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99% Invisible

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Rank #1 in Design category

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Design
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Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at 99percentinvisible.org. A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.

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Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at 99percentinvisible.org. A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.

iTunes Ratings

20357 Ratings
Average Ratings
18417
977
422
257
284

Articles

By omariep - May 29 2020
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They’re all great episodes, but the articles of interest are my absolute favorite 💙

Excellent

By Markb3001 - May 28 2020
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Great podcast, great host, an all from beautiful downtown Oakland!

iTunes Ratings

20357 Ratings
Average Ratings
18417
977
422
257
284

Articles

By omariep - May 29 2020
Read more
They’re all great episodes, but the articles of interest are my absolute favorite 💙

Excellent

By Markb3001 - May 28 2020
Read more
Great podcast, great host, an all from beautiful downtown Oakland!
Cover image of 99% Invisible

99% Invisible

Latest release on Jul 08, 2020

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Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at 99percentinvisible.org. A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.

Rank #1: 314- Interrobang

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In the spring of 1962, an ad man named Martin Speckter was thinking about advertising when he realized something: many ads asked questions, but not just any questions -- excited and exclamatory questions -- a trend not unique to his time. Got milk?! Where's the beef?! Can you hear me now?! So he asked himself: could there be a mark that made it clear (visually on a page) that something is both a question and an exclamation?!

Speckter was also the editor of the typography magazine *TYPEtalks, *so  in March of 1962, in an article for the magazine titled “Making a New Point, Or How About That…”, Speckter proposed the first new mark of English language punctuation in 300 years: the interrobang.

Plus, we revisit the story of another special character, the octothorpe.

Interrobang

Jul 10 2018

32mins

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Rank #2: 99% Invisible-58- Purple Reign

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What’s the difference between what the public sees and what an architect sees when they look at a building? The hotel on the very prominent corner of Touhy and Kilbourn Avenues in Lincolnwood, Illinois used to be the town’s most … Continue reading →

Jul 13 2012

19mins

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Rank #3: 320- Bundyville

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Most of the American west is owned by the Federal Government. About 85 percent of Nevada, 61 percent of Alaska, 53 percent of Oregon, the list goes on.  And there have always been questions about how this immense swath of land should be used. Should we allow ranchers to graze cattle, or should the western land be a place where wild animals can roam free and be protected, or is it land we want to reserve for recreation?  As you can imagine, there is no consensus on the answers to these questions but there are a LOT of strong feelings, and over the years, those strong feelings have sometimes bubbled up to the surface and manifested in protests and even violence. In 2016, a group of armed militants occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in western Oregon. They were led by a cattle rancher by the name of Ammon Bundy - the son of Cliven Bundy. Perhaps you heard about it but never understood exactly what it was all about. Well, today we bring you a story from Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting reported by Leah Sottile- it's the first in series they put together that looks deeply into the fascinating and even sometimes wonky details of how the american west is managed, why the Bundys are so angry about it, and the religious ideology that undergirds their fight against the federal government.

Bundyville

The Bundyville series on Longreads

Aug 21 2018

42mins

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Rank #4: 269- Ways of Hearing

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When the tape started rolling in old analog recording studios, there was a feeling that musicians were about to capture a particular moment. On tape, there was no “undo.” They could try again, if they had the time and money, but they couldn’t move backwards. What’s done is done, for better and worse. Digital machines entered the mix in the 1980s, changing the way music was made — machines with a different sense of time. And the digital era has not just altered our tools for working with sound but also our relationship to time itself.

Part of the new Radiotopia Showcase, Ways of Hearing is a six-episode series hosted by musician Damon Krukowski (Galaxie 500, Damon & Naomi), exploring the nature of listening in our digital world. Each episode looks at a different way that the switch from analog to digital audio is influencing our perceptions, changing our ideas of Time, Space, Love, Money, Power and Noise. In the digital age, our voices carry further than they ever did before, but how are they being heard?

Plus, we have a little bonus, classic episode of 99pi, featuring Sound Opinions.

