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99% Invisible

624 EpisodesProduced by Roman MarsWebsite

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

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344- The Known Unknown [rebroadcast]

November 29th, 2023


Roman note: This is one of my favorite episodes of all time. Should be a movie. Enjoy!

The tradition of the Tomb of the Unknowns goes back only about …

561- Long Strange Tape

November 22nd, 2023


The Cassette tape was great in so many ways, but let’s be honest, they never really sounded great.  But because the cassette was so much cheaper and easier to use and portable, a lot of people didn't care so much about …

560- Home on the Range

November 15th, 2023


In a lot of ways, Lincoln Heights, Ohio, sounds just like any other suburb. If you walk around town, you’ll hear kids playing outside the local …

559- The Six-Week Cure

November 7th, 2023


In the mid-1900s, people flocked to Reno, Nevada -- not for frontier gold or loose slots, but to get out of bad marriages.  The city became known as …

558- The Fever Tree Hunt

October 31st, 2023


Most heists target gold, jewels or cash. This one targeted illegal seeds. As the British established their sprawling empire across the subcontinent …

557- Model Village

October 24th, 2023


For decades, society has dealt with people with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline by storing them away in unstimulating, medicalized …

328- Devolutionary Redesign

October 17th, 2023


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 …

556- You Ain’t Nothin But a Postmark

October 10th, 2023


Over a decade after Elvis Presley’s death, the king of rock & roll took over headlines once again as Americans weighed in on which portrait of …

555- The Big Dig

October 3rd, 2023


Over its more than 40 year journey from conception to completion, Boston’s Big Dig massive infrastructure project, which rerouted the central highway in the heart of the city, encountered every hurdle imaginable: …

554- Devil in the Details

September 26th, 2023


This week we have two stories featuring the devil.

An infamous "training video" teaching cops how to spot and stop "satanic crimes." And a stretch of highway with the misfortune of being officially named US Route 666.

553- Cautionary Tales of the Sydney Opera House

September 19th, 2023


The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic and distinctive buildings in the world. It took a relative newcomer and architectural outsider to dream it up, but the saga of making this world heritage landmark a …

552- Blood in the Machine

September 12th, 2023


Brian Merchant is a tech reporter, and he'd been covering the industry for years when he started to notice a term that kept coming up. When he wrote a story that was critical of tech, he'd be accused of being a …

389- Whomst Among Us Let the Dogs Out AGAIN

September 5th, 2023


All kinds of songs get stuck in your head. Famous pop tunes from when you were a kid, album cuts you've listened to over and over again. And then there's a category of memorable songs—the ones that we all just kind of …

551- Office Space

August 29th, 2023


In most big cities, there’s a housing crisis. And empty office buildings are creating a different crisis known to urbanists as a ‘doom loop.’ …

550- Melanie Speaks

August 22nd, 2023


The story of a voice training VHS tape that helped trans women at a time when other resources were hard to access.

The way a person's voice changes over time feels like a simple, and overlooked act of magic. Whether …

549- Trail Mix: Track Two

August 15th, 2023


Welcome to our second episode of short stories all about what may be the original designed object: the trail. If you haven’t heard the first episode …

548- Trail Mix

August 8th, 2023


We deconstruct and examine what might be the original designed object-- the humble trail. We discuss how park trails are designed, what makes a good trail, and...what even is a trail anyway?

Trail Mix

547- Cooking with Gas

August 1st, 2023


Back in January, Bloomberg News published a story quoting an obscure government official named Richard Trumka Jr. He works with the Consumer Product …

546- The Country of the Blind

July 25th, 2023


Andrew Leland grew up with full vision, but starting in his teenage years, his sight began to degrade from the outside in, such that he now sees the …

545- Shade Redux

July 18th, 2023


This past May, the city of Los Angeles rolled out a brand new, state-of-the art feature for bus shelters. It’s called La Sombrita. La Sombrita is a …

544- Chick Tracts

July 11th, 2023


In the 1980s, the little Christian comic books known as Chick Tracts were EVERYWHERE. You’d find them in movie theaters and bus station bathrooms, on …

543- In Proximity: Ryan Coogler and Roman Mars

July 5th, 2023


In Proximity is a podcast from Proximity Media about craft, career, and creativity.

Proximity founder Ryan Coogler talks all about podcasts with Roman Mars, host and creator of 99% Invisible, a sound-rich narrative …

542- Player Piano

June 27th, 2023


This week we're featuring an episode of The Last Archive

The Last Archive is a history show. Our evidence is the evidence of history, the evidence of archives. Manuscripts, photographs, letters and diaries, government …

541- The Frankfurt Kitchen

June 20th, 2023


After World War I, in Frankfurt, Germany, the city government was taking on a big project. A lot of residents were in dire straits, and in the second half of the 1920s, the city built over 10,000 public housing units. …

540- The Siren of Scrap Metal

June 13th, 2023


Amid the noisy bustle of Mexico City, there is a particularly iconic sound echoing on repeat in the background. This recording blares from trucks …

539- Courtroom Sketch

June 6th, 2023


As electronic news gathering was gaining prominence in the early 20th century, the American Bar Association began to fear its effect on court trials and adopted something called Canon 35. This condemned the use of …

415- Goodnight Nobody [rebroadcast]

May 31st, 2023


The unlikely battle between the creator of the New York Public Library children's reading room and the beloved children’s classic Goodnight Moon.

Goodnight Nobody

538- Train Set: Track Three

May 23rd, 2023


Happy National Train Day, everyone – for those of you who missed it: that was May 13th this year. A year ago, we started down this path with Train Set: Track One, which gave way to Track Two …and now, here we are for …

537- Paved Paradise

May 17th, 2023


LA might be the most extreme parking city on the planet. Parking regulations have made it nearly impossible to build new affordable housing, or to …

535- Craptions

May 2nd, 2023


Bad closed captions can be entertaining, but  they can be serious, too, because captions are a critical tool for lots of lots of people. There are …

534- For Amusement Only (Free Replay)

April 25th, 2023


There's a new movie out called Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game. It’s a fun and extremely meta biopic telling the story of Roger Sharpe, who, with one perfect shot, helped legalize pinball in New York. That’s right …

533- Dear John and Roman

April 19th, 2023


Last year, Roman Mars teamed up with Hank Green to guest host Dear Hank & John -- this year he's back on the Greens' show once again, but this …

532- For a Dollar and a Dream

April 11th, 2023


From scratchers to the Powerball, the lottery is the most popular form of gambling in the United States, even though the odds of winning a big …

531- De Fiets Is Niets

April 4th, 2023


Today the Netherlands has a reputation as a kind of bicycling paradise. Dutch people own more bicycles per capita than any other place in the world. The country has more than 20,000 miles of dedicated cycling paths. …

530- The Panopticon Effect

March 29th, 2023


The “panopticon” might be the best known prison concept in the world. In the original design, all the cells are built around a central guard tower, designed to maintain order just by making prisoners believe that they …

529- The Wilderness Tool

March 21st, 2023


Vintage crosscuts that were made between 1880 and 1930 are often the tool of choice for trail workers who maintain the country’s roughly 112 million …

Twenty Thousand Hertz- Golden

March 17th, 2023


The podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz is a show about the world's most interesting and recognizable sounds. I think of it as almost a sibling of 99% Invisible: lovingly produced and reported deep dives into everyday things …

528- A Whale-Oiled Machine

March 14th, 2023


Back when whale oil was mainly used as a fuel to burn in lanterns and streetlights, an enterprising man named William F. Nye found a new way to sell whale oil to a rapidly changing world: as a lubricant for all the new …

420- The Lost Cities of Geo Redux

March 7th, 2023


 If we’ve learned anything from watching the turnover of tech giants like Yahoo! and MySpace, it’s that internet darlings rise and fall. And there’s something darkly fascinating about watching it happen in realtime.

