99% Invisible

Roman Mars

+859 FANS

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...Show More

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274- The Age of the Algorithm

25:44 | Sep 5th, 2017

Computer algorithms now shape our world in profound and mostly invisible ways. They predict if we’ll be valuable customers and whether we’re likely to repay a loan. They filter what we see on social media, sort through resumes, and evaluate … Continu...Show More

288- Guerrilla Public Service Redux

20:39 | Dec 12th, 2017

In the early morning of August 5, 2001, artist Richard Ankrom and a group of friends assembled on the 4th Street bridge over the 110 freeway in Los Angeles. They had gathered to commit a crime. Years before, when Ankrom was driving through downtown L...Show More

340- The Secret Lives of Color

44:58 | Feb 5th

Here at 99% Invisible, we think about color a lot, so it was really exciting when we came across a beautiful book called The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair It’s this amazing collection of stories about different colors, the way they’ve bee...Show More

269- Ways of Hearing

42:06 | Aug 1st, 2017

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, … Continue reading →

332- The Accidental Room

34:37 | Dec 12th, 2018

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 Accide...Show More

316- The Shipping Forecast

27:53 | Jul 25th, 2018

Four times every day, on radios all across the British Isles, a BBC announcer begins reading from a seemingly indecipherable script. "And now the Shipping Forecast issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency," says the vo...Show More

302- Lessons from Las Vegas

33:19 | Apr 10th, 2018

To this day, architects tend to turn their noses up at Las Vegas, or simply dismiss it as irrelevant to serious design theory. But as Denise Scott Brown discovered in the mid-1960s, there is so much to learn from Las Vegas about how to make architect...Show More

287- The Nut Behind the Wheel

31:35 | Dec 5th, 2017

In the past fifty years, the car crash death rate has dropped by nearly 80 percent in the United States. And one of the reasons for that drop has to do with the “accident report forms” that police officers fill out when they respond to a wreck. Offic...Show More

344- The Known Unknown

45:14 | Mar 6th

The tradition of the Tomb of the Unknowns goes back only about a century, but it has become one of the most solemn and reverential monuments. When President Reagan added the remains of an unknown serviceman who died in combat in Vietnam to the Tomb o...Show More

286- A 700-Foot Mountain of Whipped Cream

53:48 | Nov 28th, 2017

While the 1960s shift in print and TV advertising has been heavily documented and mythologized by Mad Men, Madison Avenue’s radiophonic collision with the counterculture is less well known. A radio advertising producer, writer, and composer, Clive De...Show More

284- Hero Props: Graphic Design in Film & Television

26:35 | Nov 14th, 2017

When a new movie comes out, most of the praise goes to the director and the lead actors, but there are so many other people involved in a film, and a lot of them are designers. There are costume designers and set designers, but also graphic designers...Show More

281- La Sagrada Familia

31:40 | Oct 25th, 2017

There are a lot of Gothic churches in Spain, but this one is different. It doesn’t look like a Gothic cathedral. It looks organic, like it was built out of bones or sand. But there’s another thing that sets it apart from your average old Gothic cathe...Show More

279- The Containment Plan

29:26 | Oct 10th, 2017

It’s hard to overstate the vastness of the Skid Row neighborhood in Los Angeles. It spans roughly 50 blocks, which is about a fifth of the entire downtown area of Los Angeles. It’s very clear when you’ve entered Skid Row. … Continue reading →

271- The Great Dismal Swamp

28:38 | Aug 15th, 2017

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, … Continue readi...Show More

265- The Pool and the Stream

34:51 | Jul 4th, 2017

This is the story of a curvy, kidney-shaped swimming pool born in Northern Europe that had a huge ripple effect on popular culture in Southern California and landscape architecture in Northern California, and then the world. A documentary in three … ...Show More

199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball

23:57 | Jun 7th, 2017

In 1891, a physical education teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts invented the game we would come to know as basketball. In setting the height of the baskets, he inadvertently created a design problem that would not be resolved for decades to … Con...Show More

256- Sounds Natural

28:21 | Apr 18th, 2017

In most wildlife films, the sounds you hear were not recorded while the cameras were rolling. Most filmmakers use long telephoto lenses to film animals, but there’s no sonic equivalent of a zoom lens. Good audio requires a microphone close to the sou...Show More

343- Usonia Redux

39:54 | Feb 26th

Frank Lloyd Wright changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. Before designing many of his most well-known works, Wright created a small and inexpensive yet beautiful house. This modest home would go on to shap...Show More

Plaid: Articles of Interest #2

18:55 | Sep 28th, 2018

Lumberjacks wore plaid. Punks wore plaid mini skirts. The Beach Boys used to be called the Pendletones, and they wore plaid with their surfboards. Lots of different groups have adopted the pattern over the course of the 20th century, but if we want t...Show More

Kids' Clothes: Articles of Interest #1

23:52 | Sep 25th, 2018

Clothes are records of the bodies we’ve lived in. Think of the old sweater that you used to have that's just not your style anymore, or the jeans that just aren’t your size anymore. We are like snakes who shed our skins and grow new ones as we age. A...Show More

324- Billboard Boys: The Greatest Radio Contest of All Time

28:49 | Sep 19th, 2018

The year was 1982, and in the small city of Allentown on the eastern edge of Pennsylvania sat an AM radio station called WSAN. For years, it had broadcast country music to the surrounding Lehigh Valley -- an area known for malls, manufacturing and Ma...Show More

304- Gander International Airport

25:22 | Apr 25th, 2018

The Gander Airport in Newfoundland was once the easternmost airfield in North America, so when transatlantic air travel was new and difficult through the mid-20th century, Gander played a critical role in getting people back and forth from Europe to ...Show More

293- Managed Retreat

31:42 | Jan 31st, 2018

In the 1970s it looked like the beloved, 200-year-old Cape Hatteras lighthouse was in danger. The sea was getting closer and threatening to swallow it up. And people were torn over what to do about it - they could move the lighthouse, or leave it in ...Show More

289- Mini-Stories: Volume 3

37:47 | Dec 20th, 2017

It’s the end of the year and time for our annual Mini-stories episodes. Mini-stories are quick hit stories that were maybe pitched to us from someone in the audience, or something interesting we saw on twitter, or just a cool tidbit that we found in ...Show More

285- Money Makers

19:53 | Nov 21st, 2017

For a long time, anti-counterfeiting laws made it illegal to show US currency in movies. Now you can show real money, but fake money is often preferred. Creating fake money that doesn’t break the law, but looks real enough for film, is a tough design...Show More

283- Dollhouses of St. Louis

27:55 | Nov 7th, 2017

Back in the 1950s, St. Louis was segregated and The Ville was one of the only African-American neighborhoods in the city. The community was prosperous. Black-owned businesses thrived and the neighborhood was filled with the lovely, ornate brick homes...Show More

280- Half Measures

29:39 | Oct 18th, 2017

The United States is one of just a handful of countries that that isn’t officially metric. Instead, Americans measure things our own way, in units that are basically inscrutable to non-Americans, nearly all of whom have been brought up in … Continue ...Show More

278- The Athletic Brassiere

28:05 | Oct 3rd, 2017

Among the most important advances in sports technology, few can compete with the invention of the sports bra. Following the passage of Title IX in 1972, women’s interest in athletics surged. But their breasts presented an obstacle. Bouncing breasts h...Show More

267- The Trials of Dan and Dave

57:06 | Jul 18th, 2017

This is the story of an ad campaign produced for the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona. Perennial runner-up in the sports shoe category, Reebok, was trying to make its mark and take down Nike. They chose two athletes, plucked them … Continue reading →

262- In the Same Ballpark

29:39 | Jun 13th, 2017

In the 1992, the Baltimore Orioles opened their baseball season at a brand new stadium called Oriole Park at Camden Yards, right along the downtown harbor. The stadium was small and intimate, built with brick and iron trusses—a throwback to … Continu...Show More

260- New Jersey

22:58 | May 23rd, 2017

The Brazilian soccer shirt is iconic. Its bright canary yellow with green trim, worn with blue shorts, is known worldwide. The uniform is joyful and bold and seems to capture something essential about Brazil. But it was not always this … Continue rea...Show More

258- The Modern Necropolis

22:41 | May 9th, 2017

In the town of Colma, California, the dead outnumber the living by a thousand to one. Located just ten miles south of San Francisco, Colma is filled with rolling green hills, manicured hedges, and 17 full size cemeteries (18 if … Continue reading →

250- State (Sanctuary, Part 2)

33:14 | Mar 8th, 2017

In the 1980s, the United States experienced a refugee crisis. Thousands of Central Americans were fleeing civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, traveling north through Mexico, and crossing the border into the U.S. [Note: Just tuning in? Listen to ...Show More

249- Church (Sanctuary, Part 1)

32:59 | Feb 28th, 2017

In the 1980s, Rev. John Fife and his congregation at Southside Presbyterian Church began to help Central American migrants fleeing persecution from US backed dictatorships. Their efforts would mark the beginning of a new — and controversial — social ...Show More

246- Usonia 1

29:00 | Feb 7th, 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright was a bombastic character that ultimately changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. Before designing many of his most well-known works, Wright created a small and inexpensive yet beautiful h...Show More

235- Ten Letters for the President

18:46 | Nov 8th, 2016

People who write the White House know that the president himself will most likely not see their message. Many of their letters start with phrases like, “I know no one will read this.” Although someone does read those letters. And sometimes that perso...Show More

202- Mojave Phone Booth

22:51 | Mar 2nd, 2016

Situated in the middle of the Mojave desert, over a dozen miles from the nearest pavement, a lone phone booth sat along a dirt road, just waiting to become an international sensation. Mojave Phone Booth 760-733-9969 The piece was produced by Joe Rose...Show More

191- Worst Smell in the World

16:57 | Dec 2nd, 2015

Many material trifles, such as Silly Putty, started as attempts at serious inventions, but in rare cases, the process works in reverse: something developed as a gag gift can turn into something truly heroic. Invented by high school prankster Alan Whi...Show More

345- Classic Cartoon Sound Effects!

