus. Though I cant work with the Radio or TV people talking distracts me far to easily... Lyrics and singing do not though.

Currently Drive Like Jehu - Super Inison
Adrian
04.18.08 at 11:11

some of my favorites to work to are actually podcasts - this american life, sound opinions, keith olberman, etc. i prefer to listen to actual music out of the headphones before my studio mates get in -- loud new order and of course, the wu-tang
lauren
04.18.08 at 11:25

Good read, I find it to be true that most creatives I know listen to music much of the day.

As for me, I find roots reggae some of the best music to work to. Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Abyssinians, Gladiators.

It's almost always upbeat, but not too fast. It's positive and often repetitive so not too distracting.
Mikey
04.18.08 at 11:33

For me, it's all about the podcasts. I've hated traditional radio since I first learned to start hating things, but I crave new music and like to know what's going on in the music world. So, subscribing to a bunch of podcasts ensures an office filled with diverse, completely new music on a daily basis.

My favorite music podcasts are: Hospital Records (absolutely brilliant drum and bass), Mad Decent, and NPR Second Stage. But there are thousands of really great podcasts out there for any type of music.

I've also been creating my own weekly podcasts for coming up on three years now, a purely for-fun way to get the people I know to listen to the music I like (and to promote great musicians that I know).
Jw
04.18.08 at 11:40

Adrian,

Currently: DI.fm Breakbeat stream in iTunes. Not always sans-lyrics, but words in techno a just another instrument. Also, R.E.M.'s new album Accelerate is on very heavy rotation.

Excellent discussion! You might also be interested in Anil Dash's recent posts on the Creative Environment:

* http://www.dashes.com/anil/2008/04/the-creative-environment.html

Cheers,

--Steve

Steve Ivy
04.18.08 at 11:48

Lately I've been listening to Tears For Fears - Songs from the Big Chair. Headphones only, as no one else cares to hear them being pumped through my speakers.
David Jefferson
04.18.08 at 11:54

As the only in-house designer in a PA office, I keep the music off most of the day, but add the headphones when the workplace noise becomes overwhelming especially when I'm deep in creative thought or working out the details of the design.
Jessi Long
04.18.08 at 12:01

When doing copywriting or serious reading/research, I'll stick to either drone metal or atmospheric black metal. Doing some kind of graphic design or web design? Why?'s new album (Alopecia), "Beyond The Permafrost" by Skeletonwitch or something similarly uptempo.
Stuart
04.18.08 at 12:11

I find that listening to music as I work is a good way to clear my head and really concentrate on the task in front of me. For some reason, silence is really noticeable and distracting when I'm trying to start working. On the other hand, once I am really into something, sometimes I don't notice if my music is over. It's odd.

I listen to everything from classic old school Prince to newer artists like Joanna Newsom. Lyrics only distract me if I am trying to read or write, so in that case I usually listen to some sort of jazz or classical or Tortoise.
jess h.
04.18.08 at 12:18

I have to agree - I've yet to be in a creative environment where music wasn't absolutely essential, and I know I can't work without it (or in a plain white room either, for that matter).

My tastes are pretty varied - from Jazz (J.J. Johnson, Jaco Pastorius) to the heaviest of metal (too many to name). I tend towards the Foo Fighters (especially their most recent album, Echoes, Patience, Silence & Grace), Rise Against (The Sufferer & The Witness) and Thrice (Vheissu, Illusion of Safety).

Currently...Rise Against, "Ready to Fall"
Mike Tierney
04.18.08 at 12:24

Personally I prefer silence, or an almost Eno-esque ambient very-close-to-silence. If there is music at all I just don't really hear it. And don't really want to.
Malcolm Garrett
04.18.08 at 12:30

... and annoyingly, the boys in the studio now busily compete with one another to change the music mid-song, remotely from their desks, so no-one knows who's choosing what from the server. they even vpn in from their iphones to further confuse us all.

like i say: "silence in the studio". ;-)
malcolm garrett
04.18.08 at 12:39

One word: MILES
Greg Meadows
04.18.08 at 12:53

with or without tunes, i can rock the mouse. but, if i can roll with headphones on, all the better. i'm not a big fan of chillin to music. i gotta have sick rhymes and killer beats. you can usually find me filling up on a hefty diet of tobymac and john reuben. when i'm working on something at home, gotta be dead silence, cos everyone else is sleeping. don't wake the baby or my babe will chew me out!
John Mindiola III
04.18.08 at 12:53

I hardly ever play music. I listen to news/political podcasts. Sometimes when I really have to focus in order to program or write, I'll listen to foreign music.
Stephen James
04.18.08 at 01:01

I listen to talk radio (NPR, This American Life, etc...) when I'm designing, but I find that I can't listen to talking when I am trying to do something like writing or reading. For that, I have to listen to music.

I think this is really interesting because it might mean that when I am using the right side of my brain to design, I can simultaneously use the left side to comprehend the talking. When writing or reading, I am already using the left side of my brain so I can't listen to talking at the same time.
Emily
04.18.08 at 01:08

It's all shuffle, all the time. I've got about 50 gigs worth of music ranging from Delta blues to Hindi film music, and I just set it to random and go to work. If you care to, you can check out my most recent listens via a feed on my website linked below.
Aaron Rester
04.18.08 at 01:15

"wolleYnworBteloiVegnarOeulBkniPneerGBrownGreenBlueVioletPinkRedOrangeYellowWhiteGrayBlackdeR" the sound of music and thought
Haynes Riley
04.18.08 at 01:23

Nothing is better then Chris Rea, Ace of Hearts (only thing can save me now) while trying to meet a deadline.
Alpkan Kirayoglu
04.18.08 at 01:38

Music isn't always essential for me, but it definitely helps sometimes. At times I just like listening to no sounds. Sometimes music is very good at keeping me focused.

i typically do best when listening to some form of AIR or Daft Punk. LCD Soundsystem often gets put on repeat for me, as well.
ed mckim
04.18.08 at 01:45

I've listened to at least one song off the Jay Dee "Donuts" album everyday for the last year or so. It's instrumental (with the exception of some samples here and there), and always seems to provide a familiar kind of ambiance for me to work too.

The only other constant aside from that is that I'll listen to The Wire while the video is playing on my iPod. I'm wondering if anyone else does that sort of thing or if they find it distracting?

Patrick Cahalan
04.18.08 at 01:55

unfortunately, we never play music in the studio where i work.

lately: cut copy / in ghost colours, sebastien tellier/universe, the kills/midnight boom

i usually work with music, but sometimes need silence for hard thinking.
carl bean-larson
04.18.08 at 02:05

i listen to music sometimes, not always though.

but going along the lines of music without words/lyrics (because they can be distracting . . . ie. i love maynard and tool, but there is no way i can listen to that and pay attention to any work), nine inch nails just came out with a all-instrumental double album called ghosts, which is really good, cerebral background music.

bear vs. shark is really good (not sure how to classify, maybe "indie rock"?)

in other really varied music, i listen to heavier stuff to work faster like converge, some punk/reggae sounds like jaya the cat, and lighter rock like interpol or cold war kids.

also, like the guy above said, rise against is awesome, especially for driving home from work on a beautiful arizona spring day with the windows open jamming out...
adam
04.18.08 at 02:12

i totally agree with your observations – peering above my screen i've counted 11/15 people are headphoned.

Another observation i've made is that you can almost predict the type of work my co-workers are working on by the music they're playing (with the help of Bonjour,the inner-office IM system.)

For me, when i'm in deadline mode, it's Joanna Newsom, Wilco and Sigur Ros. Other than that the sky's the limit.

One thing i love about our studio is that we share our playlists, so i'm always discovering new likes and forgotten favorites!

katy
04.18.08 at 02:14

I must have music* or talk radio, (either sports radio or NPR, kind of schizo, right?) when designing, but strangely enough if I'm reading or writing I have to have silence. So, I'm constantly turning the damn thing on and off.. HELP!

*anything from the Beasty Boys gets the creative juices flowing
Glen Hawkins
04.18.08 at 02:19

for me, design + music = richer ideas.

currently: walcott by vampire weekend
Domenic
04.18.08 at 02:38

I wondered if anyone else listened to NPR...looks like one other person. I tune into it nearly every work day, all day.

It seems many other designers I know can't seem to concentrate on designing while listening to talk radio, but I find it comparable to having a stimulating conversation with someone while I do work. It's like watching tv while drawing at home—who hasn't at least once enjoyed an afternoon of designing or drawing with a cheesy 80's movie playing on the tube in the background?

I often find working in front of the computer (whether or not anyone else is present) to be kind of dull and lonesome.

