podcast cover
Storytelling

99% Invisible

Roman Mars

+987 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
Best
Newest
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
274- The Age of the Algorithm

21:02 | 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
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
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
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
269- Ways of Hearing

37:31 | 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
352- Uptown Squirrel

29:57 | May 1st

This past fall, two hundred people gathered at The Explorer’s Club in New York City. The building was once a clubhouse for famed naturalists and explorers. Now it’s an archive of ephemera and rarities from pioneering expeditions around the globe. But...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
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
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

24:35 | Oct 11th, 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. The sidewalks are mostly occ...Show More
271- The Great Dismal Swamp

24:24 | 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

30:30 | 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

19:37 | 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

22:42 | 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 … Continue...Show More
357- The Barney Design redux

25:49 | Jun 11th

All over Oakland right now people are wearing Warriors shirts and flying their Warriors flags from their cars, and as much as we like our hometown team here at 99pi, we've been following these NBA finals for another design-related reason. When you wa...Show More
354- Weeding is Fundamental

37:57 | May 14th

Libraries get rid of books all the time. There are so many new books coming in every day and only a finite amount of library space. The practice of freeing up library space is called weeding. When the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library w...Show More
348- Three Things That Made the Modern Economy

28:07 | Apr 2nd

50 Things That Made The Modern Economy is a podcast that explores the fascinating histories of a number of powerful inventions and their far-reaching consequences. This week, 99% Invisible is featuring three episodes that explain how the s-bend pipe ...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
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

25:38 | 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 an all-metr...Show More
278- The Athletic Brassiere

23:35 | 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

52:10 | 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

24:41 | 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

19:12 | 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

17:36 | 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)

27:56 | 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)

26:41 | 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

24:39 | 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

13:59 | 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 … Continue reading →
202- Mojave Phone Booth

18:35 | 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 … Contin...Show More
191- Worst Smell in the World

12:35 | 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 … C...Show More
366- Model City

1:01:30 | Aug 13th

During the depths of the Depression in the late 1930s, 300 craftspeople came together for two years to build an enormous scale model of the City of San Francisco. This Works Progress Administration (WPA) project was conceived as a way of putting arti...Show More
363- Invisible Women

27:07 | Jul 23rd

Men are often the default subjects of design, which can have a huge impact on big and critical aspects of everyday life. Caroline Criado Perez is the author of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, a book about how data from women i...Show More
362- Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Twine

41:29 | Jul 17th

Vivian Le is on a mission that requires equal parts science, philosophy, and daring, in search of something that’s been hotly contested for decades: the world's largest ball of twine. Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Twine
360- The Universal Page

38:26 | Jul 2nd

Reporter Andrew Leland has always loved to read. An early love of books in childhood eventually led to a job in publishing with McSweeney’s where Andrew edited essays and interviews, laid out articles, and was trained to take as much care with the lo...Show More
359- Life and Death in Singapore

33:20 | Jun 25th

When Singapore gained its independence they went on a mission to re-house the population from densely-packed thatched roof huts into giant concrete skyscrapers. In 1960, they formed the Housing and Development Board, or HDB, and just five years later...Show More
356- The Automat

34:59 | Jun 4th

The inside of a Horn & Hardart Automat looked like a glamorous, ornate cafeteria -- but instead of a human handing you hot food over a counter, you would push your tray up to a wall of little glass cubbies. Each cubby housed a fresh, hot portion of f...Show More
353- From Bombay with Love

33:14 | May 7th

From the 1950s right up to its collapse, people in the Soviet Union were completely infatuated with Indian cinema. India and The Soviet Union had completely different politics, languages, and cultures. But for a brief time, these two nations found th...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
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
277- Ponte City Tower

29:06 | 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

28:38 | 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

13:02 | 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

27:57 | 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

22:50 | 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

21:55 | 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

18:41 | 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 … Continue r...Show More
237- Dollar Store Town

15:58 | 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. … Continue reading →
232- McMansion Hell

13:19 | 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 … Continu...Show More
229- The Trend Forecast

15:31 | 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 … Continue readi...Show More
225- Photo Credit

18:39 | 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

15:56 | 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

34:47 | 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

19:49 | 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 … Continue readi...Show More
181- Milk Carton Kids

16:21 | 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 … Continue reading →
165- The Nutshell Studies

23:15 | 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 … Continue reading →
162- Mystery House

16:04 | 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

11:38 | 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

14:22 | 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 … Co...Show More
99% Invisible-66- Kowloon Walled City

14:54 | 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 … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-44- The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

11:55 | 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 … Conti...Show More
99% Invisible-14- Periodic Table

06:28 | 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 … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-13x-Game Over (Snap Judgment)

11:34 | Jan 7th, 2011

99% Invisible Extra! The tape rolls as we witness the tearful end of a perfect online world. This is a piece I did for Snap Judgment, based on a story from Robert Ashley’s brilliant A Life Well Wasted internet radio … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-13- Maps

04:58 | Dec 17th, 2010

I’m sorry, but if you don’t love maps, I don’t think we can be friends anymore. Maps are amazing. They are art and story. A representation of where we are and where we wish we could be. They’ve always had … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-12- 99% Guilt Free