27:14 | Mar 12th

Cartoon sound effects are some of the most iconic sounds ever made. Even modern cartoons continue to use the same sound effects from decades ago. How were these legendary sounds made and how have they stood the test of time? This story originally a...Show More

341- National Sword

41:13 | Feb 13th

Where does your recycling go? In most places in the U.S., you throw it in a bin, and then it gets carted off to be sorted and cleaned at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). From there, much of it is shipped off to mills, where bales of paper, glass,...Show More

325- The Worst Way to Start a City

31:07 | Oct 16th, 2018

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 res...Show More

Hawaiian Shirts: Articles of Interest #4

23:18 | Oct 5th, 2018

There are a few ways to tell if you’re looking at an authentic, high-quality aloha shirt. If the pockets match the pattern, that’s a good sign, but it’s not everything. Much of understanding an aloha shirt is about paying attention to what is on the ...Show More

323- The House that Came in the Mail

32:11 | Sep 11th, 2018

The Sear & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog was nearly omnipresent in early twentieth century American life. By 1908, one fifth of Americans were subscribers. At its peak, the Sears catalog offered over 100,000 items on 1,400 pages. It weighed four pounds....Show More

314- Interrobang

32:05 | Jul 10th, 2018

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?! ...Show More

308- Curb Cuts

45:14 | May 23rd, 2018

If you live in an American city and you don’t personally use a wheelchair, it's easy to overlook the small ramp at most intersections, between the sidewalk and the street. Today, these curb cuts are everywhere, but fifty years ago -- when an activist...Show More

306- Breaking Bad News

39:03 | May 9th, 2018

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 en...Show More

303- The Hair Chart

23:10 | Apr 17th, 2018

Andre Walker became famous for being Oprah Winfrey’s hair stylist, but he is also known for something else: a system that he created back in the 1990s to market his line of hair care products. The system categorizes natural hair types, and it's often...Show More

295- Making a Mark: Visual Identity with Tom Geismar

27:11 | Feb 13th, 2018

The Chase logo was introduced in 1961, when the Chase National Bank and the Bank of the Manhattan Company merged to form the Chase Manhattan Bank. At the time, few American corporations used abstract symbols for their identification. Seen as radical ...Show More

294- Border Wall

28:48 | Feb 6th, 2018

When current President Donald Trump took office, he promised to build an “an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall." The first part of this episode by Radio Diaries tells two stories of what happens when, instead of ...Show More

277- Ponte City Tower

33:40 | Sep 26th, 2017

Ponte City Tower, the brutalist cylindrical high-rise that towers over Johannesburg, has gone from a symbol of white opulence to something far more complicated. It’s gone through very hard times, but also it’s hopeful. It’s a microcosm of the South …...Show More

276- The Finnish Experiment

33:08 | Sep 19th, 2017

Around the world, there is a lot of buzz around the idea of universal basic income (also known as “unconditional basic income” or UBI). It can take different forms or vary in the details, but in essence: UBI is the … Continue reading →

273- Notes on an Imagined Plaque

16:17 | Aug 29th, 2017

Monuments don’t just appear in the wake of someone’s death — they are erected for reasons specific to a time and place. In 1905, one such memorial was put up in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, to commemorate Nathan Bedford Forrest, who … Continue readin...Show More

272- Person in Lotus Position

33:14 | Aug 22nd, 2017

Tech analysts estimate that over six billion emojis are sent each day. Emojis, which started off as a collection of low-resolution pixelated images from Japan, have become a well-established and graphically sophisticated part of everyday global commu...Show More

268- El Gordo

28:58 | Jul 25th, 2017

In Spain, they do the lottery differently. First of all, it’s a country-wide obsession — about 75% of Spaniards buy a ticket. There’s more than one lottery in Spain, but the one that Spaniards are the most passionate about is … Continue reading →

264- Mexico 68

26:16 | Jun 27th, 2017

The 1968 Olympics took place in Mexico City, Mexico. It was the first games ever hosted in a Latin American country. And for Mexico City, the event was an opportunity to show the world that they were a metropolis as … Continue reading →

247- Usonia the Beautiful

24:02 | Feb 15th, 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that the buildings we live in shape the kinds of people we become. His aim was nothing short of rebuilding the entire culture of the United States, changing the nation through its architecture. Central to that plan was a p...Show More

237- Dollar Store Town

20:13 | Nov 23rd, 2016

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. A market in China, called t...Show More

232- McMansion Hell

19:06 | Oct 18th, 2016

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 or intera...Show More

229- The Trend Forecast

20:11 | Sep 20th, 2016

Who decides that the color this season is “mint green” or that denim jackets are “back?” Of course, there’s top-down fashion, where couture houses and runway shows set a trend that trickles down through the rest of the industry. Then there’s bottom-u...Show More

225- Photo Credit

23:02 | Aug 17th, 2016

Founded by architect Walter Gropius in 1919, the Bauhaus school in Germany would go on to shape modern architecture, art, and design for decades to come. The school sought to combine design and industrialization, creating functional things that could...Show More

213- Separation Anxiety

21:00 | May 18th, 2016

“Für Elise” is one of the world’s most widely-recognized pieces of music. The Beethoven melody has been played by pianists the world over, and its near-universal recognition has been used to attract customers for companies as big as McDonald’s  and a...Show More

206- The White Elephant Of Tel Aviv

40:53 | Mar 30th, 2016

Israeli buses regularly make international headlines, be it for suicide bombings, fights over gender segregation, or clashes concerning Shabbat schedules. One particular ill-fated megastructure, however, has been at the nexus of various lesser-public...Show More

201- The Green Book

24:54 | Feb 24th, 2016

The middle of the 20th Century was a golden age for road travel in the United States. Cars had become cheap and spacious enough to carry families comfortably for hundreds of miles. The Interstate Highway System had started to connect the country’s sm...Show More

181- Milk Carton Kids

22:12 | Sep 15th, 2015

On a Sunday morning in 1982, in Des Moines, Iowa, Johnny Gosch left his house to begin his usual paper route. A short time later, his parents were awakened by a phone call–it was a neighbor—their paper hadn’t come. When the Goschs went looking for Jo...Show More

165- The Nutshell Studies

28:41 | May 20th, 2015

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Maryland is a busy place. Anyone who dies unexpectedly in the state of Maryland will end up there for an autopsy. On an average day, they might perform twelve autopsies; on more hectic day, they ...Show More

162- Mystery House

22:06 | Apr 28th, 2015

According to legend, Sarah Winchester’s friends advised the grieving widow to seek the services of a Boston spiritual medium named Adam Koombs. The story goes, Koombs put Mrs. Winchester in touch with her deceased husband—but William had bad news. He...Show More

140- Vexillonaire

16:48 | Nov 12th, 2014

Vexillologists—those who study flags—tend to fall into one of two schools of thought. The first is one that focuses on history, category, and usage, and maintains that vexillologists should be scholars and historians of all flags, regardless of their...Show More

120- Skyjacking

19:23 | Jun 24th, 2014

The term “hijacking” goes back to prohibition days, when gangsters would rob moonshine trucks saying, “Hold your hands high, Jack!” However, in the early days of commercial air travel, the idea that someone would hijack a plane was scarcely even cons...Show More

99% Invisible-44- The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

13:57 | Jan 6th, 2012

The Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis became most famous at the moment of its demise. The thirty-three high-rise towers built in the 1950’s were supposed to solve the impending population crisis in inner city St. Louis. It was supposed to save...Show More

99% Invisible-14- Periodic Table

08:30 | Feb 4th, 2011

Everyone knows it when they see it. The classic “castle with turrets” periodic table is a beautiful and concise icon that contains a great deal of amazing information, if you only know how to read it. And even if you don’t know anything about the tab...Show More

346- Palaces for the People

44:07 | Mar 19th

Social Infrastructure is the glue that binds communities together, and it is just as real as the infrastructure for water, power, or communications, although it's often harder to see. But Eric Klinenberg says that when we invest in social infrastruct...Show More

342- Beneath the Ballpark

30:45 | Feb 20th

In the 1950s, Los Angeles was an up-and-coming city but wasn’t quite there yet. City leaders were looking for a way to boost Los Angeles's profile as a world class city and also give Angelenos something to rally behind. They believed that what L.A. r...Show More

339- The Tunnel

46:48 | Jan 30th

In May of 1990, law enforcement raided a warehouse in Douglas, AZ and a private home across the border in Agua Prieta, Mexico. Connecting the two buildings, they found a tunnel, more sophisticated than anything anyone had seen before. The tunnel in D...Show More

338- Crude Habitat

35:26 | Jan 23rd

Santa Barbara, California, is a famously beautiful place, but if you look offshore from one of the city's many beaches, you'll see a series of artificial structures that stand out against the natural blue horizon. These oil platforms are at the cente...Show More

337- Atomic Tattoos

34:37 | Jan 16th

In the early 1950s, teenage students in Lake County, Indiana, got up from their desks, marched down the halls and lined up at stations. There, fingers were pricked, blood was tested and the teenagers were sent on to the library, where they waited to ...Show More

336- Mini-Stories: Volume 6

48:40 | Jan 9th

99% Invisible is starting the year off with the sixth installment of our staff mini-stories. Kicking off 2019 are a set of tales about a perpetual lie about New York City, karaoke, a 50-foot-tall burning puppet, the result of a Canada-U.S. border dis...Show More

335- Gathering the Magic

30:03 | Jan 1st

Magic: The Gathering is a card game and your goal is to knock your opponent down to zero points. But Magic: The Gathering also has a deep mythology about an infinite number of parallel worlds. Eric Molinsky of Imaginary Worlds looks at why this handh...Show More

334- Christmas with The Allusionist

36:50 | Dec 26th, 2018

For the holidays this year, we're presenting a two-part Radiotopia feature with friend of the show (and host of The Allusionist podcast) Helen Zaltzman, each tackling a different aspect of this festive season. Subscribe to The Allusionist on Apple P...Show More

333- Mini-Stories: Volume 5

43:45 | Dec 18th, 2018

It’s the end of 2018 and time for our annual Mini-stories episodes. These are my favorite episodes of the year to make. Mini-stories are fun, quick hit stories that don’t quite warrant a full episode and two months of hard reporting, but they’re gre...Show More

Bonus Episode- Avery talks Articles of Interest with Roman

11:03 | Dec 14th, 2018

Roman talks with Avery about the lessons learned from making Articles of Interest Don’t buy that new piece of clothing and use a bit of that money to support Radiotopia

