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Music that Motivates

Music is a driving force in life and helps us collectively celebrate our individuality. Music can also motivate you to produce better work.

How does music play a role in creating?

Music’s seemingly innumerous genres help in the creative process by stimulating your brain and releasing the chemical dopamine, which boosts your mood.

This musical mood boost is the perfect state for creating. Music can help you focus and elevate your work, but it can also be a distraction if you’re not listening to the right genres at the right time.

Which genres are for me?

Well, there’s Alternative/indie, Jazz, Hip hop, Soul, Disco, Pop, Country, Rock, Classical, Instrumental … to name a few.

You’ll know which genres are for you by finding—but more importantly, consciously exploring—styles to discover your likes and dislikes. You’ll know what you’ll like when you hear it. Over the years, I have racked up many listening hours on Pandora and Spotify and have dialed into genres, artists, and songs that boost my mood, allow me to focus, help me with creative blocks, and allow me to decompress.

The music I listen to …

As a designer, I do two types of thinking: conceptual (right brain) and technical (left brain). I use different music as motivation for each.

For conceptual design

Conceptual design is just that, conceptual. It involves the perfect combination of divergent reflection, creativity, and rigor to produce thoughtful, theoretical solutions.

To get my mind into a conceptual groove, it’s all about the beat. I love the French dance/electronic genre because there is such a variety of rhythms, sampling, and unique instrumentation. Conceptual design, similarly, has a variety of moments from ideation to iteration to revision to fruition. French electro allows me to drift into my flow state and focus on the big picture when it comes to conceptual thinking. The musicality of French electro has wonderful movement from tempo changes, vast vocal range, and dynamic beats that keep me engaged from beginning to end.

If you’re interested in giving French electro a go, I recommend Hémisphère by Paradis.

The key is to have fun. Find something that gets your foot tapping, and you’ll be surprised how the music can increase your decision-making speed. Another recommendation is Boy from School from English indie rock band Hot Chip.


For technical design

Technical design is the make-up of absolute precision and storytelling. It involves equal parts analytical thinking and aesthetics to deliver complex systems.

For me, it’s all about openness. A favorite song is from Rhye, a Canadian singer named Mike Miliosh, called The Fall.

Technical design requires precision and concentration and a dash of love. The music that motivates me for diagrammatic design is more open and ideally uses real instruments. I find that string instruments, especially, allow me to feel more emotionally connected to my work. By fostering a deeper connection to your work, you can improve your analytical thinking.

Music mix-up

If you think about what happens when you exercise, you can reach a limit to how effective a workout is if you repeat it too often. A similar effect will occur if you listen to the same artists, same songs, and the same genres too much — you’ll reach a plateau effect in enjoyment and motivation. So, mix up your music by listening to various genres or, better yet, get some recommendations from friends or colleagues with different musical tastes. You’ll be surprised what you end up liking.

Brent Rutter
Brent Rutter