Podcasts That Will Turn You into a UX Unicorn

by | May 13, 2020 | Career, UX

Summary

Get beyond visual design and development and ramp up your user experience skills for 2020 with these fantastic podcasts. These podcasts will get you up to speed on user behavior and design thinking with knowledge that will outlast any design tool.

Being a UX unicorn is a bit of a joke in the industry. Many consider the UX unicorn as much of a mythological creature as its namesake. However, UX unicorns are very real. it is an approachable skillset… with experience and being open to learning the right breadth of skills you will also become a unicorn. Any UX Team of One will eventually become a unicorn if they can get out of the wireframe/mockup rut, any graphic designer that earns the knowledge of the “UX” part of UX Designer is really a unicorn. UX Engineers are really ready made unicorns. A senior front-end developer worthy of the title will have picked up usability, research, and some design skills.

A UX unicorn is really just someone with a “T” or “X” shaped set of skills in product development and design. Someone who has breadth in research, basic psychology, visual information theory, development, and design along with a deep understanding of a couple specific areas.

For most of us, this really means adding user research and human behavior knowledge to our core set of skills in design or development. After 20 years of software engineering and design, the key leaps in our “UX” knowledge have always come from studying human behavior. Below is a list of podcasts that will ramp up your skills and understanding about human behavior and how to do research.

Skills You’ll Improve

General UX | Research | Product Strategy | Design/Creative Thinking | Entrepreneurship | Project Management | Human Behavior | Behavioral Economics | Cognitive Psychology

 

Podcasts

Method Podcast with dark grey background

Google Method

General UX | Research | Design Thinking

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

Interviews insider UX pros from across the Google domain. Has many in-depth interviews about decisions they had to make and why.

Why We Like This One

  • Goes beyond websites and covers diverse mediums like operating systems, self-driving cars, sound, browser extensions, hardware, and more. For UX pros wanting to stretch their thinking and take a refreshing look outside of their normal mediums.
  • Some of Google’s UX projects are the most challenging of their type and the podcast is the best for this reason. For example, Material Design is a design system for Google brand use, customer use, across the web and native applications.

Favorite Episodes

  • Rachel Been from Material – Material Design Creative Director Rachel Been on creating a design system at scale, emoji, and the creative power of curiosity. Spotify | iTunes
  • Ryan Powell of Waymo – In this episode, Aidan Simpson interviews Ryan Powell, Waymo’s Head of UX Design, about the company’s Early Rider Program and the challenges of designing during a technology paradigm shift. Plus, Powell unpacks the thinking behind how his team decides what details to include in the car’s interfaces so they foster trust with users. Spotify | iTunes
  • Roxanne Pinto, Google Flights – In this episode, host Travis Neilson interviews Roxanne Pinto, a content strategist at Google, about the role of UX writing in helping people use—and understand—machine learning-driven products. Listen in as Pinto shares insightful anecdotes about unpacking errors and how mental models shape product interactions and user trust. Spotify | iTunes

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Podcasts That Will Turn You into a UX Unicorn

metric podcast

Metric UX – The User Experience Design Podcast

General UX | Project Management | Strategy | Professional Development

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

Metric covers UX design, research, and strategy in an often entertaining manner. Some of their topics: conversational UIs, UX certifications, writing for UX, service design, ethics and analytics, and burnout.

Why We Like This One

  • Covers the 90% of UX skills and tasks beyond visual design.
  • Uses interesting subjects to cover UX like tabletop gaming, ouija boards and Nintendo.
  • Hits on career topics like certifications and burnout.
  • Oh, and the rockin’ Atari style theme music.

Favorite Episodes

  • Questions UXers should ask in Job Interviews – In this episode of Metric, we talk about questions UXers should ask during job interviews, and what about that interview or organization are red flags. Spotify | iTunes
  • Mazes and Monsters – This episode of Metric is about tabletop game design and play testing. Enter the awkward ass world of Michael explaining to Tim his slack-based Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Hear Tim’s crazy interesting foray into play testing and its crossovers with user onboarding. In addition to the banter, we touch on: NUIs: natural user interfaces lessons learned by other industries about how games onboard users Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters. Spotify | iTunes
  • The Worth of UX Certification to Tim Broadwater – In this episode of Metric: The User Experience Podcast, I chat with friend-of-the-show Tim Broadwater, a UX Master Certificate recipient, about the value of User Experience Certification, or even that of a more traditional route through college. Spotify | iTunes

mixed methods podcast

Mixed Methods

Research |General UX

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

The how’s and why’s of user experience research. Focused on the range of methods for user research, they interview many industry experts.