331- Oñate's Foot

43:11 | Dec 5th, 2018

Juan de Oñate is one of the world’s lesser-known conquistadors, but his name can be found all over New Mexico. There are Oñate streets, Oñate schools, and, of course, Oñate statues. When an activist group removed one foot off an Oñate statue in 1998,...Show More

330- Raccoon Resistance

25:54 | Nov 27th, 2018

After Toronto unveiled its "raccoon-resistant" compost bins in 2016, some people feared the animals would be starved, but many more celebrated the innovative design. Rolling out this novel locked bin opened a new battlefront in city's ongoing "war on...Show More

201- The Green Book redux

27:30 | Nov 21st, 2018

The new film “Green Book” is rolling out across the country. I have not seen the film, so I can’t speak to its merits or shortcomings, but while people are possibly being introduced to the concept of the Green Book for the first time, we thought we’d...Show More

329- Orphan Drugs

27:39 | Nov 14th, 2018

We chronicle the epic struggle to get drugs that treat very rare diseases on the market, and the unintended consequence of that fight, which affected the cost of all kinds of drugs. This is a strange story that involves a hit 70s TV show, a fake marc...Show More

328- Devolutionary Design

32:50 | Nov 6th, 2018

It’s hard to overstate just how important record album art was to music in the days before people downloaded everything. Visuals were a key part of one's experience with a record or tape or CD. The design of the album cover created a first impression...Show More

327- A Year in the Dark

32:24 | Oct 31st, 2018

Early on the morning of September 20th, 2017, a category four hurricane named Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico. It was a beast of a hurricane -- the strongest one to hit the island since 1932. Daniel Alarcon went down to Puerto Rico to report on ...Show More

326- Welcome to Jurassic Art

28:42 | Oct 23rd, 2018

At least for the time being, art is the primary way we experience dinosaurs. We can study bones and fossils, but barring the invention of time travel, we will never see how these animals lived with our own eyes. There are no photos or videos, of cour...Show More

Punk Style: Articles of Interest #6

30:48 | Oct 12th, 2018

There is this myth that it’s frivolous or unproductive to care about how you look. Clothing and fashion get trivialized a lot. But think about who, culturally, gets associated with clothing and fashion: young people, women, queers, and people of colo...Show More

Blue Jeans: Articles of Interest #5

26:10 | Oct 9th, 2018

For the most part, we tend to keep our clothes relatively clean and avoid spills and rips and tears. But denim is so hard-wearing and hard-working that it just kind of amasses more and more signs of wear. So you can learn a lot from observing an old ...Show More

Pockets: Articles of Interest #3

21:13 | Oct 2nd, 2018

Womenswear is littered with fake pockets that don’t open, or shallow pockets that can hardly hold more than a paperclip. If women's clothes have pockets at all, they are often and smaller and just fit less than men’s pockets do. And when we talk abou...Show More

322- The First Straw

24:49 | Sep 5th, 2018

A straw is a simple thing. It’s a tube, a conveyance mechanism for liquid. The defining characteristic of the straw is the emptiness inside it. This is the stuff of tragedy, and America. The invention of American industrialism, the creation of urban...Show More

321- Double Standards

25:41 | Aug 29th, 2018

Blepharoplasty is often done to lift loose or sagging skin around the upper eyelids caused by aging. But for a lot of people of Asian descent, this surgery is not strictly about aging and more commonly referred to as “double eyelid” surgery. The dou...Show More

320- Bundyville

42:43 | Aug 21st, 2018

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 ...Show More

319- It's Chinatown

35:53 | Aug 14th, 2018

For Americans, the sight of pagoda roofs and dragon gates means that you are in Chinatown. Whether in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, the chinoiserie look is distinctive. But for people from China, the Chinatown aesthetic can feel...Show More

318- Fire and Rain

30:25 | Aug 8th, 2018

Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, right next to Santa Barbara, sits Montecito, California. The region endures a major fire approximately once every 10 years. For this landscape, fire is predictable and it is inevitable. Now, coupled with m...Show More

317- Built to Burn

31:54 | Aug 1st, 2018

After the massive Panorama Fire in southern California in 1980, a young fire researcher named Jack Cohen went in to investigate the houses that were destroyed. One of the first things that Cohen did was to listen to emergency dispatch tapes from the ...Show More

315- Everything is Alive

32:03 | Jul 18th, 2018

Louis is a can of generic cola. He’s been on the shelf a long while, so he’s had some time to think. Go2 is a store brand. "People call it a knockoff," says Louis. "I've been called the best of the worst. Bottom-shelf. We can describe it as bottom-sh...Show More

Roman Mars on ZigZag

31:30 | Jul 5th, 2018

This is a special presentation of episode #4 of Radiotopia's newest show ZigZag. Manoush and Jen give themselves 36 hours in San Francisco to come up with a financial backup plan, just in case this whole blockchain-token-thing doesn’t work out. Sili...Show More

VIDEO- Why Danger Symbols Can't Last Forever with Vox

0:00 | Jul 4th, 2018

The world is full of icons that warn us to be afraid — to stay away from this or not do that. And many of these are easy to understand because they represent something recognizable, like a fire, or a person slipping on a wet floor. But some concepts ...Show More

313- Right to Roam

28:21 | Jun 27th, 2018

In the United Kingdom, the freedom to walk through private land is known as “the right to roam.” The movement to win this right was started in the 1930s by a rebellious group of young people who called themselves “ramblers” and spent their days worki...Show More

312- Post-Narco Urbanism

37:24 | Jun 20th, 2018

In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord, had effectively declared war on the Colombian state. At one point, his cartel was supplying 80% of the world's cocaine and the violence surrounding the drug trade had become extreme. The bloodshed...Show More

311- The Barney Design

22:36 | Jun 13th, 2018

Until the early 90s, basketball uniforms were pretty tame. There had been real limits to what could be done with jerseys. All the details—the numbers, the names, the logos—had to be sewed on. Complicated graphics would have taken a massive amount of ...Show More

310- 77 Steps

23:57 | Jun 6th, 2018

As the U.S. war effort ramped up in the early 1940s, the Navy put out a request for chair design submissions. They needed a chair that was fireproof, waterproof, lightweight and strong enough to survive a torpedo blast. In response, engineer named Wi...Show More

309- The Vault

27:06 | May 30th, 2018

Svalbard is a remote Norwegian archipelago with reindeer, Arctic foxes and only around 2,500 humans -- but it is also home to a vault containing seeds for virtually every edible plant one can imagine. The mountainside Crop Trust facility has thousand...Show More

307- Immobile Homes

28:50 | May 16th, 2018

"Part of the paradox at the heart of manufactured housing," explains Esther Sullivan, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver "is that it's precisely the thing that makes it so affordable that also makes this a highly insecure form of hous...Show More

305- The Laff Box

39:58 | May 1st, 2018

For nearly five decades, the laugh track was ubiquitous on television sitcoms, but in the early 2000s, it began to disappear. What happened? How did we get from the raucous canned laughter of the Beverly Hillbillies to the silent, sly “joke every 20 ...Show More

301- Making it Rain

28:22 | Apr 3rd, 2018

The battlefield has always been at the mercy of the climate, but there was a time in U.S. military history when we did more than just pray for advantageous weather. We tried to create it. Making it Rain

300- Airships and the Future that Never Was

19:13 | Mar 27th, 2018

They are hulking, but graceful -- human-made whales that float in the air. For over a century, lighter-than-air vehicles have captured the public imagination, playing a recurring role in our dreams of alternate realities and futures that might have b...Show More

299- Gerrymandering

44:51 | Mar 21st, 2018

The way we draw our political districts has a huge effect on U.S. politics, but the process is also greatly misunderstood. Gerrymandering has become a scapegoat for what’s wrong with the polarized American political system, blamed for marginalizing g...Show More

200- Miss Manhattan Redux

24:15 | Mar 14th, 2018

All around the country, there stands a figure so much a part of historical architecture and urban landscapes that she is rarely noticed. She has gone by many names, from Star Maiden to Priestess of Culture, Spirit of Life to Mourning Victory. Now nea...Show More

298- Fordlandia

30:11 | Mar 7th, 2018

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 ...Show More

297- Blood, Sweat and Tears (City of the Future, Part 2)

33:01 | Feb 28th, 2018

The Bijlmermeer (or Bijlmer, for short) was built just outside of Amsterdam in the 1960s. It was designed by modernist architects to be a "city of the future" with its functions separated into distinct zones. To Modernists, it represented a vision of...Show More

296- Bijlmer (City of the Future, Part 1)

23:29 | Feb 21st, 2018

After World War 2, city planners in Amsterdam wanted to design the perfect “City of the Future.” They decided to build a new neighborhood, close to Amsterdam, that would be a perfect encapsulation of Modernist principles. It was called the Bijlmermee...Show More

292- Speech Bubbles: Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud

31:36 | Jan 23rd, 2018

Cartoonist and theorist Scott McCloud has been making and thinking about comics for decades. He is the author of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. This classic volume explores formal aspects of comics, the historical development of the medium,...Show More

291- Thermal Delight

28:40 | Jan 17th, 2018

When air conditioning was invented in 1902, it was designed to take out the humidity in the air so printers could run four color magazines, without the colors becoming offset due to the paper warping from moisture. A young engineer named Willis Carri...Show More

290- Mini-Stories: Volume 4

39:48 | Jan 10th, 2018

This part two of the 2017/2018 mini-stories episodes, where Roman interviews the staff and our collaborators about their favorite little design stories that don’t quite fill out an entire episode for whatever reason, but are cool 99pi stories, noneth...Show More

Biomimicry- Vox + 99% Invisible Video

0:00 | Jan 2nd, 2018

Japan’s Shinkansen doesn’t look like your typical train. With its long and pointed nose, it can reach top speeds up to 150–200 miles per hour. It didn’t always look like this. Earlier models were rounder and louder, often suffering from the phenomeno...Show More

282- Oyster-tecture

29:05 | Oct 31st, 2017

New York was built at the mouth of the Hudson River, and that fertile estuary environment was filled with all kinds of marine life. But one creature in particular shaped the landscape: the oyster. It is estimated that trillions of oysters once surrou...Show More

