To offer real value, every business needs to know what matters most to its clients. At Reliance Foundry, this is slightly complicated since we work with many different client groups. We serve construction workers, engineers, landscape architects, architects, urban planners, and facilities managers. To continue to innovate for our customers, we keep an eye on the trends in these industries… but there is only so much reading that we can do in a day! Podcasts and YouTube channels help keep us informed and on track. This is especially helpful for our remote working staff. Today we’re sharing some of our favorites: entertaining content that offers something for generalists (like us!) while educating and keeping us up to date.
Podcasts we recommend
A good portion of our blog is dedicated to the science, art, and craft of metallurgy. It’s no accident that we’re primed to enjoy anything on materials science. Where material meets with design, all the better.
Material Matters with Grant Gibson brings some of our favorite obsessions together while talking with designers about the materials they craft. These interviews offer something for everyone. The engaging personalities of his interviewees, mostly artists and designers, make for interesting listening. They talk about the tools and processes used with a combination of deep love and expert knowledge. Conversations range from the scientific to the whimsical. Anyone who has ever watched a video of a craftsperson working for the sheer joy of expertise will enjoy this podcast.
We’re certainly not breaking news here! Roman Mars’s 99% Invisible is one of the best-loved podcasts on the planet. Yet this podcast holds a special place in our heart, as a bollard company.
The mandate of 99% Invisible is to look at the hidden design and architecture that surrounds and upholds our daily lives. Bollards certainly fall into that (they even did an article on these little posts!)
It is common that people new employees at Reliance have never heard the world “bollard” before. Pretty soon, our teammates become very aware of these little unobserved guides and guards. They communicate, surround, and protect all over the urban landscape.
Our work exposure often leads to a curious affection for these simple posts. Reliance employees often come back from vacation with pictures of bollards on their phones.
“How was Fiji?”
“Beautiful—and check out these bollards!”
Our marketing manager even has a whimsical wedding photo featuring our bollards at her venue.
Once you start seeing bollards, you start noticing other unnoticed urban design, as well. All around us there are hundreds of items that have been crafted by someone in the hope of making the built environment more accessible, inclusive, and safe. The better these items work, the less they are noticed. From tenji blocks to trench drains, we specialize in these types of products, and so enjoy a podcast that so embraces them.
Reliance Foundry is often specified by architects and landscape architects, and so we try to stay abreast of the thinking and needs of the day. In architectural media, there are often two levels of content to explore.
Aesthetic, magazine-style spreads focus on the beauty of projects and the creative processes architects took. These are an incredibly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, but they don’t necessarily give us a clear idea of emerging concerns. Forums, articles, and discussion boards by architects for architects go the other way. Sometimes such forums delve into specialized discussion that is hard for us to sort through.
The Archinect Sessions podcast has become a favorite way for us to stay abreast of trends. It’s clearly aimed at working architects, but through a series of relaxed conversations with creative people. News of the day often prompts reflection and deeper consideration. Paul and Donna, the hosts, have NPR-style radio voices and an easy dynamic: their interviews range from the general to the architectural and back again. It is engaging to listen to, regardless of your current architectural knowledge.
Non-architects with an interest can learn along the way. Speakers relate their profession to the world we all share. After listening to the Archinect Sessions, you start looking at the built environment in a different way. When is a flying buttress a political statement?
The Art of Construction
Most of the time, our construction customers need us to focus on the practical. We support them with tight lead times, excellent value, responsive customer service, and available documentation. Getting down to brass-tacks gets jobs done. The foundry business is similarly practical: what may be on the horizon in two years is less important than today’s job. Balance sheets, speed, and quality are what matters in the moment.
Still, as with foundry work, large shifts in their industry have a serious effect on our customers. Change comes more slowly in traditional sectors, but it does come. We want to be informed as to what our clients are dealing with. To stay abreast of business changes, we dip into the Art of Construction podcast. Devon Tilly uses his entrepreneurial eye to offer an overall sense of the changes, stresses, and innovations our customers are contending with.
This podcast may not change the way we serve our construction clients, but they let us keep an eye on how the business of construction is changing.
We can also see how parallel industries are managing the world of industrial manufacture.
YouTube channels we like
The Design Milk YouTube channel offers beautiful design images, interviews with designers, and a deep dive into design culture. Lots of short-format videos are available for a coffee break. (They also provide a little inspiration while getting back into workflow.) Of course, if you want more content, you can let a playlist run and get a varied and interesting experience. We love the Design Milk Minis, of less than a minute run-time. These are little “sips” of milk video that provide a glimpse into interesting designers and artisans. The longer-form Milkshake interviews have interviewees answer design-focused icebreakers, drawn out of a bowl.
Urban Land Institute
Traffic management and water management supplies are our core products. But our larger mission is to be part of creating places people want to be. Our products may go unnoticed, but they should contribute to attractive, welcoming, and robust streetscapes which foster community engagement. To that end, we are always curious about research and advocacy into the use of urban land. What’s needed? What’s missing? How are communities supported by their development and infrastructure? How are they supported by their ecosystems?
The Urban Land Institute’s YouTube channel has some advertising-and-mission-statement videos. These are designed to orient people to their purpose and encourage people to join. However, you can also find interesting discussion videos on different approaches to land use management. Intriguing case studies give meta-perspective on the use of urban space.
Strong Towns is an interesting urban design channel because of its focus on civil engineering. Current road, parking, and highway engineering practices are standardized, and changes to these standards are slow. Strong Towns steps back to look at the big picture. Are current practices best serving the economic growth and social health of towns?
As their name suggests, those at Strong Towns are committed to a vision of the urban or suburban village. Though a lot of their work focuses on de-prioritizing the car in city planning, Strong Towns concerns itself with people’s economic and cultural needs. This approach attracts people from all sides of the political spectrum. Conversations range through varying viewpoints with the aim of planning efficiency to create viable, strong communities.
Many of the Strong Town videos suggest practical, actionable ideas for municipal governments. The channel offers a real sense of grassroots power to make incremental changes. Citizen groups can advocate for small changes that have a big impact.
A watercooler at the home office
During this time of remote work, one of the things we’re missing is collegial chatter.
At work, the conversation of co-workers in the hall might interrupt a chain of thought, but they orient us to the larger picture. Working from home can help with productivity but sometimes causes us to miss the point of the work we’re doing. We start missing the forest for the trees.
Having these podcasts and video streams are one way we stay connected not just to each other but to those we serve. For anyone with an interest in design, architecture, urbanism, or related fields, we invite you to check them out!