Ways of Hearing

Aug 01 2017

37mins

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Rank #5: 100- Higher And Higher

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Like the best of these stories, the two bitter rivals started out as best friends: William Van Alen and Craig Severance. They were business partners. Van Alen was considered the artistic maverick and Severance was the savvy businessman. It’s unclear … Continue reading →

Feb 04 2014

16mins

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Rank #6: 110- Structural Integrity

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When it was built in 1977, Citicorp Center (later renamed Citigroup Center, now called 601 Lexington) was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world. You can pick it out of the New York City skyline by its 45-degree … Continue reading →

Apr 15 2014

23mins

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Rank #7: 332- The Accidental Room

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A group of artists find a secret room in a massive shopping center in Providence, RI and discover a new way to experience the mall.

Plus, we look at the origin of the very first mall and the fascinating man who designed it, Victor Gruen.

The Accidental Room

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Dec 12 2018

34mins

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Rank #8: 114- Ten Thousand Years

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In 1990, the federal government invited a group of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers to the New Mexico desert, to visit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. They were there on a mission. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) … Continue reading →

May 13 2014

29mins

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Rank #9: 306- Breaking Bad News

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When a doctor reveals a terminal diagnosis to a patient -- that process is as delicate a procedure as any surgery, with potentially serious consequences if things go wrong. If the patient doesn’t understand their prognosis, for example, they could end up making uninformed decisions about their treatment.

That's why many medical schools now offer training for students on how to break bad news, bringing in actors to help them learn how to navigate this critically important and very high-stakes moment. And that’s not the only connection between acting and this particular facet of medicine.

It turns out that one of the first doctors to recognize the challenges of this particular kind of doctor-patient communication wasn’t just a physician -- he was also a comedian. And he drew on that experience to transform the way that doctors break bad news.

Breaking Bad News

May 09 2018

39mins

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Rank #10: 360- The Universal Page

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Reporter Andrew Leland has always loved to read. An early love of books in childhood eventually led to a job in publishing with McSweeney’s where Andrew edited essays and interviews, laid out articles, and was trained to take as much care with the look and feel of the words as he did with the expression of the ideas in the text. But as much as Andrew loves print, he has a condition that will eventually change his relationship to it pretty radically. He’s going blind. And this fact has made him deeply curious about how blind people experience literature and the long history of designing a tactile language that sometimes suffered from trying to be too universal.

The Universal Page

Jul 02 2019

38mins

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Rank #11: 271- The Great Dismal Swamp

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On the border of Virginia and North Carolina stretches a great, dismal swamp. The Great Dismal Swamp, actually — that’s the name British colonists gave it centuries ago. The swamp covers about 190 square miles today, but at its peak, before parts of it were drained and developed, it was around ten times bigger, spanning roughly 2,000 square miles of Virginia and North Carolina.

And it’s understandable why people called the swamp “dismal.” Temperatures can reach over 100 degrees. It’s humid and soggy, filled with thorns and thickets, teeming with all sorts of dangerous and unpleasant wildlife. The panthers that used to live there are now gone, but even today there are black bears, poisonous snakes, and swarms of yellow flies and mosquitoes.

Hundreds of years ago, before the Civil War, the dangers of the swamp and its seeming impenetrability actually attracted people to it. The land was so untamed that horses and boats couldn’t enter, and the colonists who were filing into the region detested it. William Byrd II, a Virginia planter, called it “a miserable morass where nothing can inhabit.” But people did inhabit the swamp, including thousands of enslaved Africans and African Americans who escaped their captors and formed communities in the swamp. This “dismal” landscape was the site of one of the most remarkable and least told stories of resistance to slavery in American history.

The Great Dismal Swamp

Aug 15 2017

24mins

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Rank #12: 138- O-U-I-J-A

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The Ouija board is so simple and iconic that it looks like it comes from another time, or maybe another realm. The game is not as ancient as it was designed to look, but those two arched rows of letters have … Continue reading →

Oct 28 2014

17mins

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Rank #13: 188- Fountain Drinks

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On April 21st, 1859, an incredible thing happened in London and thousands of people came out to celebrate it. Women wore their finest clothing. Men were in suits and top hats, and children clamored to get a glimpse…of the very … Continue reading →

Nov 10 2015

30mins

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Rank #14: 232- McMansion Hell

