May 13, 2009 11:23 am

Design Music!Inspiration

The lovely Nikki from SnailBird has organized a Design + Music + Inspiration Project, and I’ve agreed to participate! She’s trying to get a feel for what designers listen to and what their combined playlists would sound like. If you’d like to participate also, check out the Design Music!Inspiration entry and comment to sign up.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should preface this with the note that I am a web developer by trade and only an occasional web designer. The majority of design work I do is only for this site (and my portfolio site, I guess) because even if I take on freelance projects, it’s usually for someone who already has a design and needs it built out. That said, I still think this applies and I’m excited to participate. :D

What’s your favorite genre of music?

Metal. That said, I listen to everything from alternative indie pop stuff to scary things in other languages, so I am pretty open. I listen to a fair amount of black metal (Borknagar, Opeth), industrial (Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein), folky Nordic metal (Storm, Otyg), goth/doom metal (Type O Negative, Sisters of Mercy), alternative (They Might Be Giants), indie (The Decemberists, Neutral Milk Hotel), and pop (Lily Allen). I tend to have favorite bands rather than favorite generes, because I listen to so many different kinds of stuff.

Do you listen to that genre while designing or does it change?

Not generally. If I have a particular song stuck in my head, I will listen to that, but I think most stuff I listen to is too abrasive for thoughtful work.

Do you tend to listen to any artist in particular while designing?

Sigur Rós! Their stuff is so amazingly perfect for design or development work. It’s symphonic enough to be calming, but has either a beat or is loud enough that you get a rhythm going in your work. Plus, depending on the album, the lyrics are either in Icelandic or a nonsense language that mimics Icelandic, so you don’t get too caught up in what the vocalist is saying and can focus on your work. Phenomenal and totally recommended. (If you’ve seen The Life Aquatic, Starálfur is the song that comes on when Zissou & co. are in the sub and they see the leopard shark. LOVE IT.)

Do you find that different song styles or beats influence the style of your designing? Vice versa?

Hm. I’ll say that if I really get on a roll, I want some pumping music behind me. That’s more for development, I guess, but Rammstein or NIN are great for that. When I’m thinking, or working on fiddly designy things, I prefer something more mellow like The Decemberists or Neutral Milk Hotel so it doesn’t get in my way. I think my designs and my development needs influence my listening rather than the other way around.

What program/site do you use to listen to music?

iTunes. I don’t use Pandora since we’re not allowed to stream music at work, and then I forget to use it once I’m home. I usually prefer to listen to a whole album at once rather than a party shuffle or something, so I like iTunes for that because I can play things by album easily.

And finally, could you live without music? Design?

No, and no! ALL THE BEAUTY WOULD BE GONE FROM THE WORLD. I just rediscovered this article on A List Apart called “In Defense of Eye Candy” and realized it’s more or less what I wrote my thesis on in college. People perceive attractive things to work better and to be more trustworthy, and it’s the function of the designer to facilitate this experience. I’d be so sad without that!

What song best sums up your design style and/or the music you listen to while designing?

Since I mentioned it before, let’s say Starálfur by Sigur Rós. I think it best sums up the music I listen to when I do either design or development. I’d definitely recommend that entire album though; it’s called Ágætis Byrjun. (And since I was thinking about all this, I had to grab my iPod to listen to this album!)

Thanks, Nikki! This was fun and I hope you get some great responses.

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1 Comment

  • Nikki says:

    Thanks for signing up – I love the article you mentioned from ALA. In a way, it does fit into this topic. I can’t wait to get all the interviews together so we can see how everyone’s answers are similar (and differ)!

    Thanks again! :D