527- RoboUmp

February 28th, 2023


One study from 2018 found that Major League Baseball umpires blow about 14 calls every game. That’s 34,000 bad calls every year. And it makes a difference. A blown strike call can decide a win or a loss, a championship …

526- Orange Alternative

February 22nd, 2023


In the 1980s a Polish anti-communist group called the Orange Alternative used cute images of a mythical creature with a tiny pointed hat to spread …

525- The Chinatown Punk Wars

February 14th, 2023


When LA punks were looking for a place to play in the late 1970s, Chinatown welcomed the unruly scene. But it was an uneasy alliance that led to …

524- The Day the Music Stopped

February 8th, 2023


On Aug. 1, 1942, the nation’s recording studios went silent. Musicians were fed up with the new technologies threatening their livelihoods, so they …

523- Six-on-Six Basketball

January 31st, 2023


In the 20th century, Iowa high school girls basketball was HUGE but it was not the game we know today. In 6-on-6 basketball, the three forwards only …

522- The Comrades

January 24th, 2023


If you live in South Africa, you definitely know someone who runs ultra-marathons, probably lots of someones. Here, ultras are the stuff of a whole …

521- A Sea of Yellow

January 17th, 2023


Back in 2017 we ran an episode about the history of Brazil's iconic, yellow national soccer jersey. We were reminded of that story during the recent world cup, and then again on January 8th as a mob of right wing …

520- Mini-Stories: Volume 16

January 10th, 2023


We’re kicking off the new year at 99pi with a fresh installment of mini-stories, including: what lies at the intersection of a street and a road; the …

519- Balikbayan Boxes

December 21st, 2022


This time of year, right in the middle of the holiday season, there's a beloved, frenzied tradition playing out in Filipino households all around the …

518- Mini-Stories: Volume 15

December 14th, 2022


The whole conceit of this show is that if look at the world in the right way, you’ll see stories everywhere. Some of the stories are epic power …

517- The Divided Dial

December 6th, 2022


If you’ve ever flipped through the radio dial — not satellite, not podcasts, but good old-fashioned AM and FM radio — you may have noticed something. …

516- Cougar Town

November 29th, 2022


Wildlife and urban development don’t usually go well together. Roads in particular fracture the habitats of wide-ranging animals. It restricts their …

515- Super Citizens

November 22nd, 2022


Los Angeles' El Peatonito is part of a subset of real life superheroes who are more focused on things like picking up trash and taking on civic issues than catching criminals in alleys.

These super citizens take their …

405- Freedom House Ambulance Service: American Sirens

November 16th, 2022


When people ask me what my favorite episode of 99% Invisible is, I have a hard time answering. Not because they’re all my precious little babies or some such nonsense, but mostly it’s because I just can’t remember them …

514- Train Set: Track Two

November 9th, 2022


Funiculars are great, which is why the main image from our previous train episode featured one -- except we didn't actually talk about that one …

Articles of Interest: American Ivy

November 2nd, 2022


Articles of Interest is a show about what we wear. Host and producer Avery Trufelman investigates our collectively held beliefs about fashion and …

513- The Safety Bicycle

October 25th, 2022


The basic mechanics of the bike are pretty simple --- it’s basically a triangle with wheels and a chain drive to propel it forward. No batteries or engines. It seems obvious in hindsight .... And that’s why most people …

512- Walk of Fame

October 18th, 2022


Even if you haven't made the pilgrimage to Southern California, you can probably already picture what the Walk of Fame looks like. It's a 1.3 mile walkway lined with terrazzo and brass squares. Each slab spotlights a …

511- Vuvuzela

October 11th, 2022


The vuvuzela is a two foot long injection-molded plastic horn. It only plays one note: a B flat. And it gradually became a regular feature of South …

510- Wickedest Sound

October 4th, 2022


Jamaica is famous around the world for its music, including genres like ska, dub, and reggae. It’s tempting to think that the powerful amplifiers and …

509- Tale of the Jackalope

September 28th, 2022


The magical mythical "jackalope" is a essentially a horned rabbit, with antlers of different sizes and shapes. The jackalope is a mascot of the …

508- President Clinton Interviews Roman Mars

September 20th, 2022


On this special feature episode, President Bill Clinton interviews 99% Invisible host and creator Roman Mars.

Roman Mars has spent his career chronicling these bits of human ingenuity that we so often take for …

507- Search and Ye Might Find

September 14th, 2022


Adam Rogers has been thinking and writing about what’s known in the industry simply as "search." For the last decade, people have been grumbling about not being able to find things online, both in our private data and …

506- Monumental Diplomacy

September 6th, 2022


In downtown Windhoek, Namibia -- at the intersection of Fidel Castro Street and Robert Mugabe Avenue -- there's an imposing gold building with an …

505- First Errand

August 30th, 2022


Back in March, Netflix picked up a long running Japanese TV program based on a children’s book from the 1970s. The show is called Old Enough, but the name of the original Japanese program translates to My First Errand. …

504- Bleep!

August 23rd, 2022


There's a particular one-kilohertz tone that is universally understood to be covering up inappropriate words on radio and TV. But there are other …

What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law- The Longest Week

August 18th, 2022


In the final week of the  most recent term, the Supreme Court decided to limit one constitutional right (abortion) and expand another constitutional right (guns). But there were other cases decided that week, which were …

503- Re:peat

August 10th, 2022


A few years back, 99pi producer Emmett FitzGerald brought us a beautiful story about peat bogs. Peat is essential for biodiversity and for the …

502- 99% Vernacular: Volume 3

August 3rd, 2022


In the final episode of our vernacular spectacular anniversary series, 99pi producers and friends of the show will be sharing more stories of …

501- 99% Vernacular: Volume 2

July 26th, 2022


Only a small percentage of architecture is actually designed by architects. And while a famous architect-designed tower in a skyline might be the best way to identify a city at a distance, up close it’s the subtle cues …

500- 99% Vernacular: Volume 1

July 19th, 2022


For the 500th episode of 99% Invisible, we started thinking about the kinds of designs that we love from the places we have lived -- and even some …

499- Say Aloe to My Little Frond

July 12th, 2022


Houseplants are having a moment right now. In 2020, 66% of people in the US owned at least one plant, and sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Instagram accounts like House Plant Club have a million …

498- The Octagon House

July 5th, 2022


99% Invisible producer emeritus Avery Trufelman traveled from New York to San Francisco recently, and took host Roman Mars to see an unusually shaped …

497- Hometown Village

June 28th, 2022


Sakhalin is a long, skinny island east of Russia's mainland. Russia and Japan have long fought over the territory, which has left the ethnic Koreans who came to work on the island starting in the early 1900s in a kind …

496- The Rights of Rice and Future of Nature

June 21st, 2022


The Ojibwe name for wild rice is Manoomin, which translates to “the good berry.” The scientific name is Zizania palustris. It’s the only grain indigenous to North America, and while it might be called rice, it’s …

495- Meet Us by the Fountain

June 14th, 2022


No teenager in America in the 1980s could avoid the gravitational pull of the mall, not even author Alexandra Lange. In her new book, Meet Me by the …

494- Flag Days: Unfolding a Moment

June 7th, 2022


Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. At least, that's what we were taught in school. But when historians go searching…there’s no proof to be …

493- Divining Provenance

June 1st, 2022


Priceless cultural artifacts have been plundered and sold for hundreds of years. You can find these relics in museums and in private collections. In …

492- Inheriting Froebel's Gifts

May 24th, 2022


In the late 1700s, a young man named Friedrich 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 …

491- The Missing Middle

May 18th, 2022


Downtown Toronto has a dense core of tall, glassy buildings along the waterfront of Lake Ontario. Outside of that, lots short single family homes sprawl out in every direction. Residents looking for something in between …

490- Train Set

May 10th, 2022


The greatest mode of transportation is the funicular, which is a special kind of train pulled by a cable that runs up steep slopes. But trains are …

Roman Mars on Blank Check with Griffin and David

May 6th, 2022


Bonus episode: Roman Mars on Blank Check with Griffin and David talking about The Quick and The Dead (Sam Raimi, 1995)

Roman note: I LOVE this show! …

489- Pandemic Tracking and the Future of Data

May 4th, 2022


Data is the lifeblood of public health, and has been since the beginning of the field. But essential data gathering for the COVID pandemic was hindered by a couple of of underlying weakness in the US public health …

488- It’s a Small Aisle After All

April 26th, 2022


If you’ve ever been to a supermarket in the US, you’ve probably seen an ethnic food aisle. Maybe it was called the "international aisle," or "world foods," but it was the same idea. This is the “It’s A Small World After …

487- Atlas Obscura

April 20th, 2022


Standing on Beechey island, a peninsula off Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic, are four lonely graves: three members of an ill-fated expedition to …

486- Rumble Strip

April 13th, 2022


Every year in the spring, small towns throughout New England host their annual town meeting. Town meetings take place in high school gyms or town …

485- Murder Most Fowl

April 5th, 2022


While urban parks are safe havens for birds, parks are often surrounded by condos and hotels and office buildings with floor-to-ceiling windows. And …

484- Dear Hank and John and Roman

March 30th, 2022


So why don't we have mouth Roombas? Is the universe full of chickens? What scientific advances are happening? What was the first internet purchase? …

483- Grid Locked

March 22nd, 2022


In February 2021, it began to snow in Austin, Texas, which was unusual, and exciting for some, at least until the power dropped out for millions of …

482- Natalie de Blois: To Tell the Truth

March 15th, 2022


Natalie de Blois contributed to some of the most iconic Modernist works created for corporate America, all while raising four children. After leaving this significant mark on postwar Park Avenue, she transferred to the …

481- The Future of the Final Mile

March 11th, 2022


While something like dial-up might mostly be a thing of the past, the truth is copper phone lines still connect a lot of people to the internet over DSL. And even many people’s coaxial cable connections aren’t fast …

480- Broken Heart Park

March 8th, 2022


In the 1990s Dave Davis worked as the groundskeeper at a small neighborhood park in a suburb of St. Louis called Creve Coeur. It was an unpaid position, but it came with a strange perk: as part of the job, he got to …