However, there are always exceptions, and today I'm feeling some GnR. But somehow I doubt my coworkers will agree.
Jenn
04.18.08 at 02:45

Nothing is better than Chris Rea's Ace of Hearts (only thing can save me now...) while trying to meet a deadline.
alpkan Kirayoglu
04.18.08 at 02:52

The new Elbow and Wintersleep are what I am into now.
chris
04.18.08 at 03:01

I use the amazing music browser Songbird which allows me to hit "play" and hear all the songs posted on a given web page. I listen to my favorite music blogs while at work, where the connection speed makes it all work beautifully. My faves are Aquarium Drunkard and Derek's Daily 45s, a blog where the author is posting an mp3 of a vinyl single from his vast collection pretty much every day. Songbird turns it into a massive jukebox of classic soul, r&b, rockabilly and garage rock. Essential! (I don't work for Songbird, I'm just a booster.)
pnk
04.18.08 at 03:07

so I work in an open office setup (no cubes) all of us have headphones but only one guy has a pair of speakers and his prefered choice is some crazy rap all day long (and LOUD). like right now he has cranked up the volume on some JayZ i think, there is a Copywriter (his buddy) standing by him making obscene rap gestures to the tune and dammmm it all i have is one shell left in my shotgun ...who is it gonna be ?
V
04.18.08 at 03:16

Right now--at this very moment: Spoon

lately: Yo La Tengo, Jens Lekman, Bjork, Tindersticks, Destroyer, the Whigs, Leonard Cohen, Gershwin, Monk, the Ronettes.

Ideally, not only would I be listening to music, but I'd also be barefoot.
Trish
04.18.08 at 03:22

dubstep dubstep dubstep.

This is my menu for almost every working day:

Subfm.com
Rinse.fm
and mellow dubstep mixes like Argon and Vaccine.

Katyá
04.18.08 at 03:30

i usually just plug my ipod to my computer and set it on shuffle, i have about 80gigs of music on my ipod, which varies from indian music to heavy rock and metal. But i def need music.
parag
04.18.08 at 03:32

I am currently listening to pandora radio

Actually, I listen to a few podcasts too: Design Matters, The Reflex Blue Show (formerly the Be A Designcast) ... stuff like that.


Adam Duquette
04.18.08 at 03:38

Excellent post Adrian. I've been around long enough to remember the novelty of FM radio, having grown up with music pumped out by AM stations. Now, listening to FM radio is, admittedly with a handful of exceptions, virtually no different than AM; snippets of music interspersed with the incessant jabberings of moronic, self-styled radio personalities and local advertisements. Who listens to radio anymore and why? With the current technology at our disposal, we have the ability to listen anytime, anywhere to the music that we as individuals want to hear.

I too have never worked in a studio where music was not constantly playing in the background or through each designer's headphones. Headphones seemed to be the obvious preference, allowing you to remove yourself from the distracting chaos of the studio through the music of your choice. A very rewarding exercise, especially if the individual controlling the public soundtrack harbored a particular obsession for Pat Boone, Joni Mitchell or Britney Spears.

Now, working alone in my own studio, I have the freedom to blast whatever music I desire at whatever volume level I desire. It is a cherished freedom.

Putting it mildly, my playlist is an eclectic mix (and perhaps a contributing factor to why I now work alone): Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Tom Waits, Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen (especially his 1987 album Tunnel of Love), Tanita Tikaram, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Moby, The Devlins, Joe Satriani, Guns 'n Roses, Enya, Mozart piano concertos, Schumann's Kinderszenen, Robert Mirabal's Music from a Painted Cave, Jonny Lang, Melissa Etheridge, and Terry Allen's Lubbock (on everything). I suggest Allen's Truckload of Art and the recitation fromThe Beautiful Waitress should be required listening for all creatives.

William
04.18.08 at 03:39

Good post. I agree that a quite office is almost more distracting when I am trying to work. Currently I am on a "post rock" kick. Bands like Explosions in the Sky, Saxon Shore, El Ten Eleven (made more famous by the now ubiquitous Helvetica film), etc... I like more mellow indie rock like Melpo Mene, Pinback, The Sea and Cake, and The Shins while I work too. And even after all that I'll rock out to Cake, Beck, or Vampire Weekend, or even hip-hop from time to time.
Woody
04.18.08 at 03:40

I am currently listening to pandora radio

Actually, I listen to a few podcasts too: Design Matters, The Reflex Blue Show (formerly the Be A Designcast) ... stuff like that.


Adam Duquette
04.18.08 at 04:01

36 Chambers. Wu Tang Clan. Done.
John
04.18.08 at 04:15

The wealth of posts here only goes to testify how important music is to people, particularly in our industry. I'm a freelancer and end up spending time in a lot of different studios. My favourites are the studios where music is a constantly varied and at times beguiling mix, played at a volume everybody can hear.

I'm not too keen on studios where everybody's plugged in, but that's forgivable, especially if the creative director happens to be a Rammstein fanatic!

I'm a writer, so I find it hard to work to music with vocals, so for me its all about instrumental music. We often have 5 Blue Note CDs on random - Joe Henderson, Kenny Burrell, Herbie Hancock, Eric Dolphy, Cannonball Adderley, McCoy Tyner et al.

If we're not listening to jazz we're listening to Tortoise, the mighty Mogwai, Dirty Three, Boxhead Ensemble and the like...

When its time to wind down, that's when we get some Raekwon bubbling... 'Only Built...'

Music. Life would be colder without it.
Bateman
04.18.08 at 04:42

I use the amazing music browser Songbird which allows me to hit "play" and hear all the songs posted on a given web page. I listen to my favorite music blogs while at work, where the connection speed makes it all work beautifully. My faves are Aquarium Drunkard and Derek's Daily 45s, a blog where the author is posting an mp3 of a vinyl single from his vast collection pretty much every day. Songbird turns it into a massive jukebox of classic soul, r&b, rockabilly and garage rock. Essential! (I don't work for Songbird, I'm just a booster.)
pnk
04.18.08 at 06:01

Excellent post Adrian. I've been around long enough to remember the novelty of FM radio, having grown up with music pumped out by AM stations. Now, listening to FM radio is, admittedly with a handful of exceptions, virtually no different than AM; snippets of music interspersed with the incessant jabberings of moronic, self-styled radio personalities and local advertisements. Who listens to radio anymore and why? With the current technology at our disposal, we have the ability to listen anytime, anywhere to the music that we as individuals want to hear.

I too have never worked in a studio where music was not constantly playing in the background or through each designer's headphones. Headphones seemed to be the obvious preference, allowing you to remove yourself from the distracting chaos of the studio through the music of your choice. A very rewarding exercise, especially if the individual controlling the public soundtrack harbored a particular obsession for Pat Boone, Joni Mitchell or Britney Spears.

Now, working alone in my own studio, I have the freedom to blast whatever music I desire at whatever volume level I desire. It is a cherished freedom.

Putting it mildly, my playlist is an eclectic mix (and perhaps a contributing factor to why I now work alone): Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Tom Waits, Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen (especially his 1987 album Tunnel of Love), Tanita Tikaram, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Moby, The Devlins, Joe Satriani, Guns 'n Roses, Enya, Mozart piano concertos, Schumann's Kinderszenen, Robert Mirabal's Music from a Painted Cave, Jonny Lang, Melissa Etheridge, and Terry Allen's Lubbock (on everything). I suggest Allen's Truckload of Art and the recitation fromThe Beautiful Waitress should be required listening for all creatives.

William
04.18.08 at 06:18

Excellent observations, Adrian. In addition to never having worked in a studio in which every designer was not wired with headphones, I do not know of any designer friends / colleagues who do not make music a huge part of their design process.

Personally I find it very difficult to design without a soundtrack; when I am writing or reading, I require silence, but when I am designing, no matter what, I require a soundtrack.

I tend to gravitate toward more lush, complex electronic music. I work best when listening to pieces that combine the contemporary sounds of minimalist electronic tones suffused with abstract, even classical undertones. Two of my trusted standards are Milosh's You Make Me Feel and Murcof's Remembranza. Both are invaluable in terms of fueling my creative fire.
Atherton Bartelby
04.18.08 at 06:29

When I was doing Graphic Design on my GCSE course just ten tears ago the teacher would have the CD player on constantly. Which had an immediate calming effect on us and evidently made us more productive. This room seemed a completely different place to the rest of the school where the hot headed teachers fought a constant battle with the wayward kids.