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Few forms of contemporary architecture draw as much criticism as the McMansion, a particular type of oversized house that people love to hate. McMansions usually feature 3,000 or more square feet of space and fail to embody a cohesive style … Continue reading →

Oct 18 2016

13mins

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Rank #15: 298- Fordlandia

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In the late 1920s, the Ford Motor Company bought up millions of acres of land in Brazil. They loaded boats with machinery and supplies, and shipped them deep into the Amazon rainforest. Workers cut down trees and cleared the land and then they built a rubber plantation in the middle of one of the wildest places on earth. But Henry Ford wanted this community -- called “Fordlândia” -- to be more than just a huge plantation. He envisioned an industrial utopia. He paid his Brazilian workers good wages, at least for the region. And he tried to build them the kind of place he would’ve loved to live, which is to say: a small Midwestern town...but in the middle of the jungle.

Fordlandia

In the second segment, we discuss Roman’s other show What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law

Mar 07 2018

30mins

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Rank #16: 237- Dollar Store Town

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Dollar stores are not just a U.S. phenomenon. They can be found in Australia and the United Kingdom, the Middle East and Mexico. And a lot of the stuff—the generic cheap stuff for sale in these stores—comes from one place. … Continue reading →

Nov 23 2016

15mins

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Rank #17: 99% Invisible-65- Razzle Dazzle

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When most people think of camouflage they think of blending in with the environment, but camouflage can also take the opposite approach. It has long been hypothesized that stripes on zebras make it difficult for a predator to distinguish one … Continue reading →

Nov 05 2012

9mins

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Rank #18: 132- Castle on the Park

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On the southwest corner of Central Park West and 106th Street in New York City, there’s an enormous castle. It takes up the whole east end of the block, with its red brick cylindrical turrets topped with gleaming silver cones. … Continue reading →

Sep 16 2014

16mins

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Rank #19: 325- The Worst Way to Start a City

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Sam Anderson, author of Boom Town, guides us through the chaotic founding of Oklahoma City, which happened all in one day in 1889, in an event called the Land Run.

Plus, we talk about Operation Bongo, the supersonic flight tests that rattled OKC residents in the 1960s. Anderson calls Operation Bongo his favorite research discovery of his entire career.

The Worst Way to Start a City

Oct 16 2018

31mins

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Rank #20: 83- Heyoon

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Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Alex Goldman was a misfit. Bored and disaffected and angry, he longed for a place to escape to. And then he found Heyoon. The only way to find out about Heyoon for someone to … Continue reading →

Jul 02 2013

26mins

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405- Freedom House Ambulance Service

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One night halfway through a graveyard shift at the hospital, orderly John Moon watched as two young men burst through the doors. They were working desperately to save a dying patient. Maybe today he wouldn’t bat an eye at this scene, but in 1970 nothing about it made sense. The two men weren’t doctors, and they weren’t nurses. And their strange uniforms weren’t hospital issued. Moon was witnessing the birth of a new profession—one that would go on to change the face of emergency medicine.  The two men were some of the worlds first paramedics, and, like Moon, they were Black. This is the story of Freedom House Ambulance Service of Pittsburgh. They were the first paramedics and they changed the way we think about emergency medicine.

Freedom House Ambulance Service

Jul 08 2020

44mins

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404- Return of Oñate's Foot

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All across the country, protestors have been tearing down old monuments. These monuments have been falling in the middle of historic protests against police brutality. Sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, these demonstrations have spread to communities, big and small, across the country and around the world. And as they've grown, the protests have become about much more than police violence. This national uprising has inspired a massive reckoning with our country's past. Suddenly, decades of inertia and foot-dragging have given way to decisive action. In 2018, we did a story about a couple of controversial monuments in New Mexico. They honored a Spanish conquistador named Juan de Oñate, who was an early settler in the region. We're revisiting that story with extensive updates about the current protests and a shooting that occurred at an Oñate demonstration in June.

Return of Oñate's Foot

Jun 30 2020

53mins

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403- Return of the Yokai

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In the US, mascots are used to pump up crowds at sporting events, or for traumatizing generations of children at Chuck E. Cheese, but in Japan it’s different. There are mascots for towns, aquariums, dentists' offices, even prisons. There are mascots in cities that tell people not to litter, or remind them to be quiet on the train. Everything has a mascot and anything can be a mascot. The reason why mascots and character culture flourish in Japan is connected with the nation’s fascinating history with mythical monsters known as Yokai.

