The Student Focus podcast

Hi, there!

So, … I happen to be working on this Podcast Project (with two of my friends, Nat and Maheen) and I thought I’d tell you what we’ve done so far (and It is not like this project is part of a university brief *cough* …or anything like that… *cough*).

The Gang

The team that I have is brilliant – it is small enough so that it is quite easy to manage and schedule meetings but still big enough so that we can get into some (minor) disagreements (which is just healthy, and it helps us progress with the project). Overall, we get along well, we can get stuff done, and we also have a lot of empathy for each other, which means that we can adjust our expectations to our individual abilities or help each other out when needed. Outside of this project, we have formed a supportive inner circle (although there are three of us – so maybe it is more of a triangle?) where we discuss our final projects and daily struggles, which is very helpful (cause mental health and personal growth come first).

How do we even start?

Well, at the beginning we had a lot to figure out in terms of what we want to do with this podcast, who are we talking to, what are we providing, what is it called, what does it look like, what does it feel like, what does it sound like, etc.

Targeting the communication (addressing the audience) is a crucial aspect of any project. I find that it is easier to understand this process and its importance when we compare it to the ways how we interact in real life. In real life, if you want to talk to someone you just walk right up to them and start a conversation (or you can call them, message them, send a morse code, smoke signals, etc.) but when you are establishing a brand in the online zone you cannot exactly do that. Instead, you must imagine the sort of person you would want to talk to and figure out a way how to woo them into the interaction. If you do not establish this crucial element (the connection) then you essentially become that guy, who is preaching in the streets, and talking to everyone and no one simultaneously (not that there is anything wrong with that – it is just not very effective or desirable).

But back to the project… To make our collaborative work more effective and accessible to all team members, I have decided to set us up with a Miro Board (created March 12). I think that this was one of the best decisions we made because it became a one-stop destination for our research, notes, links, ideas, and feedback. (This sounds a little bit narcissistic – I know.)

(Miro Board Screenshot)

In addition to the Miro Board, we have also made a WhatsApp group chat where we would set up meetings, share links, etc. (it was a faster way of communicating in comparison to the Miro Board).

Quite early on, we agreed that we would like to use our Podcast to discuss issues related to the Creative Industries (from our POV). Ideally, we would like this podcast to be a resource for students (aspiring, current or mature) who are interested in the Creative Industries and for people who are already involved in this area.

The Process So Far

Once our goal was roughly established, we moved on to the research. I have put together a list of podcasts that fit within our chosen category so that we could observe their strategy, name, tone of voice, visuals, topics, etc. – essentially, we wanted to learn from them as much as possible and we also wanted to make sure that we are not copying an already existing concept (which I mean,… that is tough to find out because there is a lot of podcasts out there and I am kind of assuming that podcasts like ours aren’t featured in the top 10. But rationally, the podcast that we are making cannot be a copy of something that already exists because it is based on us… so yeah… I don’t think we need to worry about a lawsuit.)

Regarding the recording technique, we were lucky to have Natalie on our team as she has already done some research into this issue for her Final Project. We decided that we will be recording over Zoom with the option to utilize the recording studio at UCA if the circumstances allow it. (Spoiler alert! They did not.)

(Pinterest Board Screenshot)

Coming up with the name was fun. We did a brainstorming session and Maheen collated a list of our wild ideas. We landed on ‘Student Focus’. I had some reservations about that name later. So, I came forward with a range of suggestions in the next meeting, but we ended up sticking with the original. Now, that I am reflecting on it I think that it was a smart move. In addition to the Miro Board, I have also created a Pinterest Board where we could collate images (brand identity examples, posters, illustrations, fonts…) that resonate with our Podcast vision. However, after the first Feedback Session, we have realized that the name or visuals were not that important at that point (or set in stone for that matter). We could talk about our research, ideas, and visions all day long and we would get nowhere. What we really needed to do was to start doing! Simply just so that we would have something to talk about, evaluate, and shape our project around it. Therefore, our next few steps were to refine the outline of the episodes which Natalie covered brilliantly and to schedule the first recording.