I can't remember most of what was played but she did have a heavy leaning towards Madonna, which wasn't so distracting given the amount of lyrics. It was an excellent way to keep us quiet and creative. That one hour a week was almost an escape from the timetable. Unless we heard Mr Miller next door whacking his metre ruler on the bench to grab attention.

I tend to spend more money on magazines these days and usually download the tracks from the bands I find in the pages.

At the minute: Tunng, Eight Legs, Architecture in Helsinki and North Sea Radio Orchestra.
James Eden
04.18.08 at 07:04

Classic rock, mostly. Sometimes it's soundtracks. If I'm working at home, I'll listen to a hockey or baseball game. And sometimes, at the office, I put my headphones on and listen to nothing at all. But don't tell my coworkers. They see the headphones as a "do not disturb" sign.
Morgan
04.18.08 at 07:20

Great post—reminds me of Anil Dash’s recent series on creative workspaces, inspirational devices and the music that founders listened to in the beginning.

Posted what I’m listening to right now on my blog.
ydnar
04.18.08 at 07:47

EEW, what IS recommended listening for creatives, excuse me very much? quite a scary thing to say.

In terms of music that works on me - that would have to be largely stuff that transports me outside, stuff that is beckoning and loud:

No Age,
Sonic Youth,
Converge,
Don Caballero
Tortoise (well, rarely beckoning but could be quite loud, especially when the volume is up...)
MF Doom/Vaudeville Villain
Madlib



Asen
04.18.08 at 08:03

I had a photo teacher in college who contended that working with music was a bad idea. since one of the points of working on a piece of artwork is to work on it until you are happy or satisfied with it, his contention was that listening to music (which might artificially make you happy or satisfied,) would be detrimental to the art work, as you might stop prematurely mistaking your happiness or satisfaction for the music for the happiness or satisfaction for the piece that you were working on.

that said, I like to listen to music up until the point where I feel happy or satisfied in what I'm working on. then turn off the music to see if I still feel that way. if not keep working...

in an office however, being able to isolate is really important. though music without lyrics is easier to focus past.
peter
04.18.08 at 08:24

Some of your readers are not in graphics but are in music, so this is an interesting one to answer. I am a musician/songwriter who reads this feed.

I only listen to other people's music as a cultural reference when I am working. It's interesting to see how designers use music to enhance the headspace they're instead of distract - lyrics and singing demand attention, singing does not.

Saying that, how many designers here are real fans of songwriting - music, lyrics, singing as opposed to soundscapes etc? I'm thinking that on the whole graphic designers prefer the electronica/spacey element as it doesn't get in the way of their own creativity?

Correct me if I'm wrong.
Julian Moore
04.18.08 at 09:07

Nothing helps edit images like Status Quo. teh design = teh Quo
The Worst of Perth
04.18.08 at 09:19

When I listen to music I just want to Listen. To. Music. So in my studio there's silence. Which is fine because 99% of the time I'm working by myself.

I once had an intern who claimed that he absolutely couldn't work without music playing so he brought in his iPod and headphones. Unfortunately he played his music so loud I could hear it anyway. This drove me nuts. We finally compromised by playing music I was so familiar with that I could ignore it completely. As if it wasn't even there. (I'm not going to go into the dangers of wanting to sing along). When there's something unfamiliar playing I can't help but to want to listen closely, and I can't listen closely and work at the same time.

So, sorry, I have nothing to add to your playlist for the office. However, the new REM is really really great. I listen to that in the car.
Bob Aufuldish
04.18.08 at 09:23

at the drive in

their whole discography - on shuffle
diem
04.18.08 at 09:53

recently we have been listening to:

CSS + Lisa li-lund + Cat Power + The Shins ...

Can't work without music... and i've tried to!

chao
Daniel Edmundson
04.18.08 at 09:56

I remember working on the boards (cut and paste) at the cusp of the dtp days and using my walk-man--probably to listen to the Smiths or Everything But The Girl. One day, the studio manager called out to me and as I reached for the headphone to hear him, I scored a perfect x-acto blade slice from my chin to my cheek. In my haste, I forgot to put the knife down. Downside: walk-mans were banned from the studio after that. Upside: the cut was superficial and left no scar.
grit
04.18.08 at 10:56

Score more for instrumental music in whatever form it may take: Jazz, classical, minimal beats, ragas.

Rachmaninoff
Glenn Gould
Boards of Canada
Eno
Plastikman

and on and on
BJ Vicks
04.19.08 at 12:09

I have to have music on constantly, every now and then accompanied by the shout of 'Turn this s**t off!' by Nicky. Silence is not golden in E17.
Currently–
Pop Ambient 2008
Klimek - Dedications
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Pt. One (4th World War)
Whitest Boy Alive – Dreams
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon
Vangelis – Blade Runner (Esper Edition)
Wire – 154
Strategy – Future Rock
Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
-
Plus odds and sods by Autechre, Kenny Larkin, Surgeon, Black Dog, Casino Versus Japan.
Michael C. Place
04.19.08 at 03:29

At the small studio I work the music is often decided by iTunes' random mode, and all kinds of interesting or strange stuff pops up along the way. And when we've had it with all that, we switch to internet radio, often some electronic or jazzy stuff. When I'm doing the more boring or repetitive jobs I usually like some good mood music with lyrics to sort of sing or hum along with. For the conceptual thinking studying phases I also prefer non-lyrical music. It can range from obscure dub-techno to ambient to minimal classical music to drones.
Jeffrey
04.19.08 at 03:34

I'm not strictly a practicing designer (so will I count ? ) but it is my domain of work. When I worked in an animation studio, the directors' office was the musical hub. We had 100W Wharfedale speakers, a record as well as cd player and received the latest from journalists in the field. Music was both a force for working with and a constant inspiration for our animation work. Needless to say that Mancini, Herrmann & Barry were always popping up.

Currently listening to African Dub, the original Joe Gibbs 70's recordings. Alva Noto + Sakamoto remain perfect pieces to work to when alone, New York's 12k label and the little known French net label SEM. Alice Coltrane and Oscar Peterson are also 'passe partout' quality musicans that I always go back too time and time again.

Adrian - please get back on the wire! Your series of interviews with British graphic designers and their musical muse is a brilliant and inspiring series to be continued.

regards

mark
Mark Webster
04.19.08 at 05:05

Such a great response. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.
It’s clear from the above that music plays an important part in the working processes of many graphic designers.

Just as we know that martial music and certain sorts of anthem-like rock induce mild hysteria, I find that there are forms of (mainly electronic) music that induce mild euphoria in me. When this happens a little trapdoor opens up in my head and ideas flood out. Under close – and sober – scrutiny, these ideas tend not to be as good as I first thought them to be. But they form the basis of more well-rounded ideas.

Mark – thanks for asking about the radio show. It will be back on air in May. Anyone interested in past shows can find some of them here. http://www.graphicdesignontheradio.com/
More will be posted in coming weeks.

Playing now? Track 1 from Cluster 71.
Adrian Shaughnessy
04.19.08 at 06:38

Working as a designer and meeting many designers, almost everyone is listening to music. I can't work in total silence, maybe it helps us focus?
Goos
04.19.08 at 10:17

When I worked in design studios, there was always music playing, but it caused more friction than productivity. I still remember an incident where one designer liked to play his USC Marching Band CD, everyone hated it, so someone microwaved the disc and put it back in the case. It took him a while to figure out why it didn't play.

But anyway, I had an interesting discussion on this topic when I went back to art school to finish my BFA. One of my best painting professors said he discouraged people from listening to music while painting. He said you unconsciously move in rhythm to the music, it "informs your painting," and the rhythm of the music you're listening to at any one moment rarely matches the rhythm required for the passage you're painting at that moment. So the music is almost always at odds with what you're doing, it's a distraction and an impairment.
He said his preference was to listen to talk radio, the worst, most irrational right-wing talk radio he could find. He said he found the contents so offensive, he had to shut down his rational mind to survive it, so it shut down mental faculties he could devote to his visual channels. An interesting approach for sure, but I couldn't do it.
I personally like to have the TV on when painting or working, some news channel like CNN. I have tinnitus, so I like to have a human voice speaking, to distract me from the high-pitched ringing in my ears. I like what Duchamp said about TV, he said artists should leave a TV on in their studios, it was like having a pet. It produces random activity in what would be an otherwise empty, lonely studio.
Charles Eicher
04.19.08 at 12:02

Sunn 0)))