479-According to Need wins duPont-Columbia Award

March 1st, 2022


The Columbia Journalism School recently announced the 16 winners of the 2022 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, including According to Need

478- Art Imitates Art

February 22nd, 2022


There's a small neighborhood within the SEZ of Shenzhen that is known for mass-producing copies of the most celebrated works of Western art, all painted quickly and by hand. The place is called Dafen Village. There is a …

477- Call of Duty: Free

February 16th, 2022


On the west coast of Ireland, on the banks of an estuary dividing county Limerick from county Clare, lies a small town called Shannon. But Shannon is not a quaint fishing village or farming community. Its industry is …

476- Reaction Offices and the Future of Work

February 9th, 2022


People have been going back and forth about what makes a healthy and productive office since there have been offices. The 20th century was full of …

475- Rock Paper Scissors Bus

February 2nd, 2022


When the two greatest auction houses in the world – Christie’s and Sotheby’s – vied for the privilege of auctioning off $20 million worth of art in …

474- The Punisher Skull

January 25th, 2022


The Punisher has always been a complicated Marvel antihero: a man whose creator imagined him as a reaction to the failures of government at home and …

473- Mini-Stories : Volume 14

January 19th, 2022


At the end of the calendar year and into the new year the 99pi staff collects a bunch of short, joyful little stories that are fun to produce and …

472- Mini-Stories : Volume 13

January 12th, 2022


We're kicking off the new year at 99pi with a fresh installment of mini-stories, including: a strange collision of mundane infrastructure and …

471- Mini-Stories : Volume 12

December 22nd, 2021


It's that time of year again! When 99pi producers and friends of the show join Roman to tell shorter stories, many of which have been sitting on our idea shelves, just waiting for this moment. Our first set of minis …

470- The Three Santas of Slovenia

December 15th, 2021


Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe nestled between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary. It's a land of snowy white peaks, green valleys, …

469- The Epic of Collier Heights

December 7th, 2021


For Black Americans, Collier Heights became a suburban jewel in the postwar South spanning thousands of acres and packed with nature. Just as amazing …

468- Alphabetical Order

December 1st, 2021


In much of the western world, alphabetical order is simply a default we take for granted. It’s often the one we try first -- or the one we use as a …

467- Cute Little Monstrosities of Nature

November 23rd, 2021


The French bulldog is now the second most popular breed in America. Their cute features, portable size, and physical features make for a dog that can …

466- The Weight

November 17th, 2021


Fitness trends come and go. But the simple weight is an anchor in the shifting tides of culture. As workout equipment has become canonized within the …

465- Shirley Cards

November 10th, 2021


Even if we think of the camera as a neutral technology, it is not. In the vast spectrum of human colors, photographic tools and practices tend to …

464- Finding Julia Morgan

November 2nd, 2021


Born in 1872, American architect and engineer Julia Morgan designed hundreds of buildings over her prolific career, famous for her work on incredible …

463- Fifty-Four Forty or Fight

October 26th, 2021


At a glance, the border between the United States and Canada would seem to be at the friendlier end of the international boundary spectrum. But even …

462- I Can't Believe It's Pink Margarine

October 19th, 2021


Margarine is yellow, like butter, but it hasn't always been. At times and in places, it has been a bland white, or even a dull pink. These strange …

461- Changing Stripes

October 12th, 2021


Rioters carried many familiar flags during the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol -- Confederate, MAGA, as well as some …

323- The House that Came in the Mail Again

October 5th, 2021


The Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog was nearly omnipresent in early 20th century American life. By 1908, one fifth of Americans were …

460- Corpse, Corps, Horse and Worse

September 28th, 2021


When it comes to English spelling and pronunciation, there is plenty of rhyme and very little reason. But what is the reason for that? Why among all European languages is English so uniquely chaotic today?

To help us …

459- Yankee Pyramids

September 21st, 2021


Presidential libraries are tributes to greatness, "[a] self-congratulatory, almost fictional account of someone's achievements, where all the …

458- Real Fake Bridges

September 14th, 2021


The great Jacob Goldstein, author of Money: The True Story of a Made Up Thing, stops by to tell us two stories about the design of paper currency …

457- Model Organism

September 7th, 2021


Axolotls are nature’s great regenerators. They are able to grow back not just their tails, but also legs, arms, even parts of vital organs, including …

456- Full Spectrum

August 31st, 2021


In 2015 the world was divided into two warring factions overnight. And at the center of this schism was a single photograph. Cecilia Bleasdale took a picture of a dress that she planned to wear to her daughter's wedding …

455- A Field Guide to Water

August 17th, 2021


What does water mean to you? In this feature, author Bonnie Tsui (Why We Swim), actress Joy Bryant, submarine pilot Erika Bergman, figure skater …

454- War, Famine, Pestilence, and Design

August 10th, 2021


When Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt were promoting The 99% Invisible City in late 2020, one question came up over and over again in conversations and interviews about our built environment: in what ways will the COVID …

453- The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food

August 4th, 2021


Officially titled The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food, it was often known simply as “Kniga” (translated: "book") because it was one of the only …

452- The Lows of High Tech

July 27th, 2021


Britt Young is a geographer and tech writer based in the Bay Area. She also has what's called a "congenital upper limb deficiency." In other words, she was born without the part of her arm just below her left elbow. …

451- Hanko

July 20th, 2021


Hanko, sometimes called insho, are the carved stamp seals that people in Japan often use in place of signatures. Hanko seals are made from materials ranging from plastic to jade and are about the size of a tube of …

450- Stuff the British Stole

July 14th, 2021


Throughout its reign, the British Empire stole a lot of stuff. Today those objects are housed in genteel institutions across the UK and the world. …

449- Mine!

June 29th, 2021


Every year, fights break out on airplanes. They happen between the people who lean back in their seats, and the people who get their knees smooshed. Sometimes planes have to be grounded because of these arguments. If …

448- Katie Mingle's Right to Roam

June 23rd, 2021


We revisit Katie Mingle's Right to Roam episode as we say goodbye

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 …

447- Flag Days: The Red, the Black & the Green

June 15th, 2021


After Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd last year, tens of thousands of people all over the world took to the streets to …

446- Flag Days: Good Luck, True South

June 8th, 2021


Correction: Our staff producer pronounced the the Japanese word "ōbōn" incorrectly in this episode. It is pronounced OH-bohn not oh-BAHN.

Let us be …

445- The Clinch

June 2nd, 2021


After Producer Katie Mingle's mom wrote a romance novel, Katie set out to understand the romance genre and its classic covers. There was a lot to unpack. 

The Clinch

444- Pipe Dreams

May 25th, 2021


Most people probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about their toilets, but they are both a modern marvel while also being somewhat of a failure of systems design. On the one hand, it has created a vast sanitation …

443- Matters of Time

May 19th, 2021


For the most part, we take time for granted; maybe we don’t have enough of it, but we at least know how it works --- well, most of the time. A lot of what we think about time is relatively recent, and some of what we …

442- Tanz Tanz Revolution

May 11th, 2021


Today, Berlin is one of the premier destinations for techno music fans. People come from all over the world to party all night to the rhythmic beat of Berlin's club scene. And this music that the city is most famous for …

441- Abandoned Ships

May 4th, 2021


If you look around you right now, about 90% of what you’re looking at came to you onboard a cargo ship—your television, your sofa, most of the stuff in your kitchen. But as the number of these cargo ships has increased, …

308- Curb Cuts (Repeat)

April 28th, 2021


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 …

440- La Brega in Levittown

April 20th, 2021


On the show this week, we’re bringing you an episode of a new podcast called, La Brega. And to tell us all about the series is Alana Casanova-Burgess. Casanova-Burgess traces back the story of the boom and bust of …

439- Welcome to Jurassic Art Redux

April 14th, 2021


Kurt and Roman talk about icebergs and how we visualize them all wrong.

Plus, we visit a classic 99pi story by Emmett FitzGerald about visualizing dinosaurs.

At least for the time being, art is the primary way we …

438- The Real Book

April 7th, 2021


Since the mid-1970s, almost every jazz musician has owned a copy of the same book. It has a peach-colored cover, a chunky, 1970s-style logo, and a …

437- Science Vs Snakes

March 30th, 2021


More than 100,000 people die every year from snake bites. Snake venom can have up to 200 different toxins inside it and each toxin has a different horrible effect to your body. Some attack your muscles, while others …

436- Oops, Our Bad

March 23rd, 2021


In the 20th century, humans became very good at the control of nature, but now that we’ve spent some time with the consequences, such as species …

435- The Megaplex!