Return of the Yokai

Jun 24 2020

34mins

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402- Instant Gramification

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If you’re on Instagram, there’s a decent chance you’ve seen a picture of one particular building called the Yardhouse. It was designed by the London-based architecture collective Assemble. The design of the building had a lot to say about creating spaces that were functional, collaborative, and inexpensive. But people on Instagram mainly saw a pretty wall to serve as the backdrop to their photos. Instagram and architecture have formed a symbiosis and the consequences of them interacting and feeding back on each other are still playing out.

Instant Grammification

Jun 16 2020

33mins

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Wedding Dresses: Articles of Interest #12

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A wedding was once seen as a start of young adulthood. Now, a wedding has come to represent a crowning achievement -- a symbol that your whole life is together and you have accrued the time and space and resources to afford your ascent to another level of fulfillment. And there's no greater symbol for this day, and all the pressure it brings, than a white dress.

Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

Jun 09 2020

28mins

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Diamonds: Articles of Interest #11

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Diamonds represent value, in all its multiple meanings: values, as in ethics, and value as in actual price. But what are these rocks actually worth? The ethics and costs of diamond rings have shifted with society, from their artificial scarcity perpetuated by DeBeers to their artificial creation in labs.

Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

May 29 2020

31mins

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Suits: Articles of Interest #10

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Menswear can seem boring. If you look at any award show, most of the men are dressed in black pants and black jackets. This uniform design can be traced back to American Revolution, classical statuary, and one particular bloke bopping around downtown London way back in the 1770s.

Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

May 26 2020

32mins

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Perfume: Articles of Interest #9

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The world of high end perfume is surprisingly lucrative, considering that scent is often the most ignored of our senses. But one can't judge a scent solely by the brand and shape of the bottle. With the right amount of attention, perfume can be a key to a whole olfactory world.

Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

May 19 2020

29mins

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Knockoffs: Articles of Interest #8

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Brands hold immense sway over both consumers and the American legal system. Few know this as well as Dapper Dan, who went from street hustler to fashion impresario and has spent time on both sides of American trademark law.

Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

May 15 2020

31mins

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A Fantasy of Fashion: Articles of Interest #7

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In the wake of World War II, the government of France commissioned its most prominent designers to create a collection of miniature fashion dolls. It might seem like an odd thing to fund, but the fantasy of high fashion inspired hope in postwar Paris. These dolls also forever changed the curator who discovered them almost 40 years later, in a strange museum perched on a cliff in rural Washington state.

Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

May 12 2020

39mins

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401- The Natural Experiment

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In general, the coronavirus shutdowns have been terrible for academic research. Trips have been canceled, labs have shut down, and long-running experiments have been interrupted. But there are some researchers for whom the shutdowns have provided a unique opportunity—a whole new data set, a chance to gather new information, or to look at information in a new way. And so, this week, we’re bringing you stories very different academic fields, about researchers who are using this bizarre, tragic moment to learn something new about the world.

The Natural Experiment

May 06 2020

1hr 9mins

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400- The Smell of Concrete After Rain

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There have been over 200,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. All have been tragic, but there are two people in particular we’ve lost due to COVID that were part of the world of architecture and design that we want to honor with a couple of stories today. First, we are mourning the loss of architect Michael McKinnell. Along with Gerhard Kallman, McKinnell designed the unforgettable Boston City Hall, completed in 1968. They won the commission for Boston City Hall after submitting their brutalist, heroic monument in a contest when Michael McKinnell was just 26 years old. It was always a controversial structure, much of the public found it ugly and too unconventional, but architects and critics tend to love it. This is the often the case with Brutalism in general and that is the subject of our first story starring Boston City Hall.

Another voice who is gone too early was Michael Sorkin. Sorkin was a designer and the Village Voice architecture critic in the 80s. He brought a totally new kind of approach to writing about buildings, one that focused on people and politics. We spoke with design critic at Curbed, Alexandra Lange, about Sorkin's work, and Roman Mars reads excerpts from one of his pieces called Two Hundred and Fifty Things an Architect Should Know.