275- Coal Hogs Work Safe

25:50 | Sep 12th, 2017

Coal miner stickers started out as little advertisements that the manufacturers of mining equipment handed out. Even before the late 1960s, when mining safety laws started requiring reflective materials underground, miners used those stickers to stay...Show More

270- The Stethoscope

24:11 | Aug 9th, 2017

Imagine for a moment the year 1800. A doctor is meeting with a patient – most likely in the patient’s home. The patient is complaining about shortness of breath. A cough, a fever. The doctor might check the patient’s pulse … Continue reading →

266- Repackaging the Pill

22:26 | Jul 11th, 2017

Most people are familiar with at least one version of the birth control pill’s packaging — a round plastic disc which opens like a shell and looks like a makeup compact. But the pill wasn’t always packaged this way. The … Continue reading →

263- You Should Do a Story

30:41 | Jun 20th, 2017

“You should do a story…” is the first line to a lot of the conversations you have when you work at 99pi. This week we look into a bunch of those stories suggested by our listeners and present them to … Continue reading →

Intro to a new Roman Mars podcast: What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law

13:24 | Jun 8th, 2017

Special introductory episode to a new podcast produced by Roman Mars and Elizabeth Joh. Professor Elizabeth Joh teaches Intro to Constitutional Law and most of the time this is a pretty straight forward job. But with Trump in office, everything … Con...Show More

261- Squatters of the Lower East Side

30:37 | May 30th, 2017

In 1987, three years after moving to New York City, Maggie Wrigley found herself on the edge of homelessness. She was trying to figure out where to stay, when she heard about an abandoned tenement building on the Lower East … Continue reading →

259- This Is Chance: Anchorwoman of the Great Alaska Earthquake

31:10 | May 16th, 2017

This episode was recorded live as part of the Radiotopia West Coast Tour. 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. 115 people died. Some...Show More

257- Reversing the Grid

31:27 | May 2nd, 2017

For most people, electricity only flows one way (into the home), but there are exceptions — people who use solar panels, for instance. In those cases, excess electricity created by the solar cells travels back out into the grid to … Continue reading ...Show More

255- The Architect of Hollywood

25:53 | Apr 11th, 2017

Los Angeles is rich with architectural diversity. On the same block, you could find a retro-futuristic Googie diner next to a Spanish-style mansion, sitting comfortably alongside a Dutch Colonial dwelling, all in close proximity to a Deconstructivist...Show More

254- Containers

36:08 | Apr 4th, 2017

We’re based in beautiful downtown Oakland, CA which is a port city in the San Francisco Bay. Massive container ships travel across the Pacific and end up here. From miles away you can see the enormous white cranes that pull giant, uniformly-sized met...Show More

253- Manzanar

29:34 | Mar 28th, 2017

When Warren Furutani was growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s, he sometimes heard his parents refer to a place where they once spent time — a place they called “camp.” To him “camp” meant summer camp or a YMCA camp, but this was something different...Show More

252- The Falling of the Lenins

27:30 | Mar 21st, 2017

On the night of December 8, 2013, a huge crowd gathered on a tree-lined boulevard in downtown Kiev, Ukraine. The crowd was there to watch as a statue in the boulevard was pulled down by a crane. The toppled statue was of Vladimir Lenin – the communis...Show More

251- Negative Space: Logo Design with Michael Bierut

50:14 | Mar 14th, 2017

Logos used to be a thing people didn’t really give much thought to. But over the last decade, the volume and intensity of arguments about logos have increased substantially. A lot of this is just the internet being the internet. Logo redesigns, in pa...Show More

248- Atom in the Garden of Eden

23:17 | Feb 21st, 2017

As the world entered the Atomic Age, humankind faced a new fear that permeated just about every aspect of daily life: the threat of nuclear war. And while the violent applications of atomic research had already been proven, governments and scientists...Show More

245- The Eponymist

31:48 | Feb 1st, 2017

Eponym (noun):  A person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named; a name or noun formed after a person. An eponym, almost by definition, has some kind of story behind it — some reason it came to be named after ...Show More

244- The Revolutionary Post

22:27 | Jan 24th, 2017

Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America: A History, argues that the post office is not simply an inexpensive way to send a letter. The service was designed to unite a bunch of disparate towns and people under one flag, and i...Show More

243- Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle

24:38 | Jan 18th, 2017

On January 3, 1979, two officers from the Los Angeles Police Department went to the home of Eulia May Love, a 39-year-old African-American mother. The police were there because of a dispute over an unpaid gas bill. The officers approached her, and Lo...Show More

242- Mini-Stories: Volume 2

34:06 | Jan 10th, 2017

Part 2 where host Roman Mars talks to the 99pi producers about their favorite “Mini-Stories.” These are little anecdotes or seeds of a story about design and architecture that can’t quite stretch into a full episode, but we love them anyway. Roman ta...Show More

241- Mini-Stories: Volume 1

31:24 | Dec 20th, 2016

Host Roman Mars talks to the 99pi producers about their favorite “Mini-Stories.” These are little anecdotes or seeds of a story about design and architecture that can’t quite stretch into a full episode, but the staff loves them anyway. Roman talks c...Show More

240- Plat of Zion

22:16 | Dec 14th, 2016

The urban grid of Salt Lake City, Utah is designed to tell you exactly where you are in relation to Temple Square, one of the holiest sites for Mormons. Addresses can read like sets of coordinates. “300 South 2100 East,” for example, means three bloc...Show More

239- Guano Island

23:21 | Dec 6th, 2016

In 2014, President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine preserve in the world at the time. The expansion closed 490,000 square miles of largely undisturbed ocean to commercial fishing and un...Show More

238- NBC Chimes

17:39 | Nov 29th, 2016

The NBC chimes may be the most famous sound in broadcasting. Originating in the 1920s, the three key sequential notes are familiar to generations of radio listeners and television watchers. Many companies have tried to trademark sounds but only aroun...Show More

236- Reverb

23:44 | Nov 16th, 2016

Through a combination of passive and active acoustics, architects and acousticians can control the sounds of spaces to fit any kind of need. With sound-proofing and selective-amplification, we can add reverb or take it away. We can make churches soun...Show More

234- The Shift

20:48 | Nov 1st, 2016

Every now and again, a truly great athlete shatters all previous assumptions about what’s possible to achieve in a sport. When this happens, opposing teams scramble to find ways to stop them or slow them down. In basketball, teams tried to to stop Sh...Show More

233- Space Trash, Space Treasure

23:00 | Oct 25th, 2016

In the summer of 1961 the upper stage of the rocket carrying the Transit 4A satellite blew up about two hours after launch. It was the first known human-made object to unintentionally explode in space, and it created hundreds of fragments of useless ...Show More

231- Half a House

25:02 | Oct 11th, 2016

On the night of February 27th, 2010, a magnitude of 8.8 earthquake hit Constitución, Chile and it was the second biggest that the world had seen in half a century. The quake and the tsunami it produced completely crushed the town. By the time it was ...Show More

230- Project Cybersyn

26:23 | Oct 4th, 2016

On September 11, 1973, a military junta violently took control of Chile, which was led at the time by President Salvador Allende. Allende had become president in a free and democratic election. After the military coup, General Augusto Pinochet took p...Show More

124- Longbox

22:17 | Sep 27th, 2016

Reporter Whitney Jones argues that R.E.M.’s Out of Time is the most politically significant album in the history of the United States. Because of its packaging. Longbox Please Vote.

228- Making Up Ground

23:09 | Sep 13th, 2016

Large portions of San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Seattle, Hong Kong and Marseilles were built on top of human made land. What is now Mumbai, India, was transformed by the British from a seven-island archipelago to one contiguous strip of land....Show More

227- Public Works

18:39 | Sep 6th, 2016

Infrastructure makes modern civilization possible. Roads, power grids, sewage systems and water networks all underpin society as we know it, forming the basis of our built environment … at least when they work. As Henry Petroski documents in The Road...Show More

226- On Average

22:31 | Aug 23rd, 2016

In many ways, the built world was not designed for you. It was designed for the average person. Standardized tests, building codes, insurance rates, clothing sizes, The Dow Jones – all these measurements are based around the concept of an “average.” ...Show More

224- A Sea Worth its Salt

22:12 | Aug 9th, 2016

The largest body of water in California was formed by a mistake. In 1905, the California Development Company accidentally flooded a huge depression in the Sonora Desert, creating an enormous salty lake called the Salton Sea. The water is about twice ...Show More

223- The Magic Bureaucrat

36:53 | Aug 3rd, 2016

In 1996, President Bill Clinton and the Congress undertook a reform effort to redesign the welfare system from one that many believed trapped people in a cycle of dependence, to one, that in the President’s words, would give people “a paycheck, not a...Show More

222- Combat Hearing Loss

21:56 | Jul 26th, 2016

The US military buys a lot of foam ear plugs. Visit any base and you’ll find them under the bleachers at the firing range, in the bottoms of washing machines. They are cheap and effective at making noise less … noisy. But there’s a problem with earpl...Show More

221- America’s Last Top Model

22:40 | Jul 19th, 2016

In 1943, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction on a scale model that could test flooding in all 1.25 million square miles of the Mississippi River. It would be a three-dimensional map of nearly half of the continental United States, rendered...Show More

220- The Mind of an Architect

26:34 | Jul 13th, 2016

In the late 1950s, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research embarked on a mission to study the personalities of particularly creative scientists and artists. Researchers established categories, grouping analytical creatives together (incl...Show More

219- Unpleasant Design

19:04 | Jul 6th, 2016

Benches in parks, train stations, bus shelters and other public places are meant to offer seating, but only for a limited duration. Many elements of such seats are subtly or overtly restrictive. Arm rests, for instance, indeed provide spaces to rest ...Show More

218- Remembering Stonewall

31:33 | Jun 29th, 2016

It started with a place called the Stonewall Inn. Gay bars had been raided by police for decades. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people had been routinely arrested and subjected to harassment and beatings by the people who were meant to prot...Show More

217- Home on Lagrange

31:29 | Jun 22nd, 2016

In 1968, an Italian industrialist and a Scottish scientist started a club to address what they considered to be humankind’s greatest problems—issues like pollution, resource scarcity, and overpopulation. Meeting in Rome, Italy, the group came to be k...Show More