March 16th, 2021


Back in the early 1990s, movie theaters weren't that great. The auditoriums were cramped and narrow, and the screen was dim. But in 1995, the AMC Grand 24 in Dallas changed everything. It was the very first movie …

434- Artistic License

March 9th, 2021


Idaho was the first state to slap a slogan on a license plate, “Idaho Potatoes,” which may not seem like a big deal, but it turns out this idea would …

433- Florence Nightingale: Data Viz Pioneer

March 2nd, 2021


Victorian nurse Florence Nightingale (played in this episode by her distant cousin Helena Bonham Carter) is a hero of modern medicine - but her …

432- The Batman and the Bridge Builder

February 23rd, 2021


Mark Bloschock is an engineer from Texas, and in the late 1970s he got a job with the Texas Department of Transportation renovating the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bridge was a simple concrete arch bridge that spans …

431- 12 Heads from the Garden of Perfect Brightness

February 16th, 2021


The story of the twelve bronze zodiac heads that are at the center of a fight over the repatriation of Chinese cultural heritage. Most believe all …

Judas and the Black Messiah, Episode 1: The Chairman

February 12th, 2021


Proximity, 99% Invisible, and Warner Bros. present the “Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast,” an official film companion from the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX.

In the “Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast,” host …

430- The Doom Boom

February 9th, 2021


Bradley Garrett is the author of Bunker: Building for the Times. People have always built underground survival shelters to stay safe from things like plagues or hurricanes. But in modern history, we've really outdone …

Judas and the Black Messiah Trailer from 99% Invisible and Proximity Media

February 8th, 2021


Proximity, 99% Invisible, and Warner Bros. present the “Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast,” an official film companion from the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX.

In the “Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast,” host …

429- Stuccoed in Time

February 2nd, 2021


Santa Fe is famous in part for a particular architectural style, an adobe (mudbrick) look that came to be called Pueblo Revival. This aesthetic …

428- Beneath the Skyway

January 26th, 2021


Cities around the world have distinctive modes of transportation -- the canals of Venice, the double-decker busses of London, and the Twin Cities (of …

427- Mini-Stories: Volume 11

January 20th, 2021


In this set of short stories, 99% Invisible producers talked with host Roman Mars about everything from the Fresh Air Movement to the lost Lenin in …

426- Mini-Stories: Volume 10

January 12th, 2021


In this set of short stories, 99% Invisible producers talked with host Roman Mars about everything from climate-changing sheep to the persistent …

425- Mini-Stories: Volume 9

December 22nd, 2020


Each year, 99% Invisible producers select short design stories to talk about with host Roman Mars. Some of these were just too brief to make into …

Roman Mars on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

December 18th, 2020


Roman Mars joins Jesse Thorn on Bullseye this week to talk about life before podcasting, and what decades in radio has taught him. Roman has worked …

Chapter 5: Housing Finally

December 15th, 2020


If homelessness is the problem, housing is the solution. But it’s not always that simple. Kate Cody has been living in her encampment community for a …

Chapter 4: The List

December 11th, 2020


When Tulicia Lee tried to get help with housing, she was essentially put on a big long list with a bunch of other homeless people. If you live in the …

Chapter 3: Housing First

December 8th, 2020


In the 1980's, a psychologist named Sam Tsemberis was working with mentally ill homeless people on the streets of New York. Sometimes, when he …

Chapter 2: The Hotline

December 4th, 2020


Katie Mingle heard a lot about 211 doing this reporting. Not just from Tulicia Lee who called a bunch of times, but from everyone—from homeless …

Chapter 1: Tulicia

December 1st, 2020


When we think about homelessness, we often have a certain image in our mind—people pushing shopping carts, or big sprawling tent encampments.

But for the vast majority of homeless people, the experience is less visible. …

According to Need: Prologue

December 1st, 2020


The way homelessness has exploded in California over the last decade, you’d think there was no system in place to address it. But there is one -- it just wasn’t designed to help everyone. According to Need is a …

According to Need coming December 1

November 29th, 2020


According to Need is a documentary podcast in 5 chapters from 99% Invisible’s Katie Mingle that asks: What are we doing to get people into housing?

Coming December 1

424- The Great Indoors

November 25th, 2020


Emily Anthes is the author of The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behaviour, Health and Happiness, and she notes that even before the pandemic hit, we humans spent about 90 percent of …

423- Sean Exploder

November 21st, 2020


As you might know, we have our own composer here at 99pi named Sean Real who works with the producers to score our episodes with original music that she writes and records right here in Oakland. She has created over 300 …

422- In The Unlikely Event

November 18th, 2020


If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ve been directed to study the safety briefing card in your seatback pocket. Every passenger plane, commercial or private, has to have safety cards on board. Mo Laborde is a reporter …

421- You've Got Enron Mail!

November 11th, 2020


Enron collapsed nearly 20 years ago, but chances are something you use today was affected by emails sent by 150 of the company's top employees. These …

420- The Lost Cities of Geo

November 3rd, 2020


Geocities was an online collection of metropolises, each with their own neighborhoods built around shared interests. The city metaphor helped make a …

419- Take a Walk

October 27th, 2020


During publicity interviews for The 99% Invisible City someone asked us, “What is your favorite way to experience the city?” The answer is walking. If you have nothing to do, take a walk. If you are overwhelmed with …

99pi Presents The Next Billion Users

October 23rd, 2020


This bonus episode is sponsored by Google’s Next Billion User Initiative.

Every week millions of people come online for the very first time. And everyone – no matter where they live, what language they speak or their …

418- Sign Stealing

October 20th, 2020


In the early days of baseball, sign-stealing was almost like a game within the game. Teams and players would try all kinds of tricks to get a glimpse …

417- For the Love of Peat

October 13th, 2020


When we think about carbon storage, we tend to think about forests, but peatlands are also incredible carbon sinks. In Europe, peatlands contain five times more carbon than forests. But back in the 80s, most people …

416- Exploring The 99% Invisible City

October 6th, 2020


We're excited to celebrate the release of The 99% Invisible City book by host Roman Mars and producer Kurt Kohlstedt with a guided audio tour of …

415- Goodnight Nobody

September 29th, 2020


The unlikely battle between the creator of the New York Public Library children's reading room and the beloved children’s classic Goodnight Moon.

Goodnight Nobody

Pre-order The 99% Invisible City

414- The Address Book

September 22nd, 2020


An address is something many people take for granted today, but they are in fact a fairly recent invention that has shaped our cities and taken on …

413- Highways 101

September 15th, 2020


Icons and symbols and signage are all around us, and nowhere more so than on the open road. So for this episode of Ubiquitous Icons: hop in the car …

412- Where Do We Go From Here?

September 9th, 2020


There have been many waves of panic and resistance to new people moving into the public sphere and needing accommodation. And a focus of that panic has often been… public bathrooms. The debate about trans bathroom …

411- Podcast Episode

September 1st, 2020


After the 1970s oil crisis, the global economy went into a recession. American unemployment hit 11 percent. And suddenly, middle-class families didn’t have money for name brands like Coke or Kellogg’s. Consumers wanted …

244- The Revolutionary Post (Repeat)

August 25th, 2020


Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America 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 …

410- Policing the Open Road

August 11th, 2020


Before the twentieth century, most Americans rarely came into contact with police officers. But with more and more drivers behind the wheel, police …

409- California Love Scared Straight

August 4th, 2020


Walter Thompson-Hernandez was just eleven years old when he was admitted to L.A.'s infamous Scared Straight program for graffiti related crimes. In …

408- Valley of the Fallen

July 29th, 2020


About an hour northwest of Madrid, an enormous stone crucifix rises 500 feet out of a rocky mountaintop. It’s so big you can see it from miles away. Beneath the cross, there’s a sprawling Benedictine monastery and a …

407- The Dolphin that Roared

July 21st, 2020


When Emily Oberman found a flag of the island nation of Anguilla her father had helped design in her attic, she had no idea it was connected to one …

406- A Side of Franchise

July 14th, 2020


There are many books about McDonald’s that criticize the company for its many sins, and author Marcia Chatelain has read all of them. But her book comes at this famous fast-food restaurant from a different angle and …

405- Freedom House Ambulance Service

July 8th, 2020


One night halfway through a graveyard shift at the hospital, orderly John Moon watched as two young men burst through the doors. They were working …

404- Return of Oñate's Foot

June 30th, 2020


All across the country, protestors have been tearing down old monuments. These monuments have been falling in the middle of historic protests against …

403- Return of the Yokai

June 24th, 2020


In the US, mascots are used to pump up crowds at sporting events, or for traumatizing generations of children at Chuck E. Cheese, but in Japan it’s different. There are mascots for towns, aquariums, dentists' offices, …

402- Instant Gramification

June 16th, 2020


If you’re on Instagram, there’s a decent chance you’ve seen a picture of one particular building called the Yardhouse. It was designed by the …

Wedding Dresses: Articles of Interest #12

June 9th, 2020


A wedding was once seen as a start of young adulthood. Now, a wedding has come to represent a crowning achievement -- a symbol that your whole life …

Diamonds: Articles of Interest #11

May 29th, 2020


Diamonds represent value, in all its multiple meanings: values, as in ethics, and value as in actual price. But what are these rocks actually worth? …

Suits: Articles of Interest #10

May 26th, 2020


Menswear can seem boring. If you look at any award show, most of the men are dressed in black pants and black jackets. This uniform design can be …

