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By: Molly Donovan on August 21st, 2020

Why Listeners Like It: Adobe’s Wireframe

Creativity doesn’t just happen. Instead, creativity is the result of hard work and a series of choices the creator makes. In this series, we’re diving into some of the most creative branded podcasts out there — shows that have become favorites for their audiences. We’re asking their creators: why do listeners like your show? What makes it special? And how do you deliver that special something episode after episode?

Whether or not they explicitly know it, showrunners gravitate toward just four components to anchor their shows. These are the traits or qualities of the show experience that audiences can recall — and, just as importantly, that showrunners can control. They’re the sticky parts of the experience, which the listener is most likely to remember and mention when making a word-of-mouth recommendation about the show to someone else (e.g., “This podcast has the funniest host!” or “This show has the most interesting segments — they keep my attention the whole time!”). These anchors deepen relationships between the brand and the listener — a key step in becoming that listener’s favorite show.

Premise-driven shows are united by an overarching theme — a “big idea” that serves as a throughline throughout every single episode. 

Format-driven shows have expertly-structured episodes, which flow either via one coherent story or smartly segmented pieces that the audience loves to hear.

Talent-driven shows have superpowered hosts, who can speak, teach, entertain, and inspire. In these shows, the host is a true personality, and listeners might mention their name as a proxy for the show itself. 

Community-driven shows rally a core audience around a common cause. These shows are exceptional at connecting people to each other and to important ideas.

In this series, we’re exploring favorite-able shows and identifying what anchors them. Today, we’re examining Wireframe by Adobe.

Why Listeners Like Wireframe

Wireframe is a highly-produced podcast for “UX/UI designers, graphic designers, and the design-curious.” Hosted by Adobe Senior Designer and Fast Company most creative person in business Khoi Vinh, It’s an interview show…with a twist. Each episode dives into a specific topic that might be of interest to the target audience (recent episodes include “How Crowdfunding Design Makes it Easy for Us to Give” and the oh-so-apt “Why Can’t Dad Unmute Himself on Zoom?”) and interviews a number of designers, Adobe employees, and everyday users of design. The effect is a rich tapestry of voices and experiences, which all reinforce the central ideas of the podcast — and never feel like “just another interview show.”

Vinh and team are particularly cognizant of not wanting to sound like every other design-focused interview podcast. “Wireframe really goes beyond the standard interview format,” explains Vinh. “We look more deeply at the ‘why’ of design, and we find the right experts and voices to help us tell engaging, well-researched stories. The goal is to help people understand how design is critical in helping technology fit into their lives.”

That variable format serves the show’s true anchor: its premise. “Whether we’re looking at coronavirus, dating apps, or sleeping tech, a good Wireframe episode always asks, ‘What’s the role of the designer here? How did they help or hinder things for real people?’” says Vinh. “That’s our North Star, and it helps us make sure that the stories we tell are captivating for everyone–designers, technologists, and the design curious.” 

That hyper-focus on the show’s premise — the role of the designer across applications and industries — keeps the showrunning team on track as they develop the show. “Because we don’t hear a lot of design stories in traditional media, it’s surprisingly easy to veer off-course when looking at the digital world,” says Vinh. “Sometimes, before you realize it, you’re telling a tech or social or economic story instead of a design story.” Re-focusing on the premise prevents the Wireframe team from pursuing tangents that, while interesting, don’t answer that overarching question. 

A strong focus on premise has ancillary benefits for other anchors as well. Wireframe knows whom it’s for — and whom it’s not for. Fixating on the role of the designer means that Wireframe is not necessarily for the technologist or the entrepreneur. That definition means the show has the ability to create something that could become a designer’s favorite. Rather than try to be something for everyone, Wireframe’s premise forces it to engage with and cater to a particular community. That pure focus can only serve to strengthen such a community.

If we were to draw a radar chart of how Wireframe fulfills each anchor, it might look something like this:

Quick note: when we say a show isn’t necessarily most anchored by talent, we certainly do not mean that the host isn’t talented. We just mean that one of the other three components of the show is a more prominent anchor. In Wireframe‘s case, those other elements are certainly present — the show seems to be striving to activate a defined community, and host Khoi Vinh is a reassuring and talented constant who acts as a kind of understated, friendly guide — but its premise is the driving force. Above all, that is what makes Wireframe special — its focus on that overarching message is why listeners like it.

Your Favorite Podcaster’s Favorite Podcasts

No one knows good shows like a showrunner. As a bonus, here are Khoi Vinh’s favorite podcasts:

  • The Business by KCRW, because it takes a deep look at the mechanics of the entertainment industry and reveals how movies, television, and more come into being
  • On the Media by WNYC offers a fascinating look at the underside of news coverage and our understanding of current events
  • Film podcasts in general; namely The Slahsfilmcast, Blank Check, and The Big Picture


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A somewhat accidental marketer, I’m first and foremost a writer. I’ve spent a decade working with global brands to craft on-target content and streamline complex ideas into clear (and even…exciting?!) language. Now, I get to spend every day immersed in content and strategy here, as Managing Editor of Marketing Showrunners, at my company, Molly Donovan Content & Communications. I’m thrilled to be a part of this community of eager next-generation marketers and marketing showrunners.

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