The Smell of Concrete After Rain

Apr 29 2020

28mins

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399- Masking for a Friend

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Here in the US, we're not used to needing to cover half of our faces in public, but if you look at the other side of the world, it's a different story. In parts of Asia, wearing a mask in response to the coronavirus pandemic was a totally easy and normal adjustment. Rebecca Kanthor is a reporter based in Shanghai who has lived in China for the past 17 years, and she tells us why the culture behind masks developed so differently there, and the doctor who started it all.

Plus, we look at the manufacturers who pivoted to make products that are in short supply because of the pandemic.

Masking for a Friend

We have a book coming out!!! Check out The 99% Invisible City here.

Apr 21 2020

38mins

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398- Unsheltered in Place

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99% Invisible producer Katie Mingle had already been working on a series about unhoused people in the Bay Area for over a year when the current pandemic began to unfold. Suddenly, this vulnerable demographic was cast into the spotlight due to the virulent spread of COVID-19. It is clear from the data that this virus is hitting black and poor communities the hardest. COVID-19 has made American society’s racial and wealth inequities even more obvious. The disease is most dangerous to older and immunocompromised people, two groups to which those experiencing homelessness disproportionately belong.

Plus, hotels have long been used as crucial infrastructure during disasters. Now they’re being used to help fight the pandemic.

Unsheltered in Place

Apr 14 2020

43mins

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397- Wipe Out

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If you have tried to buy toilet paper in the last few weeks, you might have found yourself staring at an empty aisle in the grocery store, wondering where all the toilet paper has gone. Although it may seem like a product that we've always been reliant upon, toilet paper has not actually been around very long, and may not be as essential as we think it is. Instead, it's the product of very good marketing.

Plus, we talk about the bane of wastewater utilities everywhere: flushable wipes.

Wipe Out

Apr 07 2020

30mins

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396- This Day in Esoteric Political History

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In times like these, we could all use a little historical perspective. In this new podcast from Radiotopia, Jody Avirgan, political historian Nicole Hemmer, and special guests rescue moments from U.S. history to map our journey through a tumultuous year.

On this episode of 99% Invisible, Jody talks with Roman about his new show and we play two short episodes of This Day in Esoteric Political History.

Subscribe to This Day in Esoteric Political History on Apple Podcasts

Mar 31 2020

32mins

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395- This is Chance! Redux

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It was the middle of the night on March 27, 1964. Earlier that evening, the second-biggest earthquake ever measured at the time had hit Anchorage, Alaska. Some houses had been turned completely upside down while others had skidded into the sea. But that brief and catastrophic quake was just the beginning of the story. This is the story of one woman who held a community together.

This is Chance! Redux

Buy Jon Mooallem’s This is Chance!

Mar 25 2020

45mins

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394- Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are

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On this shelter-in-place edition of 99pi, Roman walks around his house and tells stories about the history and design of various objects

Buy Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are and all Beauty Pill records on Bandcamp or wherever you can find it.

Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are

Mar 17 2020

18mins

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393- Map Quests: Political, Physical and Digital

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The only truly accurate map of the world would be a map the size of the world. So if you want a map to be useful, something you can hold in your hands, you have to start making choices. We have to choose what information we're interested in, and what we're throwing out. Those choices influence how the person reading the map views the world. But a map’s influence doesn’t end there, maps can actually *shape *the place they’re trying to represent and that’s where things get weird.

Map Quests

Mar 11 2020

41mins

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392- The Weather Machine

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The weather can be a simple word or loaded with meaning depending on the context -- a humdrum subject of everyday small talk or a stark climactic reality full of existential associations with serious disasters. In his book The Weather Machine, author Andrew Blum discusses these extremes and much in between, taking readers back in time to early weather-predicting aspirations and forward with speculation about the future of forecasting, including potentially dark clouds on the horizon.

The Weather Machine

Mar 03 2020

29mins

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iTunes Ratings

20357 Ratings
Average Ratings
18417
977
422
257
284

Articles

By omariep - May 29 2020
Read more
They’re all great episodes, but the articles of interest are my absolute favorite 💙

Excellent

By Markb3001 - May 28 2020
Read more
Great podcast, great host, an all from beautiful downtown Oakland!