Perfume: Articles of Interest #9

May 19th, 2020


The world of high end perfume is surprisingly lucrative, considering that scent is often the most ignored of our senses. But one can't judge a scent …

Knockoffs: Articles of Interest #8

May 15th, 2020


Brands hold immense sway over both consumers and the American legal system. Few know this as well as Dapper Dan, who went from street hustler to …

A Fantasy of Fashion: Articles of Interest #7

May 12th, 2020


In the wake of World War II, the government of France commissioned its most prominent designers to create a collection of miniature fashion dolls. It …

401- The Natural Experiment

May 6th, 2020


In general, the coronavirus shutdowns have been terrible for academic research. Trips have been canceled, labs have shut down, and long-running experiments have been interrupted. But there are some researchers for whom …

400- The Smell of Concrete After Rain

April 29th, 2020


There have been over 200,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. All have been tragic, but there are two people in particular we’ve lost …

399- Masking for a Friend

April 21st, 2020


Here in the US, we're not used to needing to cover half of our faces in public, but if you look at the other side of the world, it's a different story. In parts of Asia, wearing a mask in response to the coronavirus …

398- Unsheltered in Place

April 14th, 2020


99% Invisible producer Katie Mingle had already been working on a series about unhoused people in the Bay Area for over a year when the current …

397- Wipe Out

April 7th, 2020


If you have tried to buy toilet paper in the last few weeks, you might have found yourself staring at an empty aisle in the grocery store, wondering where all the toilet paper has gone. Although it may seem like a …

396- This Day in Esoteric Political History

March 31st, 2020


In times like these, we could all use a little historical perspective. In this new podcast from Radiotopia, Jody Avirgan, political historian Nicole …

395- This is Chance! Redux

March 25th, 2020


It was the middle of the night on March 27, 1964. Earlier that evening, the second-biggest earthquake ever measured at the time had hit Anchorage, Alaska. Some houses had been turned completely upside down while others …

394- Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are

March 17th, 2020


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

Buy Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are and all Beauty Pill records on …

393- Map Quests: Political, Physical and Digital

March 11th, 2020


The only truly accurate map of the world would be a map the size of the world. So if you want a map to be useful, something you can hold in your …

392- The Weather Machine

March 3rd, 2020


The weather can be a simple word or loaded with meaning depending on the context -- a humdrum subject of everyday small talk or a stark climactic …

391- Over the Road

February 26th, 2020


At the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, drivers from all over the country converge each year to show off their chrome and exchange stories, tips and gripes. One thing unites most in attendance this …

390- Fraktur

February 19th, 2020


If you have ever caught even one minute of the history channel, you have seen fraktur. You’ve seen the font on Nazi posters, on Nazi office buildings, on Nazi roadwork signs. Today in Germany, blackletter typefaces are …

389- Whomst Among Us Has Let The Dogs Out

February 12th, 2020


The story of how “Who Let The Dogs Out” ended up stuck in all of our brains goes back decades and spans continents. It tells us something about inspiration, and how creativity spreads, and about whether an idea can ever

388- Missing the Bus

February 5th, 2020


If you heard that there was a piece of technology that could do away with traffic jams, make cities more equitable, and help us solve climate change, …

387- The Worst Video Game Ever

January 28th, 2020


Deep within the National Museum of American History’s vaults is a battered Atari case containing what’s known as “the worst video game of all time.” …

386- Their Dark Materials

January 22nd, 2020


Vantablack is a pigment that reaches a level of darkness that’s so intense, it’s kind of upsetting. It’s so black it’s like looking at a hole cut out …

385- Shade

January 15th, 2020


Journalist Sam Bloch used to live in Los Angeles. And while lots of people move to LA for the sun and the hot temperatures, Bloch noticed a real dark side to this idyllic weather: in many neighborhoods of the city, …

384- Mini-Stories: Volume 8

January 7th, 2020


This is part 2 of the 2019- 2020 mini-stories episodes where I interview the staff about their favorite little stories from the built world that don’t quite fill out an entire episode for whatever reason but they are …

383- Mini-Stories: Volume 7

December 19th, 2019


It’s the end of the year and time for our annual mini-stories episodes. Mini-stories are fun, quick hit stories that came up in our research for …

Smart Stuff with Justin and Roman- Founder Effect

December 15th, 2019


The long-awaited return of Smart Stuff with Justin and Roman, featuring Justin McElroy and Roman Mars.

Make your mark. Go to to donate …

382- The ELIZA Effect

December 11th, 2019


Throughout Joseph Weizenbaum's life, he liked to tell this story about a computer program he’d created back in the 1960s as a professor at MIT. It …

381- The Infantorium

December 3rd, 2019


“Incubators for premature babies were, oddly enough, a phenomenon at the turn of the 20th century that was available at state and county fairs and amusement parks rather than hospitals,” explains Lauren Rabinowitz, an …

380- Mannequin Pixie Dream Girl

November 27th, 2019


In the 1930s, Lester Gaba was designing department store windows and found the old wax mannequins uninspiring. So he designed a new kind of mannequin …

379- Cautionary Tales

November 19th, 2019


Galileo tried to teach us that adding more and more layers to a system intended to avert disaster often makes catastrophe all the more likely. His basic lesson has been ignored in nuclear power plants, financial markets …

378- Ubiquitous Icons: Peace, Power, and Happiness

November 13th, 2019


There are symbols all around us that we take for granted, like the lightning strike icon, which indicates that something is high voltage. Or a little …

377- How To Pick A Pepper

November 5th, 2019


The chili pepper is the pride of New Mexico, but they have a problem with their beloved crop. There just aren’t enough workers to pick the peppers. Picking chili peppers can be especially grueling work even compared to …

376- Great Bitter Lake Association

October 30th, 2019


A little-known bit of world history about a rag tag group of sailors stranded for years in the Suez Canal at the center of a war.

Great Bitter Lake Association

375- Audio Guide to the Imperfections of a Perfect Masterpiece

October 23rd, 2019


To help celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Guggenheim Museum teamed up with 99% Invisible to offer visitors a guided audio experience of the museum. Even if you've never been to the Guggenheim Museum, you probably …

374- Unsure Footing

October 15th, 2019


Before 1992, the easiest way to run the time off the clock in a soccer game was just to pass the ball to the goalkeeper, who could pick the ball up, …

373- The Kirkbride Plan

October 8th, 2019


Today, there are more than a hundred abandoned asylums in the United States that, to many people, probably seem scary and imposing, but not so long ago they weren't seen as scary at all. Many of them were built part of …

372- The Help-Yourself City

October 1st, 2019


There’s an idea in city planning called “informal urbanism.”  Some people call it “do-it-yourself urbanism.”  Informal urbanism covers all the ways people try to change their community that isn’t through city planning …

99% Invisible presents What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law

September 24th, 2019


Donald Trump took office 977 days ago, and it has been exhausting. Independent of where you are politically, I think we can all agree that the news …

371- Dead Cars

September 18th, 2019


Everything in Bethel, Alaska comes in by cargo plane or barge, and even when something stops working, it’s often too expensive and too inconvenient …

370- The Pool and the Stream Redux

September 10th, 2019


This is the newly updated story of a curvy, kidney-shaped swimming pool born in Northern Europe that had a huge ripple effect on popular culture in …

369- Wait Wait...Tell Me!

September 4th, 2019


Waiting is something that we all do every day, but our experience of waiting, varies radically depending on the context. And it turns out that design can completely change whether a five minute wait feels reasonable or …

368- All Rings Considered

August 28th, 2019


Before we turned our phones to silent or vibrate, there was a time when everyone had ringtones -- when the song your phone played really said something about you. These simple, 15 second melodies were disposable, yet …

367- Peace Lines

August 21st, 2019


There are many walls in Belfast which physically separate Protestant neighborhoods from Catholic ones. Some are fences that you can see through, …

366- Model City

August 13th, 2019


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 …

365- On Beeing

August 6th, 2019


Farmers have known for centuries that putting a hive of honeybees in an orchard results in more blossoms becoming cherries, almonds, apples and the …

364- He's Still Neutral

July 31st, 2019


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 …

363- Invisible Women

July 23rd, 2019


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 …

362- Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Twine

July 17th, 2019


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 …

361- Built on Sand

July 9th, 2019


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. …

360- The Universal Page

July 2nd, 2019


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 …

359- Life and Death in Singapore

June 25th, 2019


When Singapore gained its independence they went on a mission to re-house the population from densely-packed thatched roof huts into giant concrete …

358- The Anthropocene Reviewed

June 18th, 2019


The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. On The Anthropocene …

357- The Barney Design redux

June 11th, 2019


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 …

356- The Automat

June 4th, 2019


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, …

355- Depave Paradise

May 28th, 2019


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 …

Sound and Health: Hospitals

May 24th, 2019


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 …

281- La Sagrada Familia (Repeat)

May 21st, 2019


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 …

Sound and Health: Cities

May 17th, 2019


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 …

354- Weeding is Fundamental

May 14th, 2019


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 …

353- From Bombay with Love

May 7th, 2019


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 …

352- Uptown Squirrel

May 1st, 2019


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 …

351- Play Mountain

April 24th, 2019


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 …

350- The Roman Mars Mazda Virus

April 16th, 2019


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 …

349- Froebel's Gifts

April 9th, 2019


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 …

348- Three Things That Made the Modern Economy

April 2nd, 2019


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 …

347- The Many Deaths of a Painting

March 27th, 2019


When Barnett Newman’s painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III was placed in the Stedelijk museum it was meant to be provocative, but one …

346- Palaces for the People

March 19th, 2019


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 …

345- Classic Cartoon Sound Effects!