216- The Blazer Experiment

26:42 | Jun 14th, 2016

In 1968, the police department in Menlo Park, California hired a new police chief. His name was Victor Cizanckas and his main goal was to reform the department, which had a strained relationship with the community at the time. Cizanckas made a number...Show More

215- H-Day

21:23 | Jun 7th, 2016

September 3rd, 1967, also known as H-Day, is etched in the collective memory of Sweden. That morning, millions of Swedes switched from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right. The changeover was an unprecedented undertaking, invo...Show More

130- Holdout

20:56 | May 31st, 2016

Around 2005, a Seattle neighborhood called Ballard started to see unprecedented growth. Condominiums and apartment buildings were sprouting up all over the community which had once been mostly single family homes and small businesses. Around this tim...Show More

214- Loud and Clear

24:15 | May 25th, 2016

Sub Pop Records has signed some of the most famous and influential indie bands of the last 30 years, including Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, The Postal Service, and Beach House. Over time, the stars and hits have changed and the formats have evolved as we...Show More

212- Turf Wars of East New York

32:16 | May 11th, 2016

Neighborhoods are constantly changing, but it tends to be the people with money and power who get to decide the shape of things to come. New York City has an especially long history with change driven by landlords and real estate investors. Today, ch...Show More

211- The Grand Dame of Broad Street

24:36 | May 4th, 2016

The Bellevue-Stratford opened in 1904 and quickly became one of the most luxurious hotels of its time, rivaling the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The building was an incredible work of French Renaissance architecture. It was 19 stories high, had over ...Show More

210- Unseen City

31:21 | Apr 27th, 2016

Humans form cities from concrete, metal, and glass, designing structures and infrastructure primarily to serve a single bipedal species. Walking down a familiar city street, it is easy to overlook squirrels climbing in trees, weeds growing up through...Show More

209- Supertall 101

21:51 | Apr 20th, 2016

Starting in the late 1990s, the government of Taipei began looking into how they could turn global attention to their city, the capital of the small island of Taiwan. The initial idea was to create two 66-story office towers, which would be the talle...Show More

208- Vox Ex Machina

27:10 | Apr 13th, 2016

In 1939, an astonishing new machine debuted at the New York World’s Fair. It was called the “Voder,” short for “Voice Operating Demonstrator.” It looked sort of like a futuristic church organ. An operator — known as a “Voderette” — sat at the Voder’s...Show More

207- Soul City

36:29 | Apr 6th, 2016

In the late 1960s, a civil rights leader named Floyd B. McKissick, at one time the head of CORE (the Congress on Racial Equality) proposed an idea for a new town.  He would call this town Soul City and it would be a place built for and by black peopl...Show More

205- Flying Food

20:21 | Mar 23rd, 2016

The last hundred years or so of food advertising have been shaped by this one simple fact: real food usually looks pretty unappetizing on camera. It’s static and boring to look at, and it tends to wilt under the glare of hot studio lights. So adverti...Show More

204- The SoHo Effect

21:41 | Mar 16th, 2016

In San Francisco, the area South of Market Street is called SoMa. The part of town North of the Panhandle is known as NoPa. Around the intersection of North Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, real estate brokers are pitching properties as part of NOBE...Show More

203- The Giftschrank

23:46 | Mar 9th, 2016

Centuries ago, Germany came up with a way to keep books that contained “dangerous” information without releasing them to the general public: The Giftschrank. The word, a combination of “poison” and “cabinet,” has a variety of meanings in different co...Show More

Video- The Norman Door with Vox

02:30 | Feb 27th, 2016

There is an epidemic of terrible doors in the world. But when Don Norman got frustrated with them, he ended up changing the way people everywhere think about design. Video by Joe Posner of Vox, featuring Roman Mars of 99% Invisible.

200- Miss Manhattan

21:04 | Feb 17th, 2016

All around the country, there stands a figure so much a part of historical architecture and urban landscapes that she is rarely noticed. She has gone by many names, from Star Maiden to Priestess of Culture, Spirit of Life to Mourning Victory. Now nea...Show More

199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball

23:55 | Feb 10th, 2016

In 1891, a physical education teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts invented the game we would come to know as basketball. In setting the height of the baskets, he inadvertently created a design problem that would not be resolved for decades to come....Show More

198- The Ice King

20:26 | Feb 3rd, 2016

In the mid-19th century, decades before home refrigeration became the norm, you could find ice clinking in glasses from India to the Caribbean, thanks to a global commodities industry that has since melted into obscurity: the frozen water trade. In t...Show More

197- Fish Cannon

20:18 | Jan 27th, 2016

The Iron Curtain was an 8,000-mile border separating East from West during the Cold War. Something unexpected evolved in the “no man’s land” that the massive border created. In the absence of human intervention and disruption, an accidental wildlife ...Show More

196- The Fresno Drop

17:49 | Jan 20th, 2016

In September 1958, Bank of America began an experiment – one that would have far reaching effects on our lives and on the economy. They decided after careful consideration to conduct this experiment in Fresno, California. The presumption was that no ...Show More

195- Best Enjoyed By

19:21 | Jan 13th, 2016

Date labels (e.g. “use-by”, “sell-by”, “best-by”, “best if used by,” “expires on”, etc.) are on a lot of products. Forty-one states require a date label on at least some food product, but there are huge inconsistencies, not just in the wording, but i...Show More

194- Bone Music

16:24 | Dec 22nd, 2015

In 1950s Soviet Russia, citizens craved Western popular music—everything from jazz to rock & roll. But smuggling vinyl was dangerous, and acquiring the scarce material to make copies of those records that did make it into the country was expensive. A...Show More

193- Tube Benders

18:33 | Dec 16th, 2015

The skyline of beautiful downtown Oakland, California, is defined by various towers by day, but at night there is one that shines far more brightly than the rest: the neon-illuminated Tribune Tower. Each side of the tower says “Tribune” in bright red...Show More

192- Pagodas and Dragon Gates

26:29 | Dec 8th, 2015

For Americans, the sight of pagoda roofs and dragon gates means that you are in Chinatown. Whether in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, the chinoiserie look is distinctive. But for those just arriving from China, the Chinatown aesth...Show More

190- Fixing the Hobo Suit

23:16 | Nov 24th, 2015

Superhero costumes for TV and film used to be pretty cringe-worthy. Lately, however, super outfits are looking much better. Costume designers are learning new tricks, and using better technology, but there has also been a change in attitude. They are...Show More

189- The Landlord’s Game

20:18 | Nov 18th, 2015

From rock-paper-scissors, to tennis, to Mario Kart, every game is a designed system and all games are grounded in the same design principles. One popular game in particular has a mixed reputation with game players and designers alike: Monopoly. The L...Show More

188- Fountain Drinks

37:08 | Nov 10th, 2015

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 first public drinking f...Show More

187- Butterfly Effects

22:09 | Nov 4th, 2015

Ballots are an essential component to a working democracy, yet they are rarely created (or even reviewed) by design professionals. Good ballot design is mainly a matter of following good design principles in general—familiar territory for graphic des...Show More

186- War and Pizza

22:58 | Oct 28th, 2015

Households tend to take pantry food for granted, but canned beans, powered cheese, and bags of moist cookies were not designed for everyday convenience. These standard products were made to meet the needs of the military. Reporter Tina Antolini, host...Show More

Radiotopia Forever- Coin Check

17:59 | Oct 23rd, 2015

To get your exclusive 99% Invisible Challenge Coin, make a donation to the Radiotopia Forever campaign. Thanks! Coin Check The United States Military is not known for being touchy-feely. There’s not much hugging or head-patting, and superiors don’t a...Show More

185- Atmospherians

26:32 | Oct 20th, 2015

The phrase ‘from Central Casting’ has become a kind of cultural shorthand for a stereotype or archetype, a subject so visually suited to its part it appears to have been designed for that role. Search the news for ‘straight out of Central Casting’ an...Show More

110- Structural Integrity (Rebroadcast)

29:39 | Oct 14th, 2015

99% Invisible is honored to accept a 2015 Third Coast International Audio Festival award for Structural Integrity, a story of architectural engineering gone wrong, and then covertly made right. When it was built in 1977, the 59-story CitiCorp Center ...Show More

184- Rajneeshpuram

33:44 | Oct 7th, 2015

Indian philosopher and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had a vision: he would build a Utopian city from the ground up, starting with 64,000 acres of muddy ranchland in rural Oregon. Purchased in 1981, this expanse was to become both a fully-functional ...Show More

183- Dead Letter Office

21:41 | Sep 30th, 2015

When something is lost in the mail, it feels like it has disappeared into the ether, like it was sucked into a black hole, like it no longer exists. But, it turns out, a lot of the mail we think is lost is actually in a designated place. The USPS Mai...Show More

182- A Sweet Surprise Awaits You

20:40 | Sep 23rd, 2015

On the night of March 30, 2005, the Powerball jackpot was 25 million dollars. The grand prize winner was in Tennessee, but all over the United States, one hundred and ten second-place winners came forward. Normally just three or four players guess al...Show More

180- Reefer Madness

20:30 | Sep 9th, 2015

There are around 6,000 cargo vessels out on the ocean right now, carrying 20,000,000 shipping containers, which are delivering most of the products you see around you. And among all the containers are a special subset of temperature-controlled units ...Show More

179- Bathysphere

26:28 | Sep 2nd, 2015

In 1860, a chance find at sea forever changed our understanding of marine habitats, sparking an unprecedented push to explore a new world of possibilities far below the surface of our planet’s oceans. Deep sea life, previously thought possible down t...Show More

178- The Great Restoration

34:00 | Aug 26th, 2015

Stirling, Scotland is the home of Stirling Castle, which sits atop a giant crag, or hill, overlooking the whole town of Stirling. There has been a castle on that hill since the 12th century at least, and maybe before, but the current buildings date f...Show More

177- Lawn Order

21:03 | Aug 19th, 2015

In communities across America, lawns that are brown or overgrown are considered especially heinous. Elite squads of dedicated individuals have been deputized by their local governments or homeowners’ associations to take action against those whose la...Show More