When I can get away with it that is.
Santi
04.19.08 at 12:22

Boy Robot + Saafi Brothers
Sam
04.19.08 at 02:52

Bob Dylan ('65 - ' 69)
Matthew
04.19.08 at 02:59

fun post.
yeah, music is very important to my/our days and definitely helps connect us to each other in more personal ways. we have been making mixes via muxtape which is a fun musical distraction. most of the time we listen with the shuffle function on to our 16,500 song library. here's an example of the last few artists that passed by:

appaloosa
the stranglers
alice coltrane
black flag
mf doom
ariel pinks haunted graffiti
leanord cohen
no age

it's really random but usually great. sometimes we use the search function if we're creatively blocked, plug in a word related to the project and listen to what ever it throws back at us.

we even use the turntable for stuff like:

soiled mattress and the springs
the sads
unrest

man i'm glad i can listen while i work.
molu rolu
04.19.08 at 03:13

I have to have music, but what I'm listening depends more on my mood than the project at hand. If I'm feeling sluggish, I'll listen to something like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Motion City Soundtrack to get me moving, otherwise I like something more chill, like Feist or Rogue Wave. But like many others, if I'm reading or writing, I need something I can tune out. For this, I like kind of new-age flamenco music, like Buika or La Negra. But music is a must, whatever the task at hand.
Cassie
04.19.08 at 05:44

According to Last.fm I listen to:
Beirut
Casiotone
Girl Talk
Devendra Banhart
Magnetic Fields
Brian Eno
The Books
Joanna Newsom
Beck
Django Reinhardt
And Ted Leo!
Jeff Werner
04.19.08 at 06:56

Wire's Pink Flag and Chairs Missing.
Enrique Ramirez
04.19.08 at 09:14

Right, why
listen to m u s i c
when
you can h e a r
Graphic D e s i g n . . .
on the r a d i o.

Wouldn't it be great to have both music and design talk?
Mix-it-up with some designers and the music that they are designing for . . .
but then that is precisely what you have already done.

Thank you for interviewing Malcolm Garrett.
Did you read his comment on the Design Observer, Comedy of Errors: Graphic Design on Wikipedia, by Rob Giampietro?

This summer please interview your favorite (New York) designers from across the pond.
Carl W. Smith
04.19.08 at 11:28

i think its also interesting to trace what a designer is listening to musically through their own history of visual work.

for me its bunch of Podcasts from the MOMA PopRally and the Electroma Soundtrack.

Kristen
04.19.08 at 11:34

Excellent post! Music is essential for my thinking and pixel-pushing. Given that our company, Red Antenna, gradually evolved from a record label into a design shop, I certainly agree that there is a natural connection between the two.

The office playlist is something I'm always tinkering (and procrastinating) with. Overall, endless minimal techno is the preferred soundtrack: Basic Channel, Pantha du Prince, Deep Chord, Claro Intelecto . . . and, yep, Slowdive and M83 for when I'm brooding over a project.

I recently put together a workaday mix designed specifically for long hours at the monitor, which is available here.
James
04.20.08 at 01:44

I have to agree with Adrian
"I gravitate towards introspective, trance-like music"
Maybe I take it one step more literally and actually listen to what was once/is called "trance".
Usually if I need to change CD's or playlist it ruins the flow while I'm working and so I've had my iTunes Radio button locked onto the "electronic" set of streams for a while now. My current favorites are: AfterhousDJs, Ambient Popsicle, Afternoon Mix and BeirutNights Radio
B.McGuigan
04.20.08 at 02:35

It's definately easier to concentrate with music on, and sometimes having the headphones on and forgetting to fire up WMP helps in the 'don't-disturb-me-i'm-churning-out-something' mode.

On my playlist :
Radiohead
Chick Corea
RADWIMPS
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
RHCP
Jamiroquai
Jill Low
04.20.08 at 02:55

I work in a small studio of 3 people so we can always find something to listen to.

I'm the youngest with an age gap of about 15 years between the next youngest so sometimes they get into moods where I have no idea what song it is. And sometimes my sort or music gets a little too 'out there' for them. But we find a way.

But in terms of trance-like music, I find Chicane always makes me smile and is really good to listen to without being too distractive.
Dale Napier
04.20.08 at 06:40

i listen to pretty much of everything. still my favorite music is darkwave, gothic/sympho rock/metal, industrial, ebm and so on.

to name the bands:
Deine Lakaein, Dark Tranquillity, Cruxshadows, Dead Can Dance, Diary of Dreams, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Suicide Commando, Wumpscut etc.
xlt
04.20.08 at 07:30

I definitely agree with the preference towards instrumental music and would recommend checking out Bell Orchestre (side project of some Arcade Fire members) and Plants & Animals (older stuff since they just started adding lyrics to their music).

Great post!
Janice
04.20.08 at 10:47

i always feel like i have to start with silence. When I'm really thinking, music is only a distraction. Since music is always playing in our studio however, I own a pair of noise canceling headphones, the kind of thing you see men directing planes on the runway wearing. But once I'm into the thick of it, just making, the stereo in studio gets cranked and the noise is golden.
Michael Levy
04.20.08 at 01:09

Great post! Nothing is more fun than talking about music (well okay, listening to it or playing is more fun).

I listen to bands like Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan, Deadguy, Starkweather, Isis, Cult of Luna, Coalesce, Don Caballero, Converge, Mastodon, Shora, Meshuggah and the more indie-ish bands like Medications, Faraquet, Karate, Menomena, etc.

It's either that or (nordic) ambient/experimental stuff from labels like Rune Grammofon, Rumraket, Smalltown Supersound/Superjazz. Jaga Jazzist, Efterklang, Alog, Svarte Greiner, Machinefabriek,
Deaf Center, Xela, Yellow Swans, Nadja, Jazkamer, etc.

Oh, and jazz is great as well. Mingus, Silver, Dolphy, Davis, Coltrane, etc.

One thing I absolutely can't listen to while working (or living, for that matter) is reggae. It annoys the hell out of me.
Rob van den Nieuwenhuizen
04.20.08 at 01:20

Designing:
Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Belle & Sebastian, Sufjan

Research:
Dan Deacon, OCDJ, TI, Rick Ross

All-Nighters:
Battles, Death From Above 1972, Ghostface
Adam Okrasinski
04.20.08 at 01:39

Actually, I prefer dead silence as much as having music to keep me going. I can spend days without any sounds - just me, my computer, the cats and silence to work. It'll usually get followed by a non stop barrage of very very loud music later.
Tom Muller
04.20.08 at 03:51

An absolute essential for any designer working with clients that just want that logo bigger!

check it out

http://www.underconsideration.com/MaketheLogoBigger.mp3
The Cooler
04.20.08 at 03:59

The huge and immediate response to this post shows that there is a vast amount of environmental sound design. And it's great to see so much data. But it is, of course, all about just a subset of sound design: where INDIVIDUALS make choices of recorded MUSIC along the lines of their individual PREFERENCES for certain TASKS. And when it comes to others within earshot, often a problem.

What about presuming to help shape or design everyday sound for others?

Architects and interior designers design everyday physical and visual space for strangers all the time. Suppose you had to adapt or design the background sounds in those very spaces for people you don't know. Any way to do that knowledgeably, that is, other than imposing either your own taste in a way that others might well find intrusive, or a kind of blandness that many would find to be worse than nothing? Suppose they are people who are as sensitive as you to sounds, music, and silence, but who cannot express preferences or control a hi-fi or an iPod because of a significant physical, cognitive, or communication disorder. Think of being a resident in a home for the severely retarded, a nursing home for highly involved residents, or a prison. And suppose they depended on you to listen with them to the sounds around them and adapt, design or enrich the sound environment in ways that could be appreciated by such a wide variety of listeners. Or is the task impossible?

Turns out there is very little on such soundscape design, particularly outside of commercial contexts à la Muzak. There are virtually no established first principles, other than norms of excessive loudness. But in fact there are kinds of analysis that do apply and can be built upon.

This is something I'm intensively researching. Just published an introductory piece on it relative to a home for the cognitively disabled. Anyone else interested? Let me know.
Jeffrey Kittay
04.20.08 at 04:59

This article hits home with me. I'm a inHouse designer amongst governmental policy makers, default communication heads and we happily serve a audience of 65 plus - yay. To break the monotony I listen to music to get through my day. I'm torn between NPR and music (electronica, the fashionable expiritmental rock, drum n bass and some hip-hop). Depending on the project depends on the music. When I need to read and pay attention I resort to wordless notes...when Its a mindless project or a Monday i resort to NPR.


Cheers!
conformed
04.20.08 at 08:40

I love music and many of the musicians Mr. Shaughnessy lists are among my favourites. In all the studios I have worked in over the years music was a constant addition to the creative culture. That said, for over a year now I have been working as a solo independent designer and surprisingly - particularly to my own surprise - I now prefer a silent room when working. In fact, I find quietness to be a refreshing change and possibly a more productive environment.