March 12th, 2019


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 …

344- The Known Unknown

March 6th, 2019


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 …

343- Usonia Redux

February 26th, 2019


Frank Lloyd Wright changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. Before designing many of his most well-known …

342- Beneath the Ballpark

February 20th, 2019


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. …

341- National Sword

February 13th, 2019


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 …

340- The Secret Lives of Color

February 5th, 2019


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 …

339- The Tunnel

January 30th, 2019


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 …

338- Crude Habitat

January 23rd, 2019


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 …

337- Atomic Tattoos

January 16th, 2019


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 …

336- Mini-Stories: Volume 6

January 9th, 2019


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 …

335- Gathering the Magic

January 1st, 2019


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 …

334- Christmas with The Allusionist

December 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 …

333- Mini-Stories: Volume 5

December 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 …

Bonus Episode- Avery talks Articles of Interest with Roman

December 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

332- The Accidental Room

December 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 …

331- Oñate's Foot

December 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 …

330- Raccoon Resistance

November 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 …

201- The Green Book redux

November 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 …

329- Orphan Drugs

November 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 …

328- Devolutionary Design

November 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 …

327- A Year in the Dark

October 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 …

326- Welcome to Jurassic Art

October 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 …

325- The Worst Way to Start a City

October 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 …

Punk Style: Articles of Interest #6

October 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, …

Blue Jeans: Articles of Interest #5

October 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 …

Hawaiian Shirts: Articles of Interest #4

October 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 …

Pockets: Articles of Interest #3

October 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 …

Plaid: Articles of Interest #2

September 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 …

Kids' Clothes: Articles of Interest #1

September 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 …

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

September 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 …

323- The House that Came in the Mail

September 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 …

322- The First Straw

September 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 …

321- Double Standards

August 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 …

320- Bundyville

August 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 …

319- It's Chinatown

August 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, …

318- Fire and Rain

August 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 …

317- Built to Burn

August 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 …

316- The Shipping Forecast

July 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 …

315- Everything is Alive

July 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 …

314- Interrobang

July 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 …

Roman Mars on ZigZag

July 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 …

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

July 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 …

313- Right to Roam

June 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 …

312- Post-Narco Urbanism

June 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% …

311- The Barney Design

June 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 …

310- 77 Steps

June 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. …

309- The Vault

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 …

308- Curb Cuts

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 …

307- Immobile Homes

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 …

306- Breaking Bad News

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 …

305- The Laff Box

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 …

304- Gander International Airport

April 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 …

303- The Hair Chart

April 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 …

302- Lessons from Las Vegas

April 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 …

301- Making it Rain

April 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

March 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 …

299- Gerrymandering

March 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 …

200- Miss Manhattan Redux

March 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 …

298- Fordlandia

March 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 …

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

February 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 …

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

February 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 …

295- Making a Mark: Visual Identity with Tom Geismar

February 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 …

294- Border Wall

February 6th, 2018


When current President Donald Trump took office, he promised to build an “an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border …

293- Managed Retreat

January 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 …

292- Speech Bubbles: Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud

January 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 …

291- Thermal Delight

January 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 …

290- Mini-Stories: Volume 4

January 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 …

Biomimicry- Vox + 99% Invisible Video

January 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, …

289- Mini-Stories: Volume 3

December 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 …

288- Guerrilla Public Service Redux

December 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 …

287- The Nut Behind the Wheel

December 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 …

286- A 700-Foot Mountain of Whipped Cream

November 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 …

285- Money Makers

November 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 …

284- Hero Props: Graphic Design in Film & Television

November 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 …

283- Dollhouses of St. Louis

November 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 …

282- Oyster-tecture

October 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 …

281- La Sagrada Familia

October 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 …

280- Half Measures

October 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 …

279- The Containment Plan

October 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 …

278- The Athletic Brassiere

October 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 …

277- Ponte City Tower

September 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 …

276- The Finnish Experiment

September 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 idea …

275- Coal Hogs Work Safe

September 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, …

274- The Age of the Algorithm

September 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 …

273- Notes on an Imagined Plaque

August 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 …

272- Person in Lotus Position

August 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 …

271- The Great Dismal Swamp

August 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 …

270- The Stethoscope

August 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 …

269- Ways of Hearing

August 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, …

268- El Gordo

July 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 …

267- The Trials of Dan and Dave

July 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, …

266- Repackaging the Pill

July 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 …

265- The Pool and the Stream

July 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 …

264- Mexico 68

June 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 …

263- You Should Do a Story

June 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 …

262- In the Same Ballpark

June 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 …

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

June 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 …

199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball (Repeat)

June 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 …

261- Squatters of the Lower East Side

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 …

260- New Jersey

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 …

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

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 …

258- The Modern Necropolis

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 …

257- Reversing the Grid

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 …

256- Sounds Natural

April 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 …

255- The Architect of Hollywood

April 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, …

254- Containers

April 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 …

253- Manzanar

March 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 …

252- The Falling of the Lenins

March 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 …

251- Negative Space: Logo Design with Michael Bierut

March 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 …

250- State (Sanctuary, Part 2)

March 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. …

249- Church (Sanctuary, Part 1)

February 28th, 2017


In the 1980s, Rev. John Fife and his congregation at Southside Presbyterian Church began to help Central American migrants fleeing persecution from …

248- Atom in the Garden of Eden

February 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 …

247- Usonia the Beautiful

February 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 …

246- Usonia 1

February 7th, 2017


Frank Lloyd Wright was a bombastic character that ultimately changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. …

245- The Eponymist

February 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 …

244- The Revolutionary Post

January 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 …

243- Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle

January 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. …

242- Mini-Stories: Volume 2

January 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 …

241- Mini-Stories: Volume 1

December 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 …

240- Plat of Zion

December 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 …

239- Guano Island

December 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 …

238- NBC Chimes

November 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 …

237- Dollar Store Town

November 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 …

236- Reverb

November 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 …

235- Ten Letters for the President

November 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 …

234- The Shift

November 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 …

233- Space Trash, Space Treasure

October 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 …

232- McMansion Hell

October 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. …

231- Half a House

October 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 …

230- Project Cybersyn

October 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 …

124- Longbox (Repeat)

September 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 …

229- The Trend Forecast

September 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 …

228- Making Up Ground

September 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 …

227- Public Works

September 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 …

226- On Average

August 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 …

225- Photo Credit

August 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 …

224- A Sea Worth its Salt

August 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 …

223- The Magic Bureaucrat

August 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 …

222- Combat Hearing Loss

July 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. …

221- America’s Last Top Model

July 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 …

220- The Mind of an Architect

July 13th, 2016


In the late 1950s, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research embarked on a mission to study the personalities of particularly creative …

219- Unpleasant Design

July 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, …

218- Remembering Stonewall

June 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 …

217- Home on Lagrange

June 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 …

216- The Blazer Experiment

June 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 …

215- H-Day

June 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 …

130- Holdout (Repeat)

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 …

214- Loud and Clear

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 …

213- Separation Anxiety

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 …

212- Turf Wars of East New York

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 …

211- The Grand Dame of Broad Street

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 …

210- Unseen City

April 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 …

209- Supertall 101

April 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 …

208- Vox Ex Machina

April 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 …

207- Soul City

April 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 …

206- The White Elephant Of Tel Aviv

March 30th, 2016


Israeli buses regularly make international headlines, be it for suicide bombings, fights over gender segregation, or clashes concerning Shabbat …

205- Flying Food

March 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 …

204- The SoHo Effect

March 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 …

203- The Giftschrank

March 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 …

202- Mojave Phone Booth

March 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 …

Video- The Norman Door with Vox

February 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 …

201- The Green Book

February 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 …

200- Miss Manhattan

February 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 …

199- The Yin and Yang of Basketball

February 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 …

198- The Ice King

February 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, …

197- Fish Cannon

January 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 …

196- The Fresno Drop

January 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 …

195- Best Enjoyed By

January 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, …

194- Bone Music

December 22nd, 2015


In 1950s Soviet Russia, citizens craved Western popular music—everything from jazz to rock & roll. But smuggling vinyl was dangerous, and …

193- Tube Benders

December 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 …

192- Pagodas and Dragon Gates

December 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 …

191- Worst Smell in the World

December 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 …

190- Fixing the Hobo Suit

November 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 …

189- The Landlord’s Game

November 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 …

188- Fountain Drinks

November 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 …

187- Butterfly Effects

November 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 …

186- War and Pizza

October 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 …

185- Atmospherians

October 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 …

110- Structural Integrity (Rebroadcast)

October 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 …

184- Rajneeshpuram

October 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 …

183- Dead Letter Office

September 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. …

182- A Sweet Surprise Awaits You

September 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 …

181- Milk Carton Kids

September 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 …

180- Reefer Madness

September 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 …

179- Bathysphere

September 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, …

178- The Great Restoration

August 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 …

177- Lawn Order

August 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 …

176- Hard to Love a Brute

August 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 …

175- The Sunshine Hotel

August 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 …

174- From the Sea, Freedom

July 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 …

173- Awareness

July 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 … Continue reading →

172- On Location

July 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 …

171- Johnnycab (Automation Paradox, Pt. 2)

July 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 …

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

June 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 …

169- Freud’s Couch

June 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 …

168- All In Your Head

June 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 …

167- Voices in the Wire

June 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 …

166- Viva La Arquitectura!