Why We Like This One

  • User research is tough to get right, and often not done well at most companies. This podcast will upgrade your skill set and share ideas for using better methods on your next project.
  • Their guests really are a who’s-who of UX. Mostly practitioners of researchers or pioneers who established the methods we use now.
  • The laser focus on research methods and less on products is refreshing. Tools come and go, but solid methods will stick with you.

Favorite Episodes

  • Share Better: Rethinking the Research Report – Tomer Sharon, WeWork – Tomer Sharon has been doing UX research for more than 15 years. He’s written two books and a couple years ago left Google to lead the UX team at WeWork, a co-working startup turned unicorn that’s valued at close to $20 billion. We got together after I heard that Tomer was talking about the death of the research report. The inability of classic reports to effectively convey meaning and meet the needs of product teams seems to be a reoccurring theme. I wanted to hear how Tomer and his team at WeWork had rethought the paradigm. Spotify | iTunes
  • Combining Qual & Quant – Jeff Sauro, MeasuringU – Jeff Sauro has had an amazing career. In addition to having a PhD in educational statistics and research methods, he’s worked at GE, Intuit, and Oracle. Jeff is probably best known though for his work at MeasuringU, the quantitative research firm he founded in 2004. As it says on their about page, they focus on “the statistical analysis of human behavior and quantifying the user experience.” When it comes to qual/quant research, Jeff is a leading voice in the community and in this episode we discuss what motivated this approach and speak a bit about how UX researchers could begin to incorporate this type of thinking into their practice, including How To Make Personas More Scientific. Spotify | iTunes
  • Mental Models – Indi Young, Co-Founder of Adaptive Path & Independent Researcher – Indi Young has been doing UX research since before it was a thing. With over 25 years of experience in various consulting roles, Indi is a wealth of knowledge and good stories. Not only about co-founding the well-known consultancy and UX think tank, Adaptive Path, but also the conception of mental model diagrams. She has now written two books about this method, Mental Models and Practical Empathy. Spotify | iTunes

uibreakfast-podcast

UI Breakfast: UI/UX Design and Product Strategy

General UX | Strategy

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

Industry experts who share actionable knowledge about SaaS products, marketing and UX.

Why We Like This One

  • Covers product strategy with UX in mind. If you can’t map user need to business goals either you’re not going to succeed as a UX Designer or the company isn’t.
  • Covers a wide and interesting gamut of topics like healthcare, education for kids, game thinking, and writing. This is another podcast that will expand your skillset and technique as a UX pro.

Favorite Episodes

  • Designing for Behavior Change with Amy Bucher – How do you design a product that truly changes people’s lives? Our guest today is Amy Bucher — a UX specialist focusing on behavior-change design, and the author of Engaged. You’ll learn about the core principles of behavior-change design, how to help users achieve their goals, how accountability works, and how to craft an engaging and motivating product experience. Spotify | iTunes
  • Designing for Healthcare with Chris Kiess – Healthcare industry involves enormous resources, but has always been “playing catchup” when it comes to software. Our guest today is Chris Kiess, a user experience designer and author. You’ll learn about his unique story within the industry, different areas of healthcare UX, typical use cases, professional challenges, and how to pave your own path in healthcare design. Spotify | iTunes
  • Lean, Agile & Design Thinking with Jeff Gothelf – There are so many design methodologies available these days — lean, agile & design thinking being the most popular. Could you use them side-by-side? Our guest today is Jeff Gothelf, author of Lean UX and Sense & Respond, and co-founder of Sense & Respond Press. You’ll learn how to make the most out of these frameworks, help teams talk to each other, and measure customer outcomes (instead of your effort) using the right behavior metrics. Spotify | iTunes

99 Percent Invisible podcast

99% Invisible

Design Thinking

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture.

Why We Like This One

  • Although not directly about UX or digital design, 99% Invisible will expand your thinking. The podcast covers a diverse set of historical subjects that are often at their heart design thinking stories.
  • If you design digital systems and do not spend time absorbing design thinking from other fields, you are severely limiting your thinking and career.
  • When we are looking for inspiration or stories that expand how we think about design, this is our go-to podcast.

Favorite Episodes

  • Children of the Magenta (Automation Paradox, pt. 1) – On the evening of May 31, 2009, 216 passengers, three pilots, and nine flight attendants boarded an Airbus 330 in Rio de Janeiro.Then, with no communication to the ground or air traffic control, flight 447 suddenly disappeared. Spotify | iTunes
  • Johnnycab (Automation Paradox, Pt. 2) – as automation makes our lives easier and safer, it also creates more complex systems and fewer humans who understand those systems. Which means when problems do arise—people can be left unable to deal with them. Human factors engineers call this “the automation paradox.” Spotify | iTunes
  • Fraktur – A typeface from a family of German typefaces once used throughout Germany which are known collectively as Fraktur which in English goes by a different name: blackletter. Blackletter is the type of old-timey Gothic typeface that you often see used for the bold front titles of newspapers like the New York Times or Washington Post, or on the T-shirts of Heavy Metal bands. But for many people, especially in Europe, blackletter is most closely associated with one thing: it’s the “Nazi Font.” Spotify | iTunes

akimbo podcast

Akimbo by Seth Godin

Design Thinking | Human Behavior

Spotify | iTunes

Description

Seth Godin is known for his marketing strategies and books, but this podcast is really about shifting how you think about culture.