Unfortunately, I haven't had time to read all the responses to this post but I assume I am in the minority in my preference for a quiet studio. Lately, if I do play some music it is often Aphex Twin, Pan American, Mojave 3, Bob Dylan, or occassinally Amy Winehouse. Generally speaking, if I do play music I subscribe to Mr. Shaughnessy's penchant for musical soundscapes, absent of lyrics...
KF
04.20.08 at 09:11

Lots of great tastes in here. Depends on what I'm designing usually, but a few catchalls for me are long and drifting post-rock, trip-hop and ambient/drone.

Recently:
Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
The Notwist - The Devil + You + Me
Worm is Green - Push Play

...and a few that can do no wrong:
Stars of the Lid - The Ballasted Orchestra
Max Richter - the Blue Notebooks
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
David Sylvian - Secrets of the Beehive
Portishead - Dummy
david sprankle
04.20.08 at 10:27

>like i say: "silence in the studio". ;-)

Malcolm Garrett, is this not a quote from Pink Floyd's "Atom Heart Mother"? A relatively obscure album which I just happen to have been listening to today.

I have 3 modes of listening:
When drawing I like to listen to talk: a podcast of Design Matters, This American Life, Radio Lab or CBC's IDEAS ... or music.

When designing, or doing whatever it is I do, on the computer, it's music music music, and what kind depends only on my mood.

But when writing, I must have absolute silence.

Also, I have a strange penchant for Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick", which i often use to get me started up on a project, or get me focussed when my mind wanders.

marian bantjes
04.21.08 at 01:29

We listen to a lot of different stuff – new and old.

However, as for a system of choosing which music gets played, I have developed a “red card” veto system. Each member of the studio team is issued with a number of red cards (3 to 5 each, depending on the size of the studio). Each red card allows the holder to “veto” any artist of their choice – permanently. So if you absolutely detest, say Devo, you can issue me with a red card and Devo will not be played again. If I hate you playing, say Madonna, I can ban her for good.

So the question becomes “Do I issue all my cards quickly? or do I hoard them away until i REALLY need them?” or “Do I veto a less-prolific artist based on one repulsive tune? or do I put up with that one tune so that I can veto a very prolific artist who I just mildly dislike, like KISS?

So far, the system really works!! (though I do miss Devo)
MrOneHundred
04.21.08 at 01:33

Mondays are Podcast (This American Life and NPR), but being in a studio setting, its great to put the headphones on and put the player on shuffle.
wheatcreative
04.21.08 at 01:38

We don't like headphones in the studio as slagging off each other's music taste brings us together as a team.

Thankfully we have plenty of overlap (David Bowie has the consensus). Late Friday's when the grown ups go home the dubstep and minimalist techno come out (Jeff Mill's Peel Session is a particular favourite).

There was a joyful day recently when only me and a couple of designers were in the studio and we listened to French-Canadian Post-rock and Lap-top Folk all day. Or 'Plinky-plonk' as less enthusiastic members of our team like to refer to it.

Silence is stressful.
Kate Nielsen
04.21.08 at 03:45

I love (Johnny) music at work, but (Lou)I really struggle with (Bob)the radio when (Stevie) I’m working, (Sly) some mindless idiot gabbing on. (Marvin) I can listen to pretty much anything (Sufjan) without the idiot! (Slaughter and the dogs:–) tx
tony brook
04.21.08 at 04:12

I agree that lyrics are often too distracting, but conversely I enjoy a few albums that are heavily lyrics based. Eg. The Libertines, The Smiths, The Streets. My brain splits in 2, one side works hard on designing, the other focuses intently on the narrative of the songs. I often end up in 'the zone' whilst listening to these bands.
benjy
04.21.08 at 05:01

great post! it would be interesting to see what a playlist derived from these comments would look like.

when I work on my own I prefer to listen to minimalist electronic music like Haujobb's Nintynine or some Felix Laband.

In the studio we work to anything that the boss won't object to (more chill rock, electro etc.) and as soon as he puts his foot out the door we listen to the likes of the chemical brothers, leftfield, eagles of death metal etc.
ernst
04.21.08 at 05:54

I usually listen jazz (mostly bebop and cool) and classical (french and english renaissance, early baroque...):

Jazz


  • Charlie Parker

  • Miles Davis

  • Stan Getz

  • Paul Desmond

  • Dave Brubeck

  • Herbie Hancock



Classical


  • Thomas Weelkes

  • William Byrd

  • Orlando Gibbons

  • John Jenkins

  • Sainte Colombe

  • Marin Marais

  • Henry Purcell

  • Silvius Leopold Weiss



Greetings! :)
Dan's Last.fm Music Profile
Dan
04.21.08 at 06:37

Today is Sia's day: "Breathe me" is in heavy rotation (Six feet Under soundtrack). Boards of Canada and other electronica is planned for afternoon.
I live in Rome and I listen to East Village Radio in podcast: terrific playlists!
Renato
04.21.08 at 07:51

Hi Marian, yes you "totally" got the Pink Floyd reference. The words were singing in my head as I wrote them, hence the quotation marks.

Even Adrian S. himself didn't get it - I told him of it whilst we were at the (magnificent) Harmonia gig on Friday night last.

OK. I partially retract what I said earlier I *do* like to listen to some music in the studio, but it does need to be of the ambient, electronic, instrumental, kosmiche kind (which is why the Pink Floyd reference seemed apposite). It's just that no-one else in the studio shares my taste for pieces consisting of 20+ minutes of arhythmic synthesised drone.

malcolm garrett
04.21.08 at 08:20

definitely music while working, well like 90% of working time. Keeps my "base-pulse" (aka "Ruhepuls") on the right level.
just to give you a comment from an architects point of view.
best, kat
Kat
04.21.08 at 09:06

The music I listen too is probably too mainstream to be listed here without heads being shake, but since my target audience are most of the time, the people who kept these songs at the top ten of the billboard chart, I think it fits well. I happens to like all music, from Louis Armstrong to the Doors, to The Bee Gees, to Jay-Z, to even country. Listening to Chris Brown and the new Madonna song isn't a problem. Actually, I prefer it, because as a designer, although I want to be trend setter rather than trend follower, I make it my business to know what is a hit right now.

I happens to think Timbaland's style is very minimalistic (the process I often refer to as steal and strip down). And so, as far as mainstream music is concern, I listen to his produced work with Danja, Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake, DOE, etc., the most. It inspires me, not to steal, but to understand less is more.

Some group of music artists have either well designed music video or great album cover designed by famous artists. Daft Punk, every songs that Michel Gondry ever did music video of, all the artsy music video that are famous (A-ha take on me for instance), I even bought Kanye West's graduation CD (even though I all ready have all his songs on mp3) just for the Murakami's cover that I can find online anyway.

If they support designers, and their music video isn't just simply Beyonce rubbing her breast on the road, something a little more clever, like the recent Finger Eleven - Paralyzer, then I support them.
Panasit Ch
04.21.08 at 09:32

at the moment...
sam prekop, very nice soundtrack for work

great post:)

best regards
ivana
04.21.08 at 11:00

At work, we usually listen to a local radio station playing indie pop and dance music. At home, I tend to listen more to Dead Can Dance or generally instrumental music when designing.
Stratos
04.21.08 at 11:14

Music allows me to concentrate and block out other distractions.

I found myself listening to these most lately

John Doe: A year in the Wilderness
Juno Soundtrack
Epoxies: Stop the future
David Bowie: Best of Bowie
HorrorPops: Bring it on!
The Bronx: The Bronx
Flogging Molly: Within a mile of home

I am all over the place in my taste of music.
ege
04.21.08 at 11:28

Lately:

Atmosphere
Deadstring Brothers
El Ten Eleven
The Felice Brothers
Gillian Welch / David Rawlings
I'm Not There O.M.P.S.
MF Doom
Pearls Before Swine
Spoon



Frequently:

Beck
Beta Band
The Black Keys
Coltrane
Dylan
Gram Parsons
Sonic Youth
Tortoise
Townes Van Zandt

bluegrassradio.org
Nick
04.21.08 at 12:00

I'm an art director that was conceived with a radio on. Sound and color are like fresh air to me. I've been making mix tapes for myself and friends since the late 1970's using my stuff and my mom's collection - she worked in a record store in the 50's. I spin occasionally on KSYM down here in San Antonio and produce an hour long Mystery Stream podcast twice a week.

Regardless of your taste or the size of your music collection, if you're looking for something truly different, eclectic and refreshing you should tune in and test drive an episode. All I can promise is some interesting feedback from anyone within ear shot...