176- Hard to Love a Brute

22:51 | Aug 12th, 2015

No matter which James Bond actor is your favorite, it’s undeniable that the Sean Connery films had the best villains. There’s Blofeld, who turned cat-stroking into a thing that super-villains do, and then there’s Goldfinger—Bond’s flashiest nemesis. ...Show More

175- The Sunshine Hotel

33:22 | Aug 5th, 2015

The Bowery, in lower Manhattan, is one of New York’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s been through a lot of iterations. In the 1650s, a handful of freed slaves were the neighborhood’s first residents. At the time, New York was still a Dutch colony called N...Show More

174- From the Sea, Freedom

22:56 | Jul 29th, 2015

In 1933, delegates from the United States and fourteen other countries met in Montevideo, Uruguay to define what it means to be a state. The resulting treaty from the Montevideo Convention established four basic criteria for statehood—essentially, wh...Show More

173- Awareness

22:02 | Jul 22nd, 2015

By the late 1980s, AIDS had been in the United States for almost a decade. AIDS had be the number one killer of young men in New York City, then of young men in the country, then of young men and women in the country. Despite the gravity of the AIDS ...Show More

172- On Location

19:20 | Jul 15th, 2015

So many classic movies have been made in downtown Los Angeles. Though many don’t actually take place in downtown Los Angeles. L.A. has played almost every city in the world, thanks to its diverse landscape and architectural variety, but particular bu...Show More

171- Johnnycab (Automation Paradox, Pt. 2)

26:32 | Jul 1st, 2015

More than 90% of all automobile accidents are all attributable to human error, for some car industry people, a fully-automated car is a kind of holy grail. However, as automation makes our lives easier and safer, it also creates more complex systems,...Show More

170- Children of the Magenta (Automation Paradox, pt. 1)

33:54 | Jun 24th, 2015

On the evening of May 31, 2009, 216 passengers, three pilots, and nine flight attendants boarded an Airbus 330 in Rio de Janeiro. This flight, Air France 447, was headed across to Paris. Everything proceeded normally for several hours. Then, with no ...Show More

169- Freud’s Couch

18:17 | Jun 17th, 2015

Sigmund Freud’s ground-breaking techniques and theories for therapy came to be called “psychoanalysis,” and it was embodied, in practice and popular culture, by a single piece of furniture: the couch. Producer Ann Hepperman explores the role of this ...Show More

168- All In Your Head

35:18 | Jun 10th, 2015

People who make horror movies know: if you want to scare someone, use scary music. Some of the most creative use of music and sound to evoke fear and anxiety is on the TV show Hannibal. Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder spoke with evolutionary biolo...Show More

167- Voices in the Wire

43:14 | Jun 3rd, 2015

This week on 99% Invisible, we have two stories about the early days of broadcasting and home sound recording, produced by Radio Diaries and the Kitchen Sisters. The sounds that came out Frank Conrad’s Garage in 1919 and 1920 are gone. There were no ...Show More

166- Viva La Arquitectura!

24:02 | May 27th, 2015

On January 3rd, 1961, Che Guevara suggested to Fidel Castro that they go play a round of golf. They drove out to what was then the ritziest, most elite country club in Havana. It was empty—almost all the members had fled during the revolution—and Fid...Show More

164- The Post-Billiards Age

18:00 | May 13th, 2015

We live in a post-billiards age. There was an age of billiards, and it has been over for so long, most of us have no idea how huge billiards once was. For many decades, starting in the mid-19th Century, billiards was the one of the most popular amuse...Show More

163- The Gruen Effect

20:54 | May 6th, 2015

Retail spaces are designed for impulse shopping. When you go to a store looking for socks and come out with a new shirt, it’s only partly your fault.  Shops are trying to look so beautiful, so welcoming, the items so enticingly displayed and in such ...Show More

161- Show of Force

24:55 | Apr 22nd, 2015

During World War II, a massive recruitment effort targeted students from the top art schools across the country. These young designers, artists, and makers were being asked to help execute a wild idea that came out of one the nation’s most conservati...Show More

160- Perfect Security

20:33 | Apr 15th, 2015

The pursuit of lock picking is as old as the lock, which is itself as old as civilization. But in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put something under lock and key—a chest, a sa...Show More

159- The Calendar

22:14 | Apr 8th, 2015

A month is hardly a unit of measurement. It can start on any day of the week and last anywhere from 28 to 31 days. Sometimes a month is four weeks long, sometimes five, sometimes six. You have to buy a new calendar with new dates every single year. I...Show More

158- Sandhogs

28:53 | Mar 31st, 2015

Eighty years ago, New York City needed another tunnel under the Hudson River. The Holland Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge could no longer handle the mounting traffic between New Jersey and Manhattan. Thus began construction of the Lincoln Tun...Show More

54- The Colour of Money (R)

23:02 | Mar 25th, 2015

United States paper currency is so ubiquitous that to really look at its graphic design with fresh eyes requires some deliberate and focused attention. Pull a greenback out from your wallet (or look at a picture online) and really take it in. All the...Show More

157- Devil’s Rope

25:30 | Mar 18th, 2015

In the mid 1800s, not many (non-native) Americans had ever been west of the Mississippi. When Frederick Law Olmstead visited the west in the 1850s, he remarked that the plains looked like a sea of grasses that moved  “in swells after a great storm.” ...Show More

156- Coin Check

20:10 | Mar 11th, 2015

The United States Military is not known for being touchy-feely. There’s not much hugging or head-patting, and superiors don’t always have the authority to offer a serviceman a raise or promotion. When a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Cor...Show More

155- Palm Reading

19:12 | Mar 4th, 2015

Reports of palm theft have appeared in LA, San Diego, and Texas; palm rustling also gets a mention in Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. To understand why someone would want to steal a palm tree, we need to understand their value—which has a lot to do ...Show More

154- PDX Carpet

19:16 | Feb 24th, 2015

Portlanders have a tradition when visiting their airport: taking a picture of their feet. It’s not to show off their shoes, but rather, what’s under them. They are documenting the famous PDX airport carpet. Julie Sabatier from Rendered has the story....Show More

153- Game Over (R)

14:26 | Feb 18th, 2015

A few months before the end of the world, everyone was saying their goodbyes. The world that was ending was The Sims Online, an online version of The Sims. Even though The Sims was one of the most popular computer games ever made, the massively-multi...Show More

152- Guerrilla Public Service

18:21 | Feb 11th, 2015

At some point in your life you’ve probably encountered a problem in the built world where the fix was obvious to you. Maybe a door that opened the wrong way, or poorly painted marker on the road. Mostly, when we see these things, we grumble on the in...Show More

151- La Mascotte

21:14 | Feb 3rd, 2015

The idea of the mascot came to America by way of a popular French opera from the 1880s called La Mascotte. The opera is about a down-on-his luck farmer who’s visited by a girl named Bettina; as soon as she appears, the farmer’s crops start doing well...Show More

150- Under The Moonlight

20:05 | Jan 28th, 2015

In 1885, Austin, Texas was terrorized by a serial killer known as the Servant Girl Annihilator.  The murderer was never actually found, but he claimed eight victims, mostly black servant girls, all attacked in the dark of night. The very, very dark n...Show More

149- Of Mice And Men

21:45 | Jan 21st, 2015

If you are looking at a computer screen, your right hand is probably resting on a mouse. To the left of that mouse (or above, if you’re on a laptop) is your keyboard. As you work on the computer, your right hand moves back and forth from keyboard to ...Show More

148- The Sizzle

18:30 | Jan 14th, 2015

The first trademark for a sound in the United States was issued in 1978 to NBC for their chimes. MGM has a sound trademark for their roaring lion, as does 20th Century Fox for their trumpet fanfare. Harley Davidson tried to trademark the sound of the...Show More

147- Penn Station Sucks

20:52 | Jan 7th, 2015

New Yorkers are known to disagree about a lot of things. Who’s got the best pizza? What’s the fastest subway route? Yankees or Mets? But all 8.5 million New Yorkers are likely to agree on one thing: Penn Station sucks. Reporter Ann Heppermann tells t...Show More

146- Mooallempalooza

48:28 | Dec 31st, 2014

As you probably know, 99% Invisible is a show about the built world, about things manufactured by humans. We don’t tend to do stories about animals or nature. But our friend Jon Mooallem writes brilliant stories about the weird interactions between a...Show More

145- Octothorpe

18:59 | Dec 17th, 2014

If you want to follow conversation threads relating to this show on social media—whether Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, Tumblr—you know to look for the hashtag: #99pi. In our current digital age, the hashtag identifies movements, events, happenings...Show More

144- There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

18:28 | Dec 10th, 2014

Hanging in the garage of Fire Station #6 in Livermore, California, there’s a small, pear-shaped light bulb. It is glowing right now. This lightbulb has been glowing, with just a couple of momentary interruptions, for 113 years. You can see it glow in...Show More

143- Inflatable Men

19:18 | Dec 3rd, 2014

You see them on street corners, at gas stations, at shopping malls. You see them at blowout sales and grand openings of all kinds. Their wacky faces hover over us, and then fall down to meet us, and then rise up again. Their bodies flop. They flail. ...Show More

142- And The Winner Is

18:09 | Nov 26th, 2014

There’s a little trophy shop called Aardvark Laser Engraving  down the street from our office in Oakland. Its small but bustling, and its windows are stuffed to the brim with awards made of all kinds of materials and in any shape you can imagine. The...Show More

141- Three Records from Sundown

34:24 | Nov 19th, 2014

This week on the show we’re presenting one of our favorite radio features, “Three Records from Sundown,” about singer Nick Drake. The documentary, by producer Charles Maynes, retraces the roots of Drake’s legend through interviews with Drake’s produc...Show More

139- Edge of Your Seat

20:46 | Nov 4th, 2014

“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” — Mies van der Rohe. The chair presents an interesting design challenge, because it is an object that disappears when in use. The person replaces the chair. So chairs need to look fantas...Show More

138- O-U-I-J-A

24:36 | Oct 28th, 2014

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 been spooking people for over 125 years. A...Show More

137- Good Bread

21:22 | Oct 22nd, 2014

The first print advertisement for Wonder Bread came out before the bread itself. It stated only that “a wonder” was coming. In a lot of ways, the statement was true. Wonder Bread was the perfect loaf.  “Slow food” advocates have pronounced industrial...Show More

Kickstart Radiotopia- A Storytelling Revolution

02:30 | Oct 19th, 2014

When you support Radiotopia, you are making sure 99% Invisible can keep coming to you weekly and you’ll be supporting our entire collective of award-winning, independent radiomakers. Thanks!