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 …

165- The Nutshell Studies

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 …

164- The Post-Billiards Age

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 …

163- The Gruen Effect

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. …

162- Mystery House

April 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 …

161- Show of Force

April 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 …

160- Perfect Security

April 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 …

159- The Calendar

April 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 … Continue reading →

158- Sandhogs

March 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 …

54- The Colour of Money (R)

March 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 …

157- Devil’s Rope

March 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 …

156- Coin Check

March 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 …

155- Palm Reading

March 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 …

154- PDX Carpet

February 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 …

153- Game Over (R)

February 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 …

152- Guerrilla Public Service

February 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 …

151- La Mascotte

February 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 …

150- Under The Moonlight

January 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 …

149- Of Mice And Men

January 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 …

148- The Sizzle

January 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 …

147- Penn Station Sucks

January 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. …

146- Mooallempalooza

December 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 …

145- Octothorpe

December 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 …

144- There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

December 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 …

143- Inflatable Men

December 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 … Continue …

142- And The Winner Is

November 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 …

141- Three Records from Sundown

November 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 …

140- Vexillonaire

November 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, …

139- Edge of Your Seat

November 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 …

138- O-U-I-J-A

October 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 … Continue …

137- Good Bread

October 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” …

Kickstart Radiotopia- A Storytelling Revolution

October 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 …

136- Lights Out

October 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 …

135- For Amusement Only

October 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 …

134- The Straight Line Is A Godless Line

September 30th, 2014


Straight lines form the core of our built environment. Building in straight lines makes predicting costs and calculating structural loads easier, …

133- Port of Dallas

September 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 …

132- Castle on the Park

September 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 …

131- Genesis Object

September 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 …

130- Holdout

September 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 …

129- Thomassons

August 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 …

128- Hacking IKEA

August 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 …

127- The Sound of Sports

August 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 …

126- Walk This Way

August 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 …

125- Duplitecture

July 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. …

124- Longbox

July 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 …

123- Snowflake

July 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 …

122- Good Egress

July 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 …

121- Cold War Kids

July 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 …

120- Skyjacking

June 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 …

119- Feet of Engineering

June 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 …

118- Song Exploder

June 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. …

117- Clean Trains

June 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, …

116- Breaking the Bank

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: …

115- Cow Tunnels

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. …

114- Ten Thousand Years

May 13th, 2014


In 1990, the federal government invited a group of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers to the New Mexico desert, …

113- Monumental Dilemma

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 …

112- Young Ruin

April 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 …

111- Masters of the Uni-verse

April 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 …

110- Structural Integrity

April 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 …

109- Title TK

April 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 … Continue …

108- Barcodes

April 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 …

107- Call Now

March 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 …

106- The Fancy Shape

March 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 …

105- One Man is An Island

March 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 …

104- Tunnel 57

March 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 … Continue …


February 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 …

102- Icon for Access

February 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 …

101- Cover Story

February 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 …

100- Higher And Higher

February 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 …

99- The View From The 79th Floor

January 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 …

98- Six Stories- the memory palace

January 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, …

97- Numbers Stations

December 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 …

96- DIY Space Suit

December 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 …

95- Future Screens are Mostly Blue

November 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 …

94- Unbuilt

November 13th, 2013


There is an allure in unbuilt structures: the utopian, futuristic transports, the impossibly tall skyscrapers, even the horrible highways, all …

93- Revolving Doors

November 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 …

92- All the Buildings

October 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 …

Kickstart Season 4 of 99% Invisible- Weekly Episodes

October 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 …

91- Wild Ones Live

October 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 …

90- Strowger and Purple Reign Redux

October 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 …

89- Bubble Houses

September 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 … Continue …

88- The Broadcast Clock

September 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 …

87- I Heart NY, TM

August 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, … Continue reading →

86- Reversal of Fortune

August 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 …

85- Noble Effort

July 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 …

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

July 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 …

83- Heyoon

July 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 …

82- The Man of Tomorrow

June 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 …

81- Rebar and the Alvord Lake Bridge

June 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 …

80- An Architect’s Code

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 …

79- The Symphony of Sirens plus Soviet Design

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 …

78- No Armed Bandit

April 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 …

77- Game Changer

April 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 …

76- The Modern Moloch

April 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 …

99% Invisible-75- Secret Staircases

March 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 …

99% Invisible-74- Hand Painted Signs

March 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, …

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

February 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 …

99% Invisible-72- New Old Town

February 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 …

99% Invisible-71- In and Out of LOVE

January 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, …

99% Invisible-70- The Great Red Car Conspiracy

January 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 …

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

December 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 …

99% Invisible-68- Built for Speed

December 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 … Continue …

99% Invisible-67- Broken Window

November 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? …

99% Invisible-66- Kowloon Walled City

November 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 …

99% Invisible-65- Razzle Dazzle

November 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 …

99% Invisible-64- Derelict Dome

October 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. …

99% Invisible-63- The Political Stage

October 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 …

99% Invisible-62- Q2

October 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, …

99% Invisible-61- A Series of Tubes

September 20th, 2012


Pneumatic (adj.):  of, or pertaining to, air, gases, or wind. In the world before telephone, radio, and email, the tasks of transmitting information and moving material objects were essentially the same challenge.  The …

99% Invisible-60b- BackStory- Heyward Shepherd Memorial

September 10th, 2012


I only recently started listening to BackStory with the American History Guys, but it’s already earned a top spot in my crowded weekly rotation. With great stories and lively discussion, the “History Guys” connect our …

99% Invisible-60a- Two Storeys

August 22nd, 2012


While we’re gearing up for season 3, we present two pieces from two shows we love: First up, Language Bites from RTE Choice in Ireland. Language …

99% Invisible-60- Names vs The Nothing

August 6th, 2012


New Public Sites is an investigation into some of the invisible sites and overlooked features of our everyday public spaces. These are the liminal spaces within cities that are not traditionally framed as “public space” …

99% Invisible-59- Some Other Sign that People Do Not Totally Regret Life

July 25th, 2012


Sean Cole is a poet and he knows what you think of that. He is also a radio producer. One night, drunk and stumbling around the Hudson River with his …

99% Invisible-58- Purple Reign

July 13th, 2012


What’s the difference between what the public sees and what an architect sees when they look at a building? The hotel on the very prominent corner of …

Kickstarter Video for Season 3 of 99% Invisible

July 12th, 2012


This is the Kickstarter video for funding the new season of 99% Invisible. If you enjoy the show and want to help keep it going, now is the time to go to our funding page and chip in a little. … Continue reading →

99% Invisible-57- What Gave You That Idea

June 28th, 2012


Starlee Kine’s friend Noel works in advertising. In 2003, Noel was working in at an agency in Richmond, VA. Everyone wanted to work on flashy spots like Apple or Nike or Gatorade. Do you know what wasn’t flashy? …

99% Invisible-56- Frozen Music

June 14th, 2012


Goethe said, “Architecture is frozen music.” I like that. Of course that was before audio recording, so now, for the most part, music is frozen music. It’s only very recently in the history of music that we’ve been able …

99% Invisible-55- The Best Beer in the World

May 31st, 2012


If you’re a beer nerd, or have a friend who’s a beer nerd, you’ve heard of Belgian beers. Belgians take beer very seriously. Amongst the 200 Belgian breweries, there’s a very specific sub-type: Trappist beers. According …

99% Invisible-54- The Colour of Money

May 16th, 2012


US paper currency is so ubiquitous that to really look at its graphic design with fresh eyes requires some deliberate and focused attention. So pull …

99% Invisible-53- The Xanadu Effect

May 1st, 2012


What happens when we build big? Julia Barton remembers going to the top floor of Dallas’s then-new city hall when she was teenager. The building, …

99% Invisible-52- Galloping Gertie

April 18th, 2012


Even during the construction of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the deck would go up and down by several feet with the slightest breeze. …