Captured from the continual mystery stream discovered in the fall of 1961, our mission is to post 60 minute fragments, as frequently or infrequently as possible, from this not too distant satellite of unknown origion located on the dark side of the moon.

Here's what you can expect:

Hazy overcast explorations, episodes of vaguely familiar audio clues to the past, and overheard comments via an experimental format known as iF: Irregular Frequency.

Great article, thanks!

Enjoy,

H. Michael Karshis
H. Michael Karshis
04.21.08 at 12:57

Great post, I agree completely with the instrumental requirement. This said...EL TEN ELEVEN (good pick nick) is by far the best working music.

For those not familiar, if you've ever watched Helvetica and thought to yourself "this is an awesome freaking soundtrack!"...well, it's all these guys.

Cheers
Chris
04.21.08 at 01:57

Great post, I agree completely with the instrumental requirement. This said...EL TEN ELEVEN (good pick nick) is by far the best working music.

For those not familiar, if you've ever watched Helvetica and thought to yourself "this is an awesome freaking soundtrack!"...well, it's all these guys.

Cheers
Ryan Eckel
04.21.08 at 02:06

Music and design always come in a pair for me. I even have a website about it.

Questions I like to ask myself are; what type of music, if any, aids my design better? Do I design differently listening to Brian Eno or Brahms rather than Kiss' "Lick It Up" or Bruce Springsteen?

Thank you, Adrian, for this post. It was thoroughly interesting—as always.

And to your original inquiry... right now I am listening to Tuesdays Robot new album, "Peace Sing-A-Long", Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago", 13 & God's self titled, anything from The Blood Brothers and Mos Def's "The New Danger"... to name a few.
Whaleroot
04.21.08 at 02:17

I've recently found that my love of pop-punk and emo bands having me participating in a sing-a-long, which sometimes isn't apropos for the work environment. I've moved on to movie soundtracks, because while familiar, there's often instrumental tracks that keep things moving yet aren't too demanding of your attention as say, your favorite song is because you want to sing along. There's good dramatic moments and soft lulls that keep you working and comforted all at the same time with a soundtrack.

The soundtrack to The Darjeeling Limited is my favorite right now.
Liz
04.21.08 at 02:29

i laughed when i read the beginning of this post... i think about this all the time. every designer i know (myself included) is a freak for music.

anyways...

my faves when @ my desk:
lupe fiasco
mos def
rage against the machine
jose gonzalez
zero 7
the urge
fleetwood mac
bob marley

and, at this exact moment i'm listening to clipse.


karen
04.21.08 at 02:48

There is no question that music is important to the creative process. While working at Jazz at Lincoln Center I had the privilege to design a cd on the music of Charles Mingus. At the time, I didn't know much about Mingus or his sound, so the fun part was doing the research. I left the music library with piles and piles of albums by the giant bassist and proceeded to listen to them religiously for weeks.

I quickly became familiar with the sound of power, rage and fury that poured freely from Mingus' soul onto the layered compositions that only he could orchestrate. Those raw, yet prophetic sounds stirred up all kinds of emotions that translated into raw visual executions that symbolized both the music and Charles Mingus himself.

The titles perfectly illustrate the songs. My favorite "Better Get Hit in Your Soul," has become a personal theme song. It cleanses the palette and sets the mood for almost any project because it combines just enough "umph" with the right amount of "Oh yeah, baby!"

In the middle of the night when that deadline is looming, but I need to get the juices flowing I play the most intense 12 minutes ever recorded, "Haitian Fight Song." It starts off with a powerful bassline that approaches like a giant's footsteps, then breaks into a cacophony of horn play that could wake the dead.

But, days later when I realize that those consecutive overnighters caused some omissions and misspellings and shit hits the fan there is, "Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me" to get me out of trouble.

Last but not least, when you've hit that deadline, the client loves everything as is, no changes, and the clouds open up and the rays shine down on me, I celebrate with the beautiful tribute to Lester Young "Goodbye Porkpie Hat."
Bobby C. Martin Jr.
04.21.08 at 02:59

Depending what I'm designing, I listen to the Clarendonians, the Itals, or the Egyptians (or Raging Slab). When I'm going over proofs, I listen to the Impressions.
Mark Lerner
04.21.08 at 04:27

Ella Fitzgerald is the only 100% reliable artist to throw on when I really need to both concentrate, relax, and not get frustrated.

Music for churn em out typesetting: the 30+ minute jams of Phish.
Jeff
04.21.08 at 04:39

When I have serious design work to do, lately my go to music is Bloc Party- faster pace, and familiar rhythms are what I look for.
Mollybolt
04.21.08 at 06:09

What's playing is directly related to how many projects are in the shop at any given moment, and what stage of development they're in. Under deadline? How about some Black Sabbath or perhaps My Morning Jacket? Coding usually brings out the more atmospheric, but intense: Air and Sigur Ros, for example. Right now, however, it's a billing and paperwork day, so we are listening to lots of reggae. Nothing takes the edge off of accounting like some Peter Tosh, Horace Andy, and Bob.
Alan Bucknam
04.21.08 at 07:05

I make lots of mixtapes, the most recent of which is a combination of lounge, jazz, hip-hop, soul and other assorted bits that is now in heavy rotation.
gabe chouinard
04.21.08 at 08:06

Music depends on the mood and the activity. Deep thinking requires different music than production activities. I like this guy, but I've only heard a small bit of his stuff:

http://www.jonhopkins.co.uk/

I look forward to learning from the above posts.
david
04.21.08 at 09:55

>Hi Marian, yes you "totally" got the Pink Floyd reference. The words were singing in my head as I wrote them, hence the quotation marks.

I shd get some kind of prize for this.

But if the quotation marks around "totally" are another musical clue, well, um ...
unless you're using it to indicate "the newfangled way" we talk.
marian bantjes
04.22.08 at 12:13

You are right about "music without words: lyrics distract". I mostly listen to pretty much anything that Boomkat.com puts on their weekly recommendations list which means a lot of ambient from the likes of Tape, Xela, Porn Sword Tobacco, Part timer, Helios etc. Recommended.
Jesper Nordström
04.22.08 at 04:30

I can't live without music at work.
What I listen to, in response to David, does depend on what I'm doing and what mood I am in. I'm addicted to Bon Iver - For Emma Forever Ago, at the moment it's very mellow, great for sketching and coming up with ideas etc...
I find that when I have to do tedious/mindless production work that requires little to no thought I listen to "This American Life" which isn't music at all...
b.chornyak
04.22.08 at 09:48

There has always been music in my life. From my parent's listening to The Beatles, Babs, Simon & Garfunkel, Fielder and the Boston Pops to my college days studying to the likes of INXS, Dead Kennedys, Billy Joel, Police, Black Flag, Tears for Fears, The Cure, etc...

Throughout my career as a writer and designer I've continued that trend though my tastes have expanded even more, and of course, the occasional Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers when my kids are around. A lyric from a song I wrote in my garage band days, wraps it all up:

A world without music, is a world empty and alone.



Rob
04.22.08 at 11:12

My work soundtrack is the album 'Airdrawndagger' by Sasha

Highly recommended!
Moeed
04.22.08 at 01:46

Lately, anything by Philly band - Dr. Dog
Kirk
04.22.08 at 02:40

In the mix today:

DJ Shah Mellomania

Tiesto

Armin Van Buuren
Mark
04.22.08 at 03:58

I have music playing 24/7.

Today I have listened to:

Clifford Gilberto
Dntel
Jan Jelinek
Andrew Coleman
Bent
Daedelus
Boom Bip
Nina Nastasia
Big Bud
The Trouble Makers
Aphex Twin
Nick
04.22.08 at 04:30

I grew up in a household of a professional musician of the Detroit Symphony, so for me music has been not only a huge part of my life but all of my graphic design activities as well. I find that I have musical phases, if they can be defined as such, that shift based on what I'm working on. One month I may be listening to the Rite of Spring by Shostakovich, the following month Breaking Benjamin, around to Pat Metheny. I'll listen to most anything while I'm working, aside from Country, no, and Kenny G, a resounding "no."

When I'm looking for inspiration, I find myself browsing the iTunes music store or digging through the iTunes radio stations. Favorites are, Ambient > Groove Salad on Soma FM, and Alternative > Radiophile.
brian lucas
04.22.08 at 04:56

I personally prefer listening to music when I design. It gets me in the design mood, and it makes me feel more creative. Interestingly enough, I usually listen to something that goes with the feel of the project I'm working on. If it's a more serious project, I'll listen to something more classical or even jazzy. If it's a more contemporary design project, I'll usually listen to some indie bands. Whatever the project is, I can always listen to Matt Nathanson, The Strokes, and Sondre Lerche.
Edgar Alanis
04.22.08 at 06:52

Alanis Morissette when up against a deadline. Moby, Deep Forest, and various and sundry movie soundtracks for daily fare.

