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

315- Everything is Alive

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

Everything is Alive is an unscripted interview show with host Ian Chillag in which all the subjects are inanimate objects. In each episode, a different thing tells us its life story -- and everything it says is true.

Subscribe to Everything is Alive on Apple Podcasts and RadioPublic


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Posted on 18 July 2018 | 12:04 am


314- Interrobang

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

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

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

Interrobang


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Posted on 10 July 2018 | 11:55 pm


Roman Mars on ZigZag

This is a special presentation of episode #4 of Radiotopia's newest show ZigZag.

Manoush and Jen give themselves 36 hours in San Francisco to come up with a financial backup plan, just in case this whole blockchain-token-thing doesn’t work out. Silicon Valley runs on VC money so maybe Stable Genius Productions should too? First, they talk to a well-known venture capitalist on whether aligning their mission with investor expectations is a laughable goal. Then, they visit Roman Mars, host of 99% Invisible and Radiotopia co-founder, at his headquarters in Oakland. He explains how he built his podcasting empire and advises Manoush and Jen on their plan.

ZigZag

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Posted on 5 July 2018 | 8:10 pm


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

The world is full of icons that warn us to be afraid — to stay away from this or not do that. And many of these are easy to understand because they represent something recognizable, like a fire, or a person slipping on a wet floor. But some concepts are hard to communicate visually, especially in a way that will work for generations to come.  99% Invisible teamed up with Vox to bring you this video about the challenges designers face in developing warning symbols that last.

Why Danger Symbols Can't Last Forever

Check out all of Vox’s videos. They’re top drawer.


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Posted on 4 July 2018 | 12:20 am


313- Right to Roam

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

Plus, bothy talk.

Right to Roam


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Posted on 27 June 2018 | 12:05 am


312- Post-Narco Urbanism

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

As the years went on, Medellin became the most dangerous city in the world.

But today, Medellin is very different. In just thirty years, it’s transformed from being the bloody cocaine capital of the world into a place that’s often described as a “model city.” It’s now safer than many cities in the U.S, and, to the surprise of many, one of the things that helped to pull the city out of the violence was a whole new approach to urban planning, including a major overhaul of the city’s public transportation system.

Post-Narco Urbanism

This is a collaboration with Latino USA

Check out the new Radiotopia show ZigZag. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts.


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Posted on 20 June 2018 | 2:19 am


311- The Barney Design

Until the early 90s, basketball uniforms were pretty tame. There had been real limits to what could be done with jerseys. All the details—the numbers, the names, the logos—had to be sewed on. Complicated graphics would have taken a massive amount of embroidery, which would have added additional weight and made the jersey hotter to wear. But dye sublimation changed everything. Sublimation is a process of printing dye directly into the fabric. Now for the first time, you could design something in Photoshop, and make it as big and colorful as you wanted. Then with sublimation, you could print that design straight onto the material without any embroidery or extra weight. This allowed NBA teams to go wild…and they did…which led to one of the most famous love-it-or-hate-it basketball jersey, the 1996 Toronto Raptors’ “Barney Uniform.”

The Barney Design


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Posted on 13 June 2018 | 12:40 am


310- 77 Steps

As the U.S. war effort ramped up in the early 1940s, the Navy put out a request for chair design submissions. They needed a chair that was fireproof, waterproof, lightweight and strong enough to survive a torpedo blast. In response, engineer named Wilton C. Dinges designed a chair made out of aluminum, bent and welded to be super strong.

To show off the durability of his creation, Dinges took it up to the eighth floor of a hotel in Chicago, where the Navy was examining submissions, and threw it out of the window. It bounced, but didn't bend or break.

And so the Navy gave its inventor the contract, and he, in turn, opened a factory and called new his business the Electrical Machine and Equipment Company, or: Emeco.

Over the decades the Emeco Navy chair became so popular that companies began to copy it. There are now tons of knockoffs -- fakes. Last month, Benjamen Walker of Theory of Everything walked 99% Invisible Host Roman Mars around New York city, pointing out real and fake Emeco chairs.

77 Steps


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Posted on 6 June 2018 | 3:24 am


309- The Vault

Svalbard is a remote Norwegian archipelago with reindeer, Arctic foxes and only around 2,500 humans -- but it is also home to a vault containing seeds for virtually every edible plant one can imagine. The mountainside Crop Trust facility has thousands of varieties of coconuts, corn, rice and more, serving as a seed backup for humanity. For each crop, there’s an envelope with 500 seeds.

This featured episode from the show “Endless Thread” explores an unusual reserve of invaluable resources. Plus, Emmett tells about another seed bank in more precarious part of the world.

The Vault


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Posted on 30 May 2018 | 12:22 am