Admittedly, we have dropped the ball a little bit over Easter but thanks to the work we have already done and the fact that we documented everything it was not that hard to get back on track. We decided what we want to get done and distributed those duties accordingly. Maheen and I worked on concepts for the Brand Identity while Nat edited the first episode and composed the Intro.

Download ZIP • 28.98MB

All in all, I think that we are doing well… It is still a work in progress though.

(Concept Design - Mags)

I would also like to share a few words about the concept design. Do you remember how I did not like the name at the beginning (kind of because it sounds a bit too generic)? Well, now that I have made the executive decision to add in the 'THE' it sounds more appropriate (to me) and I feel much better about the whole feel of it. For the design aspect of it, I observed logos and visual identities of radio stations to find clues and hints which would help me make our podcast look legit. The most common features were bold Geometric or 3D typography with fresh (but limited) colour pallets (similar themes can be observed on our Pinterest board). There were also a lot of dynamic elements and in some cases, I noticed minimal decorative illustrations.

So, when I got around to designing our Podcast I decided to go with the bold 3D typography with a shifted perspective (not quite isometric, but close) to make it a bit more dynamic. This makes it a little bit more difficult to centre the graphics within the square - I am very aware of this issue, trust me. Additionally, I generated some extra graphics -> like the acronym (TSF) which I transformed into a pattern or the phrases (That is sooo, ...) which could be used on social media to promote individual episodes. Lastly, I tried out a range of colours but in the end, I assigned an analogous colour palette to each episode (to emphasize that the podcast is friendly, young, and upbeat). The multicolour strategy would not be practical if the podcast was to have 100+ episodes but since we are making only a few it should not be an issue. However, it still needs to be pointed out and perhaps we'll have a discussion about it later on.

Additional Insights

Once we got to recording, we had a bit of discussion on the topic of Scripted VS Unscripted recording – we ended up going with something like a semi-scripted approach, where we have a set theme with sub-topics that guide our conversation, but we are still free to chat (just like in a normal conversation).

Thanks to this conversation I became more aware of the content that I consume almost daily, and I started to analyze how these sources of entertainment are made. I have gained a whole new level of appreciation for the people who are behind all those Podcasts, YouTube shows, and even TikToks (and that says a lot, in my case). I am not saying that I did not know that these things are pre-planned, because I certainly did know that. I just did not know to what extent some of these things are/can be scripted.

In the case of Good Mythical Morning – it makes total sense. They would not be able to push out shows every morning if they did not have them scripted. But now I am left wondering whether all the goofing off, jokes, and games first come to life on paper and then they are acted out on screen or if there is still some level of improv/realism. (Like do we get at least some honest reactions out of those guys?) The same goes for their Podcasts – they are scripted, which does not make any of their work ‘bad’ - quite the opposite – it is great! I think that it takes a certain kind of person and a lot of practice to get it just right (so that the delivery does not feel stiff) and Rhett and Link have loads of experience (they began their career in 2006).

Now when it comes to The Futur with Chris Do Podcast, I know that the process is a little bit different. It has more of an interview/conversation format. This means that Chris (or more likely it is the job of someone who works for Chris) does some background research on the host he is going to talk to, then he makes a list of questions and goes from there. In this case, it is about the ability and skill of the interviewer to guide the conversation, to listen, and most importantly to make the host feel comfortable.

This whole exploration led me to this YouTube channel where Logan Portenier, also known as Observe, analyses body language. Now, I know that you cannot see body language through the podcast format, but it still provides some interesting insights as he points out the tone of voice, hand-gesturing, head movements, eye-blocking, etc. and what it means in certain contexts when these motions are not aligned with what the person is saying (this is most frequently mentioned in 'apology reviews' which are in many cases pretty dishonest). Overall, there are a lot of things that can be useful not only for improving public speaking but also for getting the (somewhat low-level) ability to read people who are talking to you.

(And that is all from me for now… Peace out!)