Sometimes I'll connect to fellow worker's machines and watch a movie from their library when I'm doing something particularly mind-numbing.
Andrew
04.23.08 at 09:39

we have a rather large team, around 18 designers and probably 30 developers sitting in a large-ish room, so blasting something everyone can appreciate is mostly out of the question. however, most everyone will have headphones at some point during the day.
the great part is, everyone shares their itunes libraries over the network, so diversity is never a problem.
usually
for me, (a designer/flash developer) it rather depends,
when i am under the gun, i like to listen to aggressive music.. usually some sort of metal or hardcore, but just as often trance of some form or another.
the complexity of the music/podcast also tends to effect me..if i am doing a fairly mindless task (updating 10 pages of psd comps) i more complex things like podcasts of radiolab or this american life, but if i am doing some complex problem solving, flash or otherwise, i have to stick to simpler music.
weird i know.

seth gerard
04.23.08 at 11:18

When the pressure is on:
Eagles of Death Metal; Wolfmother; Death From Above 1979

When the pressure is off:
Blockhead; Madlib; Cut Chemist

Currently:
A mix I threw together derived from the 2008 ACL lineup. Looks impressive!
Heather
04.23.08 at 11:18

Talking Heads—Wild Wild Life
Jason
04.23.08 at 11:55

Billie Holiday.

Works everytime for me. Especially when I'm swamped and need to destress...
jess
04.23.08 at 11:59

The Beatles
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Stephen Schwartz
Elton John
Frank Sinatra
John Powell
Kimberly
04.23.08 at 12:51

Oh. i tread the ground of most. No music when writing emails, contracts etc.

I think i'm going to wear out the digital version of Braid Frame and Canvas. One of the best records from the 90's. You indie kids know what i mean. I always turn this on when i have to get to work hardcore.

I personally can't get into that ambient stuff as far as listening. I have to NIN Ghosts lately, and i get everyone reasoning, but I sing enough tunes in my head that are ambient to keep me satisfied.

Though admittedly I put on some Dosh occasionally. Amazing stuff and local.
Josh
04.23.08 at 09:16

Patty Griffin
Elise
04.23.08 at 10:08

i'm listening to a mix of western vinyl artists.
http://westernvinyl.com/downloads.htm
courtney
04.23.08 at 11:04

For us music is a workload based things - lots and a heavy deadline sees the Rocky Balboa album rear it's retro head or the focusing power of trance like Underworld. Less stressed times can see anything brought in from Lali Puna to Linkin Park.

I think you need music in a studio, otherwise the silence of everyone working away can get deafening!
SolidBlock
04.24.08 at 08:35

I like to listen to the birds chirping outside my (home) office.

Or listen to NPR all day until it becomes background and I have no idea what they're saying. Or silence. Sometimes music, but it's not required.
Anne
04.24.08 at 01:54

You speak the truth.

My big responsibility as a Production Artist when I got my first gig was to keep the tunes going. If the CD's stopped I would hear it the loudest from the Creative Director: "Kevin! Music!"

Currently on the iPod mix:

Unkle - Do Androids Dream of Electric Beats?
DJ Shadow
Broken Social Scene
Wilco
s t e r e o l a b
New Order
Ladytron

Kevin Jennings
04.24.08 at 05:57

A while back I read a great interview of Lucianne Roberts interviewing Experimental Jetset. What struck me was that they likened their role as designers to that of being in a band.

Read the interview here:
http://www.jetset.nl/archive/interview2005_1.html


"We're a three-person studio operating in the margins of graphic design. In that way, we feel very much like a band.

We guess that there is a lot of competition in the world of advertising, and among larger 'Dutch Design' studio's, but we isolated ourselves from these spheres completely. We never participate in 'pitches', we never participate in advertising award shows, we don't go to industry receptions, etc. It just isn't our world.

By the way, the whole idea of a band as model for a studio is quite important to us. The idea of a small group of people operating as one unit is quite a powerful cultural/economic concept.

On the one hand, you have the advantage of a cooperative, collective way of working. On the other hand, the 'smallness' of the unit ensures that every member is responsible, and nobody is alienated from the end-product. This 'smallness' also prevents that the unit slips into the traditional boss/worker hierarchy (or, as they say in design, 'senior designer' and 'junior designer'; our stomachs turn when we hear those words).

This is also the reason why we never take interns. We would feel like complete hypocrites, telling other people what to do and letting them do all the mind numbing work. It just wouldn't feel right. We want to be responsible for the whole design, and that includes the boring part."


They are giving a lecture in London for D&AD... which reminds me I really ought to buy a ticket.

Currently listening to:
Battles / Beiruit / TV on the Radio (great name) / LCD Soundsystem / Arcade Fire
Robin Howie
04.24.08 at 06:45

When I interned at Milton Glaser Inc, someone blasted Dylan's Greatest Hits CD on repeat nearly every day (No joke.)


Joe M.
04.24.08 at 08:09

Internet radio + interactive + guide the software to your music tastes + free.

I use Pandora > Link to find music. They use a crazy formula to separate the music by its properties/styles.

No plugs here. Just a happy customer sharing the love!

linsey d.
Philly, PA.
Linsey Danielson
04.24.08 at 10:58

As a student studying both graphic design and engineering, I have found that designers and engineers working in groups at my university both gravitate towards music heavily influenced by technology when working in a computer setting. It must be the need for the aesthetic connection between idea, sight, and sound. People in charge of the Pandora stations for the group laboratories inevitably chose ambient electronic music in the vein of Brian Eno.

My personal favorite for both design work and engineering problem sets is the largely lyrics-free cd entitled Feel Good Lost by the band Broken Social Scene.

What an amazing response to this post. Everybody is eager to discuss music. Incredible.
Chloe
04.25.08 at 04:13

I tend to listen to a lot of varied stuff from industrial techno, to post-black industrial to doom metal...

...And Oceans - A.M.G.O.D.
Ahab - Call Of The Wretched Sea
Immortal - Sons Of Northern Darkness
Plastikman - Consumed
Sybreed - Antares

I listen to a lot of other stuff, but most of it is not really suited for hard thinking.
Jason Glabecki
04.25.08 at 11:05

cafe del mar
tap
04.26.08 at 04:47

I work in the design department of a company that does something else (hr staffing)... and they don't like it when the workers listen to music. Not on headphones and certainly not on any sort of device where others could hear the music. I get it, sort of. Who wants to listen to music all day that other people like but you hate? And I guess with the earphones it looks like you're not available or focused on the job. I wonder if there's any research that shows what listening to music in the workplace does for productivity? It might be the only thing that could change their minds.
Lauren
04.27.08 at 11:47

Hmnn. Doesn't surprise me that the suits frown upon music. LOL.

Good instrumental stuff here...

http://www.myspace.com/explosionsinthesky
http://www.myspace.com/thiswilldestroyyou
http://www.myspace.com/frommonumenttomasses
Dean Brown
04.28.08 at 09:18

Well, since i intern at a record label music is basically inseparable from work so that is that. I currently am entrenched in a lot of Fleetwood Mac (Rumours and forward), Kayo Dot (One of the bands we work with; also my favorite band of all time) and Velvet Cacoon (Weird weird weird Ambient Black Metal)

Others include:

Feathers
Pyramids-another HHR band; ambient;bizarre
Vashti Bunyan-Folk singer from the 60s
Whiskeytown
Ryan Adams
Devendra Banhart
Radiohead
Blut Aus Nord
Deathspell Omega


I listen to everything....and I NEED it to focus.

Oh and another good instrumental band is Pelican for Lauren above me are also on the label i intern at, Hydra Head Records.
Paul
04.29.08 at 04:32

I am a graduate student who is starting to write my thesis on how music effects graphic designers. I am interested in how music influences the typeface, color or layout we use when listening to a particular type of music. Any feedback on what any of you think..agree/disagree would be great!

Thanks!!! :)
Jessica
04.29.08 at 12:29

I think the Best music is listen while designing is soft quiet melody.Music tunes brains cells into more creativity.
Rajita
04.30.08 at 12:12

HA! I just quit my job today because in my design firm music was frowned upon unless it was classical or if there was no music at all! It was the last straw that broke the camels back when I asked if I could at least listen to my ipod with one earphone in so that I could still be accessible. My best productivity and satisfaction comes from listening to music that keeps me at the best tempo for what I am doing at that present moment. Dropping body copy deserves an upbeat tempo for me and things that require more thought deserves some soft jazzy/blue tunes. Lyrics don't bug me at all.