04:57 | Dec 3rd, 2010

“Sustainable Design is a design philosophy that seeks to maximize the quality of the built environment, while minimizing or eliminating the negative impact to the natural environment.” -Jason F. McLennan, The Philosophy of Sustainable Design I like M...Show More
99% Invisible-11- 99% Undesigned

04:59 | Nov 25th, 2010

Almost everything in modern life is designed to waste energy. The whole system evolved on a false premise that petroleum is cheap and plentiful and will be that way forever. The awesome Lisa Margonelli, author of Oil on The Brain … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-10- 99% Sound and Feel

05:20 | Nov 19th, 2010

Chris Downey explains it like this, “Beethoven continued to write music, even some of his best music, after he lost his hearing…What’s more preposterous, composing music you can’t hear, or designing architecture you can’t see?” Chris Downey had been ...Show More
99% Invisible-09X-99% Doomed

11:59 | Nov 13th, 2010

99% Invisible Extra! NASA is figuring out how to take the next great leap into space. The difficulty is, if we leap to Mars, we might not make it back. This is a story I produced last year (Summer 2009) … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-09- 99% Private

04:58 | Nov 5th, 2010

Privately Owned Public Open Spaces, or POPOS, are these little gardens, terraces, plazas, and seating areas that are private property, but are mandated for public use. City planners require developers to add these little “parks” to their buildings to...Show More
99% Invisible-08- 99% Free Parking

05:19 | Oct 29th, 2010

It’s weird how much anxiety comes from parking in a city. Beyond the stress of looking for parking, you must contend with the frequently unreliable meters. The signage can be indecipherable. As a point of interaction with your municipality, it’s … Co...Show More
99% Invisible-07- 99% Alien

04:58 | Oct 14th, 2010

Humans need a few basic things to survive- air, water, food, heat, shelter- but just surviving isn’t really enough. We also need familiarity, a little comfort, interaction, a small place of our own. When it comes to designing space habitat … Continue...Show More
99% Invisible-06- 99% Symbolic

04:57 | Oct 7th, 2010

Before I moved to Chicago in 2005, I didn’t even know cities had their own flags. In Chicago, the city flag is everywhere. It’s incorporated into all different aspects of city life and the design elements are used on businesses, … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-05- 99% Forgotten

04:58 | Oct 1st, 2010

At the top of Mt. Olympus in San Francisco, on what was once thought to be the geographic center of the city, is a pedestal for a statue that isn’t there. There’s no marker. You can just make out the … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-04- 99% Details

05:01 | Sep 24th, 2010

It’s a stick with bristles poking out of it. It doesn’t even qualify as a simple machine, but the careful thought and design that went into the creation of the modern, angled bristle, fat handled toothbrush shows just how much … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-03- 99% Reality (only)

04:58 | Sep 24th, 2010

There’s not much that we can do about all the physical matter that’s been designed and built by someone else. It is the way it is. But with the advent of portable devices with GPS, a compass, and a network, … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-02- 99% 180

04:58 | Sep 23rd, 2010

In the beginning, former AIA-SF president Henrik Bull and the Transamerica Pyramid did not get along. The building was an affront to late 1960’s modernist ideals. It was silly. It looked like a dunce cap. Its large scale had no … Continue reading →
99% Invisible-01- 99% Noise

04:49 | Sep 23rd, 2010

This episode of 99% Invisible is all about acoustic design, the city soundscape, and how to make listening in shared spaces pleasant (or at the very least, possible). It features an interview with Dennis Paoletti from Shen Milsom & Wilke.
367- Peace Lines

35:22 | Aug 21st

There are many walls in Belfast which physically separate Protestant neighborhoods from Catholic ones. Some are fences that you can see through, while others are made of bricks and steel. Many have clearly been reinforced over time: a cinderblock wal...Show More
365- On Beeing

24:52 | Aug 6th

Farmers have known for centuries that putting a hive of honeybees in an orchard results in more blossoms becoming cherries, almonds, apples and the like.  Yet it’s only in the last 30 years that pollination services have become such an enormous part ...Show More
364- He's Still Neutral

32:55 | Jul 31st

When confronted with trash piling up on a median in front of their home in Oakland, Dan and Lu Stevenson decided to try something unusual: they would install a statue of the Buddha to watch over the place. When asked by Criminal’s Phoebe Judge why th...Show More
361- Built on Sand

36:41 | Jul 9th

Sand is so tiny and ubiquitous that it's easy to take for granted. But in his book The World in a Grain, author Vince Beiser traces the history of sand, exploring how it fundamentally shaped the world as we know it. "Sand is actually the most importa...Show More
358- The Anthropocene Reviewed

1:04:50 | Jun 18th

The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. On The Anthropocene Reviewed, John Green rates different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. This wee...Show More
355- Depave Paradise

36:12 | May 28th

Mexico City is in a water crisis. Despite rains and floods, it is running out of drinking water. To solve the scarcity issue, the city began piping water in from far away as well as from aquifer below ground, creating yet another problem: the city ...Show More
Sound and Health: Hospitals

