What I'm Listening To: The Weeds
The Weeds is a political commentary podcast presented by Vox.com. What sets this show apart from so many other political shows is that hosts Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, and Matthew Yglesias relish in taking deep looks at policy details. Even during this insane presidential election cycle, the hosts have mostly discussed gaffes and scandals in a way that relates meaningfully back to practical impact on our country. It's a welcome departure from the shallow political discussion we are generally subjected to on cable TV and talk radio.
I can't actually tell you the age of the three hosts, but I can say that their communication style and humor fits younger demographic than most political shows out there. As a millennial, I feel The Weeds is engaging and very informative. The topics are practical and important, yet the hosts are still generally able to synthesize a lot of information and present it in a way that is easily digestible even in audio format.
Vox and The Weeds are unashamedly left of center news outlets. I appreciate the transparency with which the opinions are clearly presented as left-leaning. No one is trying to trick the listener into accepting this as a perfectly balance show without bias. If you're not ok with considering liberal/Democratic opinions, you probably don't need me to tell you to steer clear of both Vox and The Weeds. However, I have to say that their is a ton of good information presented in this podcast and I am often surprised with how fair Ezra, Sarah and Matthew are when they acknowledge the views of the other side.
The Weeds is a show for citizens who like to think about the cause and effect details of government policies. How is healthcare changing and how can we make improvements? How do different tax policies actually affect the economy? What policies should we really be focusing on moving forward? Citing studies and data is a point of emphasis on The Weeds and it lends both credibility and tangibility to the podcast.
The Cover Art
As much as I enjoy the podcast itself, I can't pretend to be a huge fan of The Weeds' cover art. I have no problem with the concept or execution of the design. Bold simple shapes and clear typography make everything clean and readable. The topic of the podcast is clearly presented and the tone is at least hinted at. The problem I have with the cover art is that it suffers from over-branding.
I completely understand the desire to represent both the parent company (Vox) and the podcast network (Panoply) in the artwork. Both brands bring legitimacy and a loyal following of their own. And, of course, each entity wants recognition for their part in producing such a well-done podcast. But three logos is just too many for podcast cover art, end of story.
Remember that the majority of the time, podcasts covers are viewed as tiny thumbnails. The three logos compete even at large sizes, but when you shrink the artwork down it starts to get a bit ridiculous. To be fair to the designer who created this artwork, I really think he or she did a nice job given the parameters. Fortunately, the Panoply branding is pretty unobtrusive which helps a bit.
This issue of including too many brands is something that graphic designers have been battling for years. In a weird way, the fact that it has found it's way into the world of podcasting legitimizes the medium. I am clearly in the camp that we shouldn't let the visual identity of a podcast suffer for a simple branding opportunity. Podcast cover art just does not have room to allow for multiple logos. It will be interesting to see if this is a growing pain that podcasting has to grow through or a persistent trend that designers will need to deal with for a long time.