If it's a logo for an opera house, Metallica would not make much sense to "get me in the mood" for that specific client's needs. But if it's a logo for a hip coffee house, I'll pop in some lily allen or corinne bailey rae or some beat that makes sense and work away.

Hearing everyone type and click away for 40 hours a week has driven me MAD.

OH MY GOD THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE. All of your comments just gave me a new faith and resuscitated my inner design muse. Thank you thank you thank you, I feel like less of a freak.

So the answer to your question is if there are any studios that can survive with no music or stand for any music with personality. The answer is yes. I grueled away for 20 months at such a place. BUT NOT ANYMORE! YIPPEEEE!!!
born again designer
04.30.08 at 04:53

HA! I just quit my job today because in my design firm music was frowned upon unless it was classical or if there was no music at all! It was the last straw that broke the camels back when I asked if I could at least listen to my ipod with one earphone in so that I could still be accessible. My best productivity and satisfaction comes from listening to music that keeps me at the best tempo for what I am doing at that present moment. Dropping body copy deserves an upbeat tempo for me and things that require more thought deserves some soft jazzy/blue tunes. Lyrics don't bug me at all.

If it's a logo for an opera house, Metallica would not make much sense to "get me in the mood" for that specific client's needs. But if it's a logo for a hip coffee house, I'll pop in some lily allen or corinne bailey rae or some beat that makes sense and work away.

Hearing everyone type and click away for 40 hours a week has driven me MAD.

OH MY GOD THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE. All of your comments just gave me a new faith and resuscitated my inner design muse. Thank you thank you thank you, I feel like less of a freak.

So the answer to your question is if there are any studios that can survive with no music or stand for any music with personality. The answer is yes. I grueled away for 20 months at such a place. BUT NOT ANYMORE! YIPPEEEE!!!
born again designer
04.30.08 at 04:58

I searched this posting for KEXP, and I did not find it.

Blasphemy.

KEXP.org is food for my soul when I'm seeking out the escapism that is my work.

It's amazing.
Kelly K.
04.30.08 at 06:11

listening to the morning birds whistle

also can you possibly add the option of a feed for the links on the right column of the page, they're nifty
john
05.05.08 at 07:22

My personal music tastes run towards the aggro and noisy, and frankly I use my iPod to drown out whatever is going on around me, whether it that early morning "no one else is here yet" / late-deadline everyone has left silence or the fact that all the desks around me are filled with folks having impromptu meetings. Also I do have the occasional Miles Davis and Coltrane days, my days are usually filled with the likes of Killswitch Engage, Cradle of Filth and Chimaira....
Chuck Moulton
05.05.08 at 04:56

Now Playing: Pole - Winkelstreben
Gareth
05.06.08 at 05:46

From Vancouver, British Columbia -

Electro-pop, electro-punk, electro-house are dominating..

Chromeo
Arcade Fire
Junior Boys
LCD Soundsystem
Presets
Simian Mobile Disco
Santogold


A little Underground Hip-hop and 50's/60's & 90's remixes are creeping in as well..

Sage Francis, Aesop Rock, etc...
Thomas Girard
05.06.08 at 06:52

I think silence is worth playing with. Sometimes music puts us into a comfortable place, when what we need is to be alone on the edge. If we can find the peace that certainly exists in silence our minds must, by nature, be more free.

Did someone say Chris Rea?
John Barrett
05.07.08 at 06:45

odd nosdam. srsly.
will create a black hole in your mind.

or not.

the anticon label (anti-conventional), is really, really awesome stuff.

http://anticon.com/

this ain't spam, i live in minnesota, i should know spam when i see spam.


spam spam spam....
jay larson
05.07.08 at 09:33

im a freelance graphic designer, and my music is my "food for thought". I've been listening to a lot of electronic sounds, off late, like Solarfields, Kuba, Tripswitch, Shpongle etc etc, but i tend to have severe withdrawl symptoms...when i happly fall back on alt rock and funk jazz!

Presently listening to "Silent in the Morning" by Phish.

cheers n keep the misic alive ;)
kanchon mitra
05.08.08 at 11:29

My best experience was in a previous studio where one of the code geniuses built our own web based tool to make playlists and play songs. everyone could add their music and songs to a continous playlist and even though some anarchy sometimes erupted - people skipping other people's added stuff on the mega playlist - it was a great solution. one of the worst was another studio where another creative was the only one with speakers and would run through his (limited) library on a daily basis, hearing the same post-britpoppy rockpop song day in day out was painful.
weikee
05.11.08 at 07:20


Muse
Moby
Trentemoller
Royksopp
Ticon
Boys Noize
Photek
Infected Mushroom
D-Nox & Beckers
Resident Advisor's podcasts
Café del Mar albums
with a taste of Enya, Cold Play and Rammstein in between
andré felipe
05.12.08 at 12:44

You wrote: "My only stipulation is that it has to be music without words: lyrics distract." I'd suggest trying vocal music in other languages - based at Central Saint Martins, I'm currently playing King Sunny Ade's E Dide and contemplating putting on Radio Tarifa, Sussan Deyhim or Orchestra Baobab next. Alternatively, try last.fm's tags or Artist's Like radio stations. Life without music? Shudder!
Colin
05.12.08 at 05:09

Rock on! Let it load. word.

VR/
Joe Moran
05.15.08 at 01:40

In our studio we currently have a number of different dynamics that have to be accommodated. The first is an equal numerical balance between PR people (words) designers (pictures) and consultants (words). Additionally have an age range from 21 to 56 that regularly throws up generation gaps, with the oldsters talking about music that was recorded before the young and groovies were born. This tends to drive decisions toward the undemanding end of the musical spectrum, unless the ‘grown ups’ are out of the office.
We’re currently playing early 90’s dance of the Cream compilation kind (nostalgia for the 30 – 40 year olds), Sugar Babes – not to be sneered at pop, Bebel Gilberto, anything from Trojan records and Pick a Dub, which I got when I did a student placement at Adrian Shaughnessy’s design company 20-odd years ago.
I have an as yet statistically unproven theory that music made in the sun can add a bit of warmth to any studio. It’s grey outside so we’re heating things up with the ipod player.
simon c
05.20.08 at 12:04

In our studio we currently have a number of different dynamics that have to be accommodated. The first is an equal numerical balance between PR people (words) designers (pictures) and consultants (words). Additionally we have an age range from 21 to 56 that regularly throws up generation gaps, with the oldsters talking about music that was recorded before the young and groovies were born. This tends to drive decisions toward the undemanding end of the musical spectrum, unless the ‘grown ups’ are out of the office.
We’re currently playing early 90’s dance of the Cream compilation kind (nostalgia for the 30 – 40 year olds), Sugar Babes – not to be sneered at pop, Bebel Gilberto, anything from Trojan records and Pick a Dub by Keith Hudson, which I got when I did a student placement at Adrian Shaughnessy’s design company 20-odd years ago.
I have an as yet statistically unproven theory that music made in the sun can add a bit of warmth to any studio. It’s grey outside so we’re heating things up with the ipod player.
simon c
05.27.08 at 05:36


How interesting,

I'm listening to:

DJ FOOD - Full Bleed
Sigur Ros
Spiritualised
Boom Bip
Miles Davis
Vae
Tiki Obmar
Syndrone
Shift
Secade
Proswell
Proem
Edit

David Copsey
05.27.08 at 06:35

explosions in the sky, always.
renato
06.02.08 at 02:40

Good point. It all depends on what's at hand. If you end up being on a roll with the project, music or not, it will get done. But designing with great beats is by far better than anything else! My Morning Jacket's new Evil Urges is on my heavy shuffle list so far!
Jeff
06.02.08 at 05:16


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Adrian Shaughnessy is a graphic designer and writer based in London. In 1989 he co-founded the design company Intro. Today he runs ShaughnessyWorks, a consultancy combining design and editorial direction. He is a founding partner in Unit Editions, a publishing company producing books on design and visual culture.
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BOOKS BY Adrian Shaughnessy

Supergraphics
Unit Editions, 2010

Graphic Design: A User's Manual
Laurence King Publishing, 2009

Studio Culture: The Secret Life of a Graphic Design Studio
Unit Editions, 2009

Cover Art By: New Music Graphics
Laurence King Publishing, 2008

Look at This: Contemporary Brochures, Catalogues & Documents
Laurence King Publishing, 2006

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