17:22 | May 24th

Sound can have serious impacts on our health and wellbeing. And there’s no better place to think about health than hospitals. According to Joel Beckerman, sound designer and composer at Man Made Music: "Hospitals are horrible places to get better." ...Show More
281- La Sagrada Familia

31:40 | May 21st

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
Sound and Health: Cities

19:09 | May 17th

Is our blaring modern soundscape harming our health? Cities are noisy places and while people are pretty good at tuning it out on a day-to-day basis our sonic environments have serious, long-term impacts on our mental and physical health. This is par...Show More
351- Play Mountain

37:16 | Apr 24th

Even if you don't recognize a Noguchi table by name, you've definitely seen one. In movies or tv shows when they want to show that a lawyer or art dealer is really sophisticated, they put a Noguchi table in their waiting room. Noguchi was a world ren...Show More
350- The Roman Mars Mazda Virus

52:17 | Apr 16th

Gimlet’s Reply All orchestrated a grand podcast crossover event to try to solve a years old bug plaguing 99% Invisible listeners that drive certain models of Mazda. You can find all the fake podcast episodes and feeds on the Reply All website. Reply...Show More
349- Froebel's Gifts

23:57 | Apr 9th

In the late 1700s, a young man named Freidrich Froebel was on track to become an architect when a friend convinced him to pursue a path toward education instead. And in changing course, Froebel arguably ended up having more influence on the world of ...Show More
347- The Many Deaths of a Painting

40:47 | Mar 27th

When Barnett Newman’s painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III was placed in the Sedelijk museum it was meant to be provocative, but one reaction that it received was so intense, so violent, it set off a chain of events that shook the art wo...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
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

19:23 | 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

19:09 | 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

17:49 | 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

25:34 | 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

11:23 | 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

22:55 | 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

27:13 | 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

25:28 | 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

19:47 | 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

30:27 | 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 … Continue reading →
253- Manzanar

23:55 | 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 … Continue reading →
252- The Falling of the Lenins

22:53 | 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 … Continue reading →
251- Negative Space: Logo Design with Michael Bierut

44:34 | 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. … Continue reading →
248- Atom in the Garden of Eden

17:57 | 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 … Continue...Show More
245- The Eponymist

27:58 | 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 … Continue reading →
244- The Revolutionary Post

17:52 | 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 … Continue reading →
243- Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle

19:40 | 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 … Continue ...Show More
242- Mini-Stories: Volume 2

29:36 | 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 … Continue readi...Show More
241- Mini-Stories: Volume 1

27:17 | 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 …...Show More
240- Plat of Zion

17:00 | 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,” … Continue reading →
239- Guano Island

18:45 | 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

13:02 | 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

18:48 | 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

16:21 | 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 … Continue re...Show More
233- Space Trash, Space Treasure

16:34 | 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 … Continue reading →
231- Half a House

18:02 | 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 … Continue reading →
230- Project Cybersyn

21:02 | 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 …...Show More
124- Longbox

18:29 | 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

18:46 | 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 … Contin...Show More
227- Public Works

13:19 | 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

17:40 | 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 … Continue ...Show More
224- A Sea Worth its Salt

17:34 | 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 … Cont...Show More
223- The Magic Bureaucrat

32:42 | 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 … Continue read...Show More
222- Combat Hearing Loss

16:17 | 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. … Continue reading →
221- America’s Last Top Model

19:21 | 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 … Continue readi...Show More
220- The Mind of an Architect

21:30 | 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

13:59 | 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

26:31 | 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 … Conti...Show More
217- Home on Lagrange

26:07 | 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

21:41 | 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 … Continue re...Show More
215- H-Day

15:57 | 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 … Continue readin...Show More
130- Holdout

16:04 | 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

18:34 | 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 … Continue re...Show More
212- Turf Wars of East New York

27:26 | 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 … Continue reading →
211- The Grand Dame of Broad Street

19:29 | 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

26:30 | 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

15:56 | 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 … Continue reading...Show More
208- Vox Ex Machina

22:17 | 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” — … Continue reading...Show More
207- Soul City

30:58 | 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 … Continue reading →
205- Flying Food

14:58 | 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 … Continue reading →
204- The SoHo Effect

17:31 | 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 … Conti...Show More
203- The Giftschrank

18:03 | 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

0:00 | 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% … Continue reading →
200- Miss Manhattan

16:50 | 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 … Continue reading →
199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball

19:17 | 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

15:51 | 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 …...Show More
197- Fish Cannon

16:02 | 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

13:47 | 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 … C...Show More
195- Best Enjoyed By

13:44 | 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 … Continue rea...Show More
194- Bone Music

11:12 | 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. …...Show More
193- Tube Benders

14:39 | 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 … Continue...Show More
192- Pagodas and Dragon Gates

21:14 | 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 … Continue read...Show More
190- Fixing the Hobo Suit

18:09 | 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

13:48 | 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 …...Show More
188- Fountain Drinks

30:25 | 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 … Continue reading →
187- Butterfly Effects

15:43 | 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

16:12 | 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