136- Lights Out

21:39 | Oct 14th, 2014

On July 13th, 1977, lightning struck an electricity transmission line in New York City, causing the line’s automatic circuit breaker to kick in. The electricity from the affected line was diverted to another line. This was fairly normal and everythin...Show More

135- For Amusement Only

17:31 | Oct 7th, 2014

Everyone has tried it at some point. The authorities started turning a blind eye years ago, but it wasn’t officially legalized until the summer of 2014. Finally, after more than 80 years of illegitimacy, the City of Oakland has legalized…pinball mach...Show More

134- The Straight Line Is A Godless Line

20:21 | Sep 30th, 2014

Straight lines form the core of our built environment. Building in straight lines makes predicting costs and calculating structural loads easier, since building materials come in linear units. Straight lines might be logical, predictable, and efficie...Show More

133- Port of Dallas

22:51 | Sep 24th, 2014

There’s a photograph we have tacked to our studio at 99% Invisible HQ. The photo, taken 1899, shows three men, all looking very fashionable, suspended mid-air on the lifted arm of a giant dredging machine. There are plenty of images like this from th...Show More

132- Castle on the Park

21:15 | Sep 16th, 2014

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. All the stained glass w...Show More

131- Genesis Object

16:12 | Sep 10th, 2014

In the beginning, there was design. Before any other human discipline, even before the dawn of mankind its self, design was a practice passed down from generation to generation of early humans. Today, everything that has been designed–space ships, bu...Show More

130- Holdout

21:24 | Sep 2nd, 2014

Around 2005, a Seattle neighborhood called Ballard started to see unprecedented growth. Condominiums and apartment buildings were sprouting up all over the community which had once been mostly single family homes and small businesses. Around this tim...Show More

129- Thomassons

18:48 | Aug 26th, 2014

Cities, like living things, evolve slowly over time. Buildings and structures get added and renovated and removed, and in this process, bits and pieces that get left behind. Vestiges. Just as humans have tailbones and whales have pelvic bones, cities...Show More

128- Hacking IKEA

22:49 | Aug 19th, 2014

IKEA hacking is the practice of buying things from IKEA and reengineering—or “hacking”—them to become customized, more functional, and often just better designed stuff. The locus of the IKEA hacking movement is a website called It’s ...Show More

127- The Sound of Sports

1:04:18 | Aug 12th, 2014

Way back in October 2011 (see episode #38, true believers!), we broadcast a short excerpt of a radio documentary produced by Peregrine Andrews about faking the sounds of sports on TV broadcasts. It was one of our most popular and provocative programs...Show More

126- Walk This Way

19:40 | Aug 5th, 2014

As humans have developed cities and built environments, we have also needed to develop ways to find our way through them. Sam Greenspan went on a wayfinding tour with Jim Harding in the Atlanta airport. Harding is one of the expert “invisibles” that ...Show More

125- Duplitecture

14:58 | Jul 29th, 2014

The best knock-offs in the world are in China. There are plenty of fake designer handbags and Rolexes, but China’s knock-offs go way beyond fashion. There are knock-off Apple stores that look so much like the real thing, some employees believe they a...Show More

124- Longbox

21:07 | Jul 22nd, 2014

Reporter Whitney Jones argues that R.E.M.’s Out of Time is the most politically significant album in the history of the United States. Because of its packaging.

123- Snowflake

20:38 | Jul 15th, 2014

Well before the early 1500s, when Sir Thomas Moore first coined the term “Utopia,” people have been thinking about how to design their ideal community. Maybe it’s one that doesn’t use money, or one that drops traditional family structures and raises ...Show More

122- Good Egress

21:56 | Jul 8th, 2014

When designing a commercial structure, there is one safety component that must be designed right into the building from the start: egress. “Egress” refers to an entire exit system from a building: stairs, corridors, and evacuation routes outside the ...Show More

121- Cold War Kids

26:01 | Jul 1st, 2014

During the 1961 Berlin Crisis—one of the various moments in the cold war in which we came frighteningly close to engaging in actual war with the Soviets—President John F. Kennedy vowed to identify spaces in “existing structures both public and privat...Show More

119- Feet of Engineering

18:16 | Jun 17th, 2014

As a fashion object and symbol, the high heel shoe is weighted with meaning. It’s also weighted with the wearer’s entire body weight. The stiletto might be one of the only designs that is physically painful but has somehow has persisted for centuries...Show More

118- Song Exploder

23:16 | Jun 10th, 2014

99% Invisible presents Song Exploder. A song is a product of design. It’s difficult to create an original melody, but that’s only the blueprint. Every element of a piece of music could be produced any number of ways, depending on which instrument pla...Show More

117- Clean Trains

23:29 | Jun 3rd, 2014

In just about every movie set in New York City in the 1970s and 80s there’s an establishing shot with a graffiti-covered subway. For city officials, train graffiti was a sign that they had lost control. So, starting in the early 70s, mayors of New Yo...Show More

116- Breaking the Bank

23:15 | May 27th, 2014

When I go into a bank, especially if I have to stand in line waiting to make a deposit, my mind wanders. And one of the first place it wanders to is: how I would rob the place. How could it be done? Most of the time, buildings are our friends. But it...Show More

115- Cow Tunnels

25:53 | May 20th, 2014

The westernmost part of Manhattan, between 34th and 39th street, is pretty industrial. There’s a bus depot, a ferry terminal, and a steady stream of cars. But in the late 19th early 20th centuries, this was cow country. Cows used to be ferried across...Show More

114- Ten Thousand Years

33:24 | May 13th, 2014

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 Pl...Show More

113- Monumental Dilemma

27:36 | May 6th, 2014

About ten miles north of Concord, New Hampshire, off of interstate 93 there’s a little island with a great, big monument on it. The monument depicts a woman, who is holding a hatchet in her right hand and bunch of scalps in her left hand. When it was...Show More

112- Young Ruin

22:35 | Apr 29th, 2014

If you’ve wandered around Machu Picchu, or Stonehenge, or the Colosseum, or even snuck into that abandoned house on the edge of town, you know the power in a piece of decrepit architecture. And even if you don’t want to leave your house, the internet...Show More

111- Masters of the Uni-verse

20:31 | Apr 22nd, 2014

Uniforms matter. When it comes to sports, they might be the only thing to which we’re actually loyal. Sports uniforms are packaging. But unlike any other packaging, if the product inside changes or degrades, we remain loyal. Players come and go, but ...Show More

110- Structural Integrity

27:04 | Apr 15th, 2014

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 angled top. But it’...Show More

109- Title TK

20:22 | Apr 8th, 2014

The name is important. It’s the first thing of any product you use or buy or see. The tip of the spear. You are bombarded by thousands of names every day. In this daily barrage, only the names that are most interesting and most pleasant on the tongue...Show More

108- Barcodes

21:43 | Apr 1st, 2014

When George Laurer goes to the grocery store, he doesn’t tell the check-out people that he invented the barcode, but his wife used to point it out. “My husband here’s the one who invented that barcode,” she’d occasionally say. And the check-out peopl...Show More

107- Call Now

23:34 | Mar 25th, 2014

When it’s three o’clock in the morning and everything is going wrong in your life, there’s a certain kind of ad you might see on basic cable. Lawyers–usually guys–promise to battle the heartless, tight-wad insurance companies on your behalf. There’s ...Show More

106- The Fancy Shape

19:42 | Mar 18th, 2014

Quatrefoil is the name of the four-lobed cloverleaf shape. It’s everywhere: adorning Gothic cathedrals, more modern churches, Rhode Island mansions, mission-style roofs in California, and decorating victorian homes from coast to coast. It’s embroider...Show More

105- One Man is An Island

23:20 | Mar 11th, 2014

A few years ago, reporter Sean Cole was working on a radio story and needed to interview the rapper Busta Rhymes. Sean was living in Boston at the time, so he did a Google search for “Busta Rhymes” and “Boston” to see if Busta had any upcoming shows ...Show More

104- Tunnel 57

24:24 | Mar 5th, 2014

At its peak, the Berlin Wall was 100 miles long. Today only about a mile is left standing. Compared with other famous walls in history, this wall had a pretty short life span. The Great Wall of China has been around for 2500 years. So have the walls ...Show More


19:40 | Feb 25th, 2014

It started with some Pittsburgh humor. Pittsburgh-based comedian Tom Muisal does a bit about a GPS unit that can give directions in “Pittsburghese.” Because in Pittsburgh, no one calls it “Interstate 376,” it’s “The Parkway.” It’s not “The Liberty Tu...Show More

102- Icon for Access

19:11 | Feb 18th, 2014

There is a beauty to a universal standard. The idea that people across the world can agree that when they interact with one specific thing, everyone will be on the same page– regardless of language or culture or geographic locale. If you’re in Belgra...Show More

101- Cover Story

22:45 | Feb 11th, 2014

You know the saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover. With magazines, it’s pretty much the opposite. The cover of a magazine is the unified identity for a whole host of ideas, authors, and designers who have created the eclectic array of stories ...Show More

100- Higher And Higher

21:23 | Feb 4th, 2014

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 ...Show More

99- The View From The 79th Floor

19:09 | Jan 15th, 2014

On July 28, 1945, an airplane crashed into the Empire State Building. A B-25 bomber was flying a routine mission, chartering servicemen from Massachusetts to New York City. Capt. William F. Smith, who had led some of the most dangerous missions in Wo...Show More

98- Six Stories- the memory palace

23:41 | Jan 3rd, 2014

Elevators are old. They would have to be. Because it is in our nature to rise. History is full of things that lift other things. In ancient Greece, and China, and Hungary, there were systems of weights and pulleys and platforms designed to bring nobi...Show More

97- Numbers Stations

26:06 | Dec 20th, 2013

If you tune around on a shortwave radio, you might stumble across a voice reciting an endless stream of numbers. Just numbers, all day, everyday. These so-called “numbers stations,” say nothing about where they are transmitting from or who they are t...Show More

