20 December 2010


Designing to Music


I don’t think I’m alone when I say music is a massive inspiration to me as a designer. It’s almost like another design tool. I find listening to music when I work makes me more adventurous in my design and it seems to facilitate creativity.

It won’t be to everyone’s taste but I’ve compiled a new Spotify playlist of the sort of music I’m listening to at the moment. It’s called Alternative Durge 2.

Below is a list of the songs and artists featured on Alternative Durge 2.

  • Photoshop Handsome by Everything Everything
  • Latin America by Holy Fuck
  • I L U by School of Seven Bells
  • Our Lady of Lourdes by Paul Smith
  • TAOS by Menomena
  • Northern Skies by I am Kloot
  • England by The National
  • The Salesman (Tramp Life) by White Rabbits
  • Intro by XX
  • Up and Down by Chad Valley
  • Sun by Caribou
  • 61 by The Kissaway Trail
  • Poor Animal by Zola Jesus
  • Spanish Sahara by Foals
  • Undertow by Warpaint
  • The Answer by UNKLE
  • Not in Love by Crystal Castles (Featuring Robert Smith)
  • You by Gold Panda
  • Welcome to Lunar Industries by Clint Mansell

Would be cool to hear what you guys are listening to right now.


  1. Miryam

    20 December 2010 | 11:42 am

    http://www.endtopic.com/index.php?id_tag=11 They also have Friends Podcasts :)

  2. Giles

    20 December 2010 | 12:19 pm

    Music is an essential tool in my working day. When coding, straight up Drum & Bass Arena podcast http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/drum-bassarena-podcast/id110623324. I need that 170 BPM to get me in the zone. When designing it completely depends on the project and the task in hand, usually something down tempo.

    It’s an interesting topic, I wonder how much influence music really has on our work. If I listened to nothing but euphoric house on one project, and moody dubstep on another…. both with similar briefs.

    Or is music just a distraction?

    I’ll give Alternative Durge 2 a listen later today.

  3. mikekus

    20 December 2010 | 12:30 pm


    Thanks for your comment.

    I think music influences my design in the sense that it makes me feel a certain way and can make me approach projects from a different angle. I wouldn’t say the music itself is reflected in the work in any way at all.

    As design project is a design project and the first priority is to answer the brief.

    I think you’re right to say music can be a distraction sometimes too. When I’m working on the functionality of a site, sometimes a bit of quiet is required. :)

  4. Russell Heimlich

    20 December 2010 | 3:50 pm

    Sweet! I’m always looking for new music to put on when I’m working. I listen to music 8 hours a day so it’s tough to find new and interesting stuff.

    I made a playlist of these songs on Grooveshark so anyone can listen to them… http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Mike+Kus+Designing+to+Music/41248358

  5. Ryan K

    22 December 2010 | 2:15 am

    The John Butler Trio is burning a hole in my iPod (April Uprising).

  6. Annie M

    26 December 2010 | 3:14 pm

    To me, music is quite important in the early times of a project.

    It seems to distract the part of my brain that isn’t wild or creative at all. Like once my rational and logic brain is busy elsewhere it unleashes creativity and after an hour or so I dont even hear the music playing.
    But I agree when it comes to details and finishing a job music is really distracting:)

    For now my list is filled with : The National, Death Cab for Cutie and Interpol.

  7. PabloS

    04 January 2011 | 9:40 pm

    Great list!

    I loved some of these on my Hype Machine account.

    Check out some of them here:

    Hope you like it!

  8. tapps

    11 January 2011 | 1:02 am

    this list kind of rocks my world. thanks for posting. and thanks to russell for posting it on grooveshark for us US’ers that can’t get spotify. :)

    i’m always designing to music. actually.. music is always playing throughout my house no matter what. it’s a good thing i live alone :)

  9. Steve D

    16 January 2011 | 9:53 pm

    I think it depends on your environment sometimes…. What i mean is, I work in a very vocal web team during the daytimes. This means having music on is supposed to be a no-no as the discussion rages from 9-5. However I am A. a music head and B. in need of quiet or isolation when I have to concentrate, I cannot help but reach for Spotify or an iPod.

    Personally I have to recommend something I love as a piece of music to listen to, and as probably (for me at least) the best music to work to. Basically I recommend all the music that The Field has made so far. It’s quite repetitive (but in a wholly worthwhile and good way), it’s amazing mood music and just carries me through the design decisions and moments I have when creating, or even trying to crack some code. Check out the myspace for a taster, he’s not on Spotify but it’s well worth tracking down either on iTunes or similar. http://www.myspace.com/thefieldsthlm

    My music selections tend to be based on my mood at that point in the day, and the music does what it needs to get me on task. For example if I’ve had a problem with a client, I might listen to more aggressive music, but if I’m doing OK, something a little more downbeat might go on.

    I know Mike as a designer, but to be honest if I met you I’d probably mostly talk about music as some of our tastes cross over judging by here and Twitter etc!

  10. Luke

    17 January 2011 | 7:09 am

    great blog mike!

    I’m just getting into design, i’m finding your blog and advice helpful.

    I’ve been making quite strange mixtapes that I design to.



  11. ldexterldesign

    25 March 2011 | 1:48 am

    Gold Panda is sick! 12th in my top artists: http://www.last.fm/user/ldexterldesign

    Not so similar ^ but I’m going through a Witch House phase ATM:


    - download what you can get hold of.

  12. DamoBiddles

    28 March 2011 | 3:22 pm

    I’ve been listening a lot to this exciting little band for a while. Mostly because I’m in it.


    Otherwise, I’m listening to High Violet (The National)an awful lot and always go back to Sigur Ros / Jonsi for inspiration.


  13. George Lenox

    19 July 2011 | 12:50 pm

    Hi Mike

    Music helps me too, but I don’t always think to put any on, and when I do I don’t always go for any particular genre.

    Reading this article reminded me of something that really got me in the zone – the scores from the Saw movies, by Charlie Clouser. A lot of it is available on Spotify. It is amazing stuff. Very atmospheric but probably not for everyone! If you’re doing dark grungey stuff, like for bands, then it’s probably perfect.

    Anyone interested, try this: spotify:album:5IdiXj0Dos3O6o7hMRZYm1

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