Our soundtracks for design

September, 2015

Music's contributing effect on creativity has been the subject of much academic research and anecdotal study. In the past, studying at home alone and listening to our favourite albums or playlists helped us to remain focussed on our activities, and so listening to the right music at work should also encourage productivity. Music can also relax and stimulate the mind simultaneously and in this state, we think more freely and productively which must be a benefit when designing. John Besmer, principal of Planet Design Co, interviewed by Jenny Wohlfarth for the website www.howdesign.com is confident that music can also help to structure creative thought, “If you’re working on a project that’s elegant and beautiful, you might listen to something like jazz, something that puts you in that mood,” he says. “But if you’re designing an in-your-face project, you want music that gets you there. After all, you wouldn’t go to the gym and want to work our to a lullaby, right? Music shapes the message.”

Studies on sound in the workplace and its impact on thought conclude that the volume of sound is important to achieve a good balance between focus and intrusion, and that instrumental music without lyrics is the most effective by not activating the language centre of the brain that may be trying to engage in other language related tasks. The research suggests that all useful sound needn’t be in the form of music - studies into the effect of white noise, and even pink noise, demonstrate an increase in workplace productivity. 

Music can also be joyous and lift the spirits, providing positive boosts of energy. We know of one architectural practice that announces the winning of a project or achieving planning consent with a loud burst of a cheesy Take That song, for example. Encouraging collective celebration of achievements through music that makes us feel happy must be healthy.

In our shared studio space, finding the music that inspires us has been a collective task. Spotify has endless playlists categorised as “Music for Concentration” and “Focus” but we’ve discovered that we’re at our creative best when the music we hear also makes us feel a bit, well, cool and has the momentum to drive us forward. Here are a few of our current favourites that help to keep our creative energies flowing throughout the day…

Mellow Beats. Playlist by Spotify.

Live At The Royal Albert Hall. The Cinematic Orchestra.

Blueprint (Side A) & (Side B). By Joseph Buckler.

Some interesting links & references:
Designers Tell How Music Influences Creativity, by Jenny Wohlfarth 

How Music Affects Your Productivity, by Gregory Ciotti

Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition, by Ravi Mehta, Rui (Juliet) Zhu and Amar Cheema.
Published in the Journal of Consumer Research.