96- DIY Space Suit

18:14 | Dec 3rd, 2013

Cameron Smith is building a space suit in his apartment. He’s not an astronaut. He’s not even an engineer. Cameron Smith is an archaeologist–on faculty in the anthropology department at Portland State University in Oregon. But Cameron is an explorer ...Show More

95- Future Screens are Mostly Blue

27:18 | Nov 21st, 2013

We have seen the future, and the future is mostly blue. Or, put another way: in our representations of the future in science fiction movies, blue seems to be the dominant color of our interfaces with technology yet to come. And that is one of the man...Show More

94- Unbuilt

28:09 | Nov 13th, 2013

There is an allure in unbuilt structures: the utopian, futuristic transports, the impossibly tall skyscrapers, even the horrible highways, all capture our imagination with what could have been. Whether these never built structures are perceived as go...Show More

93- Revolving Doors

20:44 | Nov 6th, 2013

The story goes like this: Theophilus Van Kannel hated chivalry. There was nothing he despised more than trying to walk in or out of a building, and locking horns with other men in a game of “oh you first, I insist.” But most of all, Theophilus Van Ka...Show More

92- All the Buildings

23:51 | Oct 29th, 2013

I love those moments when you’re walking in your neighborhood and suddenly nothing is familiar. In a good way. Sean Cole began seeing his neighborhood, actually the whole city of New York, with new eyes because of one artist who is trying to do nothi...Show More

91x- Always Read the Plaque- Kickstarter Announcement

05:55 | Oct 25th, 2013

We’re taking the show weekly in 2014 with your help. Join us! In this mini-episode, we revisit John Marr’s story that started a tiny 99% Invisible movement: “Always Read the Plaque.”

Kickstart Season 4 of 99% Invisible- Weekly Episodes

02:30 | Oct 23rd, 2013

99% Invisible started as a side project I made in my bedroom at night, and after two years of making the program, I turned to Kickstarter to see if I should keep it going. To my great surprise, the Season 3 fund-raising campaign broke all previous re...Show More

91- Wild Ones Live

35:22 | Oct 14th, 2013

We have one cardinal rule on 99% Invisible: No cardinals. Meaning, we deal with the built world, not the natural world. So, when I read Jon Mooallem’s brilliant book, Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People ...Show More

90- Strowger and Purple Reign Redux

27:23 | Oct 2nd, 2013

If you are an undertaker in 1878 Kansas City, and you learn that your competitor’s wife works as a telephone switchboard operator and has been diverting business calls meant for you to her husband, you have a few potential courses of action. Almon Br...Show More

89- Bubble Houses

27:44 | Sep 17th, 2013

If you were a movie star in the market for a mansion in 1930s Los Angeles, there was a good chance you might call on Wallace Neff. Neff wasn’t just an architect–he was a starchitect. One of his most famous projects was the renovation of Pickfair, the...Show More

88- The Broadcast Clock

19:20 | Sep 3rd, 2013

There’s a term that epitomizes what we radio producers aspire to create: the “driveway moment.” It’s when a story is so good that you literally can’t get out of your car. Inside of a driveway moment, time becomes elastic–you could be staring straight...Show More

87- I Heart NY, TM

22:13 | Aug 22nd, 2013

By now, the story is well known. A man sits in the backseat of a cab, sketching on a notepad as night falls over a crumbling city. He scribbles the letter I. He draws a heart. And then an N, and then a Y. Right away he knows he’s got something. This ...Show More

86- Reversal of Fortune

22:52 | Aug 9th, 2013

Chicago’s biggest design achievement probably isn’t one of its amazing skyscrapers, but the Chicago River, a waterway disguised as a remnant of the natural landscape. But it isn’t natural, not really. It’s hard to tell when you see the river, but it’...Show More

85- Noble Effort

20:13 | Jul 29th, 2013

If you grew up watching Warner Brothers cartoons, you might remember seeing the name Chuck Jones in big letters in the opening credits. Chuck Jones directed cartoons like Looney Tunes from the 1930s until his death in 2002. He was also an animator, a...Show More

84- Ode to Ladislav Sutnar plus Trading Places with Planet Money

33:33 | Jul 15th, 2013

An ode to an information designer who made life a little bit easier for millions and millions of people: Ladislav Sutnar, the man who put parentheses around area codes. Plus 99% Invisible and Planet Money team up and we talk to commodities traders to...Show More

83- Heyoon

30:54 | Jul 2nd, 2013

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 take you there. It was like there was th...Show More

82- The Man of Tomorrow

15:26 | Jun 20th, 2013

I’m willing to concede from the get-go that I might be wrong about the entire premise of this story, but Superman has never really worked for me as a character. I preferred the more grounded Marvel Comic book characters, like Spider-man, who lived in...Show More

81- Rebar and the Alvord Lake Bridge

14:27 | Jun 7th, 2013

There’s something about rebar that fascinates me. If nothing else because there are very few things that invoke a fear of being skewered. My preoccupation with metal reinforcement bars dovetails nicely with a structure in San Francisco I’ve kind of b...Show More

80- An Architect’s Code

20:41 | May 28th, 2013

Lawyers have an ethics code. Journalists have an ethics code. Architects do, too. According to Ethical Standard 1.4 of the American Institute of Architects (AIA): “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.” A group calle...Show More

79- The Symphony of Sirens plus Soviet Design

26:58 | May 8th, 2013

For the ancient Greeks, sirens were mythical creatures who sang out to passing sailors from rocks in the sea. Their music was so beautiful, it was said, that the sailors were powerless against it–they would turn their ships towards these sea nymphs a...Show More

78- No Armed Bandit

21:58 | Apr 30th, 2013

Americans have always had an uneasy relationship with gambling. To circumvent anti-gambling laws in the US, early slot machines masqueraded as vending machines. They gave out chewing gum as prizes, and those prizes could be redeemed for cash. That’s ...Show More

77- Game Changer

15:02 | Apr 15th, 2013

Regardless of how you feel about basketball, you’ve got to appreciate the way it can bring groups of strangers together to share moments of pure adulation and collective defeat. That moment when time is running out, the team is down by one, a player ...Show More

76- The Modern Moloch

26:51 | Apr 4th, 2013

On the streets of early 20th Century America, nothing moved faster than 10 miles per hour. Responsible parents would tell their children, “Go outside, and play in the streets. All day.” And then the automobile happened. And then automobiles began kil...Show More

99% Invisible-75- Secret Staircases

14:28 | Mar 21st, 2013

Wherever there is sufficient demand to move between two points of differing elevation, there are stairs. In some hilly neighborhoods of California–if you know where to look–you’ll find public, outdoor staircases. The large number of hidden public sta...Show More

99% Invisible-74- Hand Painted Signs

15:19 | Mar 8th, 2013

There was a time when every street sign, every billboard, and every window display was made by a sign artist with a paint kit and an arsenal of squirrel- or camel-hair brushes. Some lived an itinerant lifestyle, traveling from town to town, knocking ...Show More

99% Invisible-73- The Zanzibar and Other Building Poems

14:29 | Feb 18th, 2013

There comes a time in the life of a modern city where it begins to grow up–literally. Santiago, the capital of Chile, has been going through a tremendous growth spurt since its economic boom of the mid 1990s. It happened fast. In just a few years, si...Show More

99% Invisible-72- New Old Town

23:05 | Feb 5th, 2013

Like many cities in Central Europe, Warsaw is made up largely of grey, ugly, communist block-style architecture. Except for one part: The Old Town. Walking through this historic district, it’s just like any other quaint European city. There are touri...Show More

99% Invisible-71- In and Out of LOVE

19:09 | Jan 23rd, 2013

Though its officially name is JFK Plaza, the open space near Philadelphia’s City Hall is more commonly known as LOVE Park. With its sleek granite benches, geometric raised planter beds, and long expanses of pavement, its success as a pedestrian plaza...Show More

99% Invisible-70- The Great Red Car Conspiracy

16:17 | Jan 11th, 2013

When Eric Molinsky lived in Los Angeles, he kept hearing this story about a bygone transportation system called the Red Car. The Red Car, he was told, had been this amazing network of streetcars that connected the city–until a car company bought it, ...Show More

99% Invisible-69- The Brief and Tumultuous Life of the New UC Logo

27:25 | Dec 31st, 2012

If you’re not from California, or missed this bit of news, the University of California has a new logo. Or rather had a new logo. To be more precise they had a new “visual identity system,” which is the kind of entirely accurate but completely wonky ...Show More

99% Invisible-68- Built for Speed

15:05 | Dec 12th, 2012

I want you to conjure an image in your mind of the white stripes that divide the lanes of traffic going the same direction on a major highway. How long are the stripes and the spaces between them? You can spread your arms out to estimate if you want ...Show More

99% Invisible-67- Broken Window

14:13 | Nov 29th, 2012

When Melissa Lee was growing up in Hastings-on-Hudson, a small town in upstate New York, there were only so many fun things to do. One was buying geodes and smashing them apart with a hammer. (You know geodes, right? Those dull-looking brown rocks th...Show More

99% Invisible-66- Kowloon Walled City

18:03 | Nov 19th, 2012

Kowloon Walled City was the densest place in the world, ever. By its peak in the 1990s, the 6.5 acre Kowloon Walled City was home to at least 33,000 people (with estimates of up to 50,000). That’s a population density of at least 3.2 million per squa...Show More

99% Invisible-65- Razzle Dazzle

15:14 | Nov 5th, 2012

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 zebra fr...Show More

99% Invisible-64- Derelict Dome

17:04 | Oct 25th, 2012

In the Cape Cod town of Woods Hole, buildings are not usually dome-shaped. Producer Katie Klocksin was pretty surprised when she came across one. Katie started asking around about the dome.  She found it was built by the late Buckminster Fuller, who ...Show More

99% Invisible-63- The Political Stage

17:46 | Oct 12th, 2012

On this special edition of 99% Invisible, we joined forces with Andrea Seabrook of DecodeDC to investigate all the thought that goes into the most miniscule details of a political campaign. Andrea was the star of episode #48 of 99% Invisible, The Bat...Show More

99% Invisible-62- Q2

17:48 | Oct 2nd, 2012

Benjamen Walker had a theory that priority queues are changing the American experience of waiting in line. So he visited amusement parks, highways, and community colleges to find out how these priority queues work and who is using them. What started ...Show More