Akimbo’s a podcast about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what’s happening and choosing to do something.

The culture is real, but it can be changed. You can bend it.

Why We Like This One

  • Another pick that isn’t directly tied to what juniors think of as UX, but will stretch and inspire your design thinking skills to get you to the next level of product design
  • This podcast is also excellent for increasing your awareness of mental models and the behavioral economics of people.
  • Inspirational for the UX professional, by thinking through how we approach cultural problems we also become more mindful of what we do professionally.

Favorite Episodes

brainy business

The Brainy Business

Psychology | Behavioral Economics | Service Design

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

Consumers are weird. They don’t do what they say they will do and don’t act how we think they “should.” In this podcast, Melina Palmer takes the complex concepts of behavioral economics (the study and science of why people buy – or not) and provide simple, actionable tips you can apply right away in your business.

Why We Like This One

  • As the description implies, this podcast does an excellent job of explaining behavioral economics concepts and ways to make changes to your business/UI/services.
  • Melina Palmer first does a thorough explanation of each topic, and then ends each episode with how to apply.
  • You will learn more actionable insights about your customers from one episode than any meeting about color or font choice.

Favorite Episodes

Choiceology with Katy Milkman

Behavioral Economics | Psychology

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

Can we learn to make smarter choices? Wharton professor Katy Milkman shares stories of irrational decision making–from historical blunders to the kinds of everyday errors that could affect your future.

Why We Like This One

  • We can never get enough behavioral economics and cognitive psychology knowledge.
  • Learning about the psychology of people using software and interacting with the world around them is fundamental to understanding user experience.
  • Choiceology covers deep behavioral topics in a very understandable and straight-forward manner.

Favorite Episodes

Dollars to Donuts with Steve Portigal

User Research | Research Ops

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

The podcast where we talk with the people who lead user research in their organization.

Why We Like This One

  • Every episode is interviewing a UX Researcher or Research Ops  at companies that make the discipline a priority.
  • Sharing their challenges, successes, and processes help the rest of us learn about some unique solutions to research.
  • Even if you are a UX team of one and don’t have the huge resources of these UX leaders, you will still learn applicable techniques.

Favorite Episodes

  • Leisa Reichelt of Atlassian (Part 1 & Part 2) – If you’re working on a product that has got some more foundational issues that need to be addressed, but the vast majority of the work is happening at that very detailed feature level, how are you going to ever going to stop kind of circling the drain? You get stuck in this kind of local maxima. How are you ever going to take that big substantial step to really move your product forward if it’s nobody’s job, nobody’s priority, to do that? – Leisa Reichelt – Spotify part 1, part 2 | iTunes part 1, part 2
  • Tomer Sharon of Goldman Sachs – In this episode of Dollars to Donuts, I talk with Tomer Sharon, the Head of User Research and Metrics at Goldman Sachs. We talk about how to assess potential hires for user research positions, infrastructure for capturing and searching a body of data, and developing a practice inside a willing, yet large, organization. Spotify | iTunes

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain

Psychology | Sociology

Website | Spotify | iTunes

Description

Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.

Why We Like This One

  • Shankar covers topical subjects from the perspective of psychology and sociology in an engaging way.
  • For UX, you need to be a creative thinker and problem solver while understanding the people around you.
  • Hidden Brain covers subjects you never thought about critically and will broaden your toolset for approaching problems.

Favorite Episodes

  • You 2.0: Deep Work – When your phone buzzes or a notification pops up your screen, do you stop what you’re doing to look and respond? That’s what many of us are doing. Even though we think we should be less distracted by technology, we haven’t admitted the true cost of these interruptions. This week, we revisit our 2017 conversation with computer scientist Cal Newport, and consider ways we can all immerse ourselves in more meaningful work. Spotify | iTunes
  • Facts Aren’t Enough – Sometimes when we believe something, we resist data that can change our minds. This week, we look at how we rely on the people we trust to shape what we believe, and why emotions can be more powerful than facts. This episode features new reporting and favorite conversations with neuroscientist Tali Sharot and philosopher of science Cailin O’Connor. Spotify | iTunes
  • Misbehaving with Richard Thaler – We don’t always do what we’re supposed to do. We don’t save enough for retirement. We order dessert — even when we’re supposed to be dieting. In other words, we misbehave. Spotify | iTunes