99% Invisible

by Roman Mars

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

A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.

  

Latest Episodes

390- Fraktur

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 frequently used by Neo-Nazi groups and for many Germans, they bring to mind the dark times of the country’s fascist past. This is ironic because fraktur has a long and strange history that includes the font actually being banned by the Nazis.

Plus, we get an opinion from Kate Wagner (McMansion Hell) about “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.”

Fraktur


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Posted on 19 February 2020 | 2:11 am


389- Whomst Among Us Has Let The Dogs Out

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 really belong to just one person. About ten years ago, Ben Sisto was reading the Wikipedia entry for the song when he noticed something strange. A hairdresser in England named “Keith” was credited with giving the song to the Baha Men, but Keith had no last name and the fact had no citation. This mystery sent Ben down a rabbit hole to uncover the true story.

Whomst Among Us Has Let The Dogs Out


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Posted on 12 February 2020 | 2:15 am


388- Missing the Bus

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, you might think about driverless cars, or hyperloops or any of the other new transportation technologies that get lots of hype these days. But there is a much older, much less sexy piece of machinery that could be the key to making our cities more sustainable, more liveable, and more fair: the humble bus. Steve Higashide is a transit expert, bus champion, and author of a new book called Better Busses Better Cities. And the central thesis of the book is that buses have the power to remake our cities for the better.

Missing the Bus


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Posted on 5 February 2020 | 12:17 am


387- The Worst Video Game Ever

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.” The game is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it was so bad that not even the might of Steven Spielberg could save it. It was so loathsome that all remaining copies were buried deep in the desert. And it was so horrible that it’s blamed for the collapse of the American home video game industry in the early 1980s.

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The Worst Video Game Ever


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Posted on 28 January 2020 | 11:50 pm


386- Their Dark Materials

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 of the universe. If it looks unreal because Vantablack isn’t actually a color, it’s a form of nanotechnology. It was created by the tech industry for the tech industry, but this strange dark material would also go on to turn the art world on its head.

Their Dark Materials


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Posted on 22 January 2020 | 12:54 am


385- Shade

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, there's almost no shade. Shade can literally be a matter of life and death. Los Angeles, like most cities around the world, is heating up. And in dry, arid environments like LA, shade is perhaps the most important factor influencing human comfort. Without shade, the chance of mortality, illness, and heatstroke can go way up.

Shade


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Posted on 15 January 2020 | 12:28 am


384- Mini-Stories: Volume 8

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 cool 99pi stories nonetheless…

We have centuries old bonds, standard tunings mandated by international treaty, abandoned mansions, and secret babies. If you ever need a conversation starter, the mini-stories are our gift to you.

Mini-Stories 8


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Posted on 7 January 2020 | 10:35 pm


383- Mini-Stories: Volume 7

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 another episode...or maybe it was some cool thing someone told us about that we found really interesting. They didn’t quite warrant a full episode and two months of hard reporting, but they’re great 99pi stories nonetheless. And my favorite part is we do them as unscripted interviews where I’m in the studio with the people who work on this show, who I like a lot. Sometimes I know a little about what they’re going to talk about, but sometimes I know nothing. It’s very fun. This week we have stories of mistaken identity, unreachable iconic tour destinations, haunted architecture, and of course, raccoons.

Mini-Stories: Volume 7

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Posted on 19 December 2019 | 3:22 am


Smart Stuff with Justin and Roman- Founder Effect

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

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Everyone should listen to My Brother, My Brother, and Me on the Max Fun Network.


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Posted on 15 December 2019 | 10:08 pm