99% Invisible-51- The Arsenal of Exclusion

April 3rd, 2012


“Cities exist to bring people together, but cities can also keep people apart” – Daniel D’Oca, Urban Planner, Interboro Partners. Cities are great. They have movement, activity and diversity. But go to any city and it’s …

99% Invisible-50- DeafSpace

March 22nd, 2012


The acoustics of a building are a big concern for architects. But for designers at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, it’s the absence of sound that defines the approach to architecture. Gallaudet is a university …

99% Invisible-49- Queue Theory and Design

March 9th, 2012


In the US, it’s called a line. In Canada, it’s often referred to as a line-up. Pretty much everywhere else, it’s known as a queue. My friend Benjamen Walker is obsessed with queues. He keeps sending me YouTube clips of …

99% Invisible-48- The Bathtubs or the Boiler Room

February 26th, 2012


“I have this habit of walking into any door that’s unlocked…You start poking around, going into doors…you find the coolest things…” -Andrea Seabrook, …

99% Invisible-47- US Postal Service Stamps

February 10th, 2012


Somebody might be able to do a great painting that’s 20 x 30 inches, but you take that down to 1 x 1.5 inches, and it’s a challenge to make it work. -Ethel Kessler, Art Director for USPS Stamp Services … Continue …

99% Invisible-46- Vulcanite Dentures

January 27th, 2012


Before the 1850s, dentures were made out of very hard, very painful and very expensive material, like gold or ivory. They were a luxury item. The …

99% Invisible-45- Immersive Ideal

January 18th, 2012


Beauty Pill is band I really like from Washington DC. They have released two EPs (The Cigarette Girl From the Future and You Are Right to be Afraid) and their last album, The Unsustainable Lifestyle, came out in 2004. …

99% Invisible-44- The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

January 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 …

99% Invisible-43- Accidental Music of Imperfect Escalators

December 19th, 2011


“There’s a secret jazz seeping from Washington’s aging Metro escalators – those anemic metal walkways that fill our transit system…they honk and bleat and squawk…why are you still wearing those earbuds?” -Chris …

99% Invisible-42- Recognizably Anonymous

December 9th, 2011


Anonymous is not group. It is not an organization. Rob Walker describes Anonymous as a “loosely affiliated and ever-changing band of individuals who… have been variously described as hackers, hacktivists, …

99% Invisible-41- The Human-Human Interface

December 3rd, 2011


Paola Antonelli is the Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art. Her most recent blockbuster show, …

99% Invisible-40- Billy Possum

November 23rd, 2011


It’s totally unfair. Hydrox cookies came out four years before the introduction of Oreos, but Hydrox could never shake the image that it was a cheap …

99% Invisible-39X- The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet

November 18th, 2011


United Nations Plaza sits in the center of San Francisco. Most people consider it a complete failure as a public space. Its central feature, at the entrance of the plaza, is a unique fountain that was designed by …

99% Invisible-39- Darth Vader Family Courthouse

October 28th, 2011


It’s hard to imagine a place where more desperate and depressing drama unfolds on a daily basis than a family courthouse- custody battles, abuse, …

99% Invisible-38- Sound of Sport

October 13th, 2011


If Dennis Baxter and Bill Whiston are doing their job right, you probably don’t notice that they’re doing their job. But they are so good at doing their job, that you probably don’t even know that their job exists at …

99% Invisible-37- The Steering Wheel

September 29th, 2011


If I asked you to close your eyes and mimic the action of using one of the simple human interfaces of everyday life, you could probably do it. …

99% Invisible-36- Super Bon Bonn

September 16th, 2011


Cities are pretty robust organisms, they tend to survive even when put under tremendous stress and strain. Local industries rise and fall, people immigrate and emigrate, but most of these changes happen over decades. …

99% Invisible-35- Elegy for WTC

September 1st, 2011


I want to be careful not to overstate what it means for a building to die. A building’s worth is an infinitesimal fraction of the worth a person’s …

99% Invisible-34- The Speed of Light for Building Pyramids

August 19th, 2011


Last year, Steve Burrows CBE (Principle at the engineering consulting firm Arup) spent several weeks in Egypt studying the pyramids through the eyes …

99% Invisible-33- A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll

August 4th, 2011


If you look at the outer hull of commercial ships, you might find a painted circle bisected with a long horizontal line. This marking is called the …

99% Invisible-32- Design for Airports

July 28th, 2011


When I spoke with Allison Arieff about the design of airports, she said to me, if all airports simply played Brian Eno’s album Ambient 1: Music for …

99% Invisible-31- Feltron Annual Report

July 14th, 2011


Nicholas Felton is an information designer. Since 2005, he has tabulated thousands upon thousands of tiny measurements in his life and designed …

99% Invisible-30- The Blue Yarn

July 1st, 2011


In 1998 Dr. Gary Kaplan, the CEO of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle received some bad news about his hospital. It was losing money. So Dr. Kaplan started studying how other hospitals were being run to see if …

99% Invisible-29- Cul de Sac

June 17th, 2011


When people critique cul-de-sacs, a lot of the time, they’re actually critiquing the suburbs more generally. The cul-de-sac has become sort of like …

99% Invisible-28- Movie Title Sequences

June 10th, 2011


More and more I’m finding that the first 2-3 minutes of a movie are my favorite part of the film. My life is devoted to the beautiful expression of …

99% Invisible-27- Bridge to the Sky

June 3rd, 2011


There are rules that dicate what you can build and how. Rules of physics and rules of men who sit on various bureaucratic boards and bodies. These …

99% Invisible-26- Chicago’s Jailhouse Skyscraper

May 20th, 2011


The Metropolitan Correctional Center, or MCC, is a federal jail right in the middle of downtown Chicago. It’s a triangle-shaped skyscraper, 27 …

99% Invisible-25- Unsung Icons of Soviet Design

May 13th, 2011


There’s something that links most of the everyday objects presented in “Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design.” But it’s hard to tell exactly …

99% Invisible-24- The Capitol Columns

May 6th, 2011


If you were present for any of the presidential inaugurations, from Andrew Jackson to Dwight D. Eisenhower, you saw the solemn oath of office taken …

99% Invisible-23- You Are Listening To + Radio Net

April 22nd, 2011

20:14 appeared online on March 6, 2011 and I was hooked instantly. The combination of the police scanner and ambient music is an …

99% Invisible-22- Free Speech Monument

April 15th, 2011


In 1989, a group called the Berkeley Art Project decided to hold a national public art competition to create a monument that would commemorate the …

99% Invisible-21- BLDGBLOG: On Sound

April 1st, 2011


Most sound design in architecture is centered around designing for silence. Buildings are trying to block out that constant stream noise from the …

99% Invisible-20- Nikko Concrete Commando

March 25th, 2011


In 2001, Delfin Vigil was walking the streets of San Francisco and ran across the name “Nikko” carved into the concrete sidewalk. After seeing Nikko once, Delfin began to see the name everywhere. One block after …

99% Invisible-19X- RJDJ Reactive Music

March 21st, 2011


This week, the radio audience heard episode #10, but for you web and podcast listeners, I have a story I did about a year and a half ago, about the reactive music app called RJDJ. I did this piece for … Continue reading …

99% Invisible-19- Liberation Squares plus NY Dick

March 11th, 2011


In a recent piece from Urban Omnibus, Vishaan Chakrabarti (Professor at the Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia …

99% Invisible-18- Check Cashing Stores

March 4th, 2011


A few years ago, journalist Douglas McGray learned that the largest chain of check cashing stores in Southern California, Nix Check Cashing, was being bought by the nation’s largest credit union, Kinecta. The credit …

99% Invisible-17- Concrete Furniture

February 25th, 2011


The New City Hall, designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell, was the first modern, concrete, civic building in Toronto. When it opened in 1965, it stood out very prominently in the traditional Victorian fabric of the …

99% Invisible-16- A Designed Language

February 18th, 2011


The idea is simple and quite beautiful: if we all shared a second, politically neutral language, people of all different nations and cultures could …

99% Invisible-15- Sounds of the Artificial World

February 11th, 2011


Without all the beeps and chimes, without sonic feedback, all of your modern conveniences would be very hard to use. If a device and its sounds are …

99% Invisible-14- Periodic Table

February 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 …

99% Invisible-13x-Game Over (Snap Judgment)

January 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 …

99% Invisible-13- Maps

December 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 …

99% Invisible-12- 99% Guilt Free

December 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 …

99% Invisible-11- 99% Undesigned

November 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 …

99% Invisible-10- 99% Sound and Feel

November 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 …

99% Invisible-09X-99% Doomed

November 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 …

99% Invisible-09- 99% Private

November 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 …

99% Invisible-08- 99% Free Parking

October 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 …

99% Invisible-07- 99% Alien

October 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 …

99% Invisible-06- 99% Symbolic

October 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 …

99% Invisible-05- 99% Forgotten

October 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

September 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 …

99% Invisible-03- 99% Reality (only)

September 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 …

99% Invisible-02- 99% 180

September 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 …

99% Invisible-01- 99% Noise

September 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 …

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