446- Flag Days: Good Luck, True South
Let us be the first to wish you a Happy Flag Day, beautiful nerds!  Anyone who has listened to 99% Invisible regularly knows we have a thing for flags, which can beautiful things that give communities something symbolic to rally around. This year, we decided to get the celebration started early then keep the party going with two whole weeks of flag-related stories.They look like normal Japanese flags (hinomaru) at a glance, but upon inspection, they are covered in handwritten notes often radiating outward i...

445- The Clinch
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...

design kathleenwoodiwiss covers books sarahmacclean clinch theflameandtheflower romancenovels

444- Pipe Dreams
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 system that has helped add decades to human lifespan by reducing disease. But on the other hand, less than half of the world’s population can access a toilet that safely manages bodily waste, including many right here in the United States. We use about 100 trillion gallons of water for toilet...

design waste infrastructure fatberg sewage water toilet sewer


443- Matters of Time
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 take for granted isn't quite as universal as one might think. This series of time-centric stories challenges what you know (or think you know) about the way time works around the world.Matters of Time...

design clocks china knockerupper time daylightsavingtime

442- Tanz Tanz Revolution
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 developed in large part because of the thing the city is most infamous for: the Berlin wall, which divided the city into east and west for almost thirty years. When the wall fell in 1989, everyone was euphoric and parties started popping up everywhere. East Berlin was like a big playground o...

juanatkins blakebaxter berlin berlinwall coldwar techno dimitrihegemann tresor ufo

441- Abandoned Ships
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, so has a problem: workers stuck on ships that have been completely abandoned by the owners, leaving them stranded out at sea without basic supplies like food. In some cases, seafarers (that's the industry term for cargo ship workers) have been stuck on these abandoned vessels without enough ...

deign evergiven globaleconomy shipping trade


308- Curb Cuts
If you live in an American city and you don’t personally use a wheelchair, it's easy to overlook the small ramp at most intersections, between the sidewalk and the street. Today, these curb cuts are everywhere, but fifty years ago -- when an activist named Ed Roberts was young -- most urban corners featured a sharp drop-off, making it difficult for him and other wheelchair users to get between blocks without assistance. Curb Cuts Plus a special announcement from Roman Mars about the future of 99pi...

440- La Brega in Levittown
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 Levittown, a massive suburb that was founded on the idea of bringing the American middle-class lifestyle to Puerto Rico during a time of great change on the island. Casanova-Burgess (herself the granddaughter of an early Levittown resident) explores what the presence of a Levittown in Puerto Rico ...

439- Welcome to Jurassic Art Redux
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 experience dinosaurs. We can study bones and fossils, but barring the invention of time travel, we will never see how these animals lived with our own eyes. There are no photos or videos, of course, which means that if we want to picture how they look, someone has to draw them. The illustrated inte...


438- The Real Book
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 black plastic binding. It’s delightfully homemade-looking—like it was printed by a bunch of teenagers at a Kinkos. And inside is the sheet music for hundreds of common jazz tunes—also known as jazz “standards”—all meticulously notated by hand. It’s called the Real Book. But if you were going to music school in the 1970s, you couldn’t just buy a copy of the Real B...

437- Science Vs Snakes
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 attack your nerves. And sometimes two different toxins can work together to form an even more sinister combination. Part of the reason people are dying is because they're not getting antivenom - the medicine required to fight these horrible toxins - fast enough. The system we have to create snak...

436- Oops, Our Bad
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 extinction and climate change, humans are focused on the control of the control of nature. In this episode, Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky, talks about everything from the introduction of poisonous frogs in Australia to launching diamond dust into the stratosphere. Oops, Our Bad...


435- The Megaplex!
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 megaplex in the United States. This is the gigantic, neon, big-box store of moviegoing that we're all used to  today, and it's easy to dismiss as a tacky ‘90s invention. But the megaplex—specifically this first megaplex in Dallas—upended the entire theater business and changed the kinds of movies t...

434- Artistic License
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 end up having outsized consequences, and not just for Idaho. Because what started in one state would soon spread. And when it did, the question of what should go on a license plate, and what shouldn't, would prove surprisingly contentious. Artistic License Like 99pi? Get the 99pi book: The 99% Invisible City...

433- Florence Nightingale: Data Viz Pioneer
Victorian nurse Florence Nightingale (played in this episode by her distant cousin Helena Bonham Carter) is a hero of modern medicine - but her greatest contribution to combating disease and death resulted from the vivid graphs she made to back her public health campaigns. Her charts convinced the great and the good that deaths due to filth and poor sanitation could be averted - saving countless lives. But did Nightingale open Pandora's Box, showing that graphs persuade, whether or not they depict reality? ...


432- The Batman and the Bridge Builder
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 Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin. It needed to be rebuilt with more contemporary beams called “box beams.” The box beams sit below the road’s surface, and they needed to be spaced a certain distance apart. Bloschock and the other engineers decided that the gap should be somewhere between ¾ of a...

431- 12 Heads from the Garden of Perfect Brightness
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 such cultural artifacts should return to China, but many others argue that these objects are also serving as nationalistic propaganda. 12 Heads from the Garden of Perfect Brightness...

Judas and the Black Messiah, Episode 1: The Chairman
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 and critic Elvis Mitchell of KCRW is joined by Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. — son of Chairman Fred Hampton and head of the Black Panther Party Cubs — as well as the film’s actors and creative team, and by members of the Black Panther Party who knew Chairman Fred Hampton. Together, they look at th...


430- The Doom Boom
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 ourselves. Garrett will be our guide to the fascinating world of architecture for the end times. And we're going to find out why today we're going through a true bunker renaissance. The Doom Boom...

Judas and the Black Messiah Trailer from 99% Invisible and Proximity Media
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 and critic Elvis Mitchell of KCRW is joined by Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. — son of Chairman Fred Hampton and head of the Black Panther Party Cubs — as well as the film’s actors and creative team, and by members of the Black Panther Party who knew Chairman Fred Hampton. Together, they look at th...

429- Stuccoed in Time
Santa Fe is famous in part for a particular architectural style, an adobe (mudbrick) look that came to be called Pueblo Revival. This aesthetic combines elements of indigenous pueblo architecture and the New Mexico's old Spanish missions, resulting in mostly low, brown buildings with smooth edges. Buildings in the city's historical districts in particular have to follow a number of design guidelines so that they fit this desired look; deviating from those aesthetics can stir up a lot of controversy.  But th...


428- Beneath the Skyway
Cities around the world have distinctive modes of transportation -- the canals of Venice, the double-decker busses of London, and the Twin Cities (of Minneapolis and St. Paul) have skyways. In both downtowns, there are vast networks of climate-controlled pedestrian bridges that reach over the streets and connect adjacent buildings. They were long viewed as modern marvels, but a lot of residents and urban planners want them gone. For critics, skyways are problematic because of who gets to enjoy them and who ...

427- Mini-Stories: Volume 11
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 Antarctica. Mini-Stories: Volume 11...

426- Mini-Stories: Volume 10
In this set of short stories, 99% Invisible producers talked with host Roman Mars about everything from climate-changing sheep to the persistent urban legend behind the invention of a space pen. Mini-Stories: Volume 10 99% Invisible’s Impact Design coverage is supported by Autodesk. Autodesk enables the design and creation of innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. Learn more about these efforts on Autodesk Redshift, a site that tells stories about the future o...


425- Mini-Stories: Volume 9
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 full 99pi episodes, but many also reveal aspects of how we find ideas for (and ultimately make) the show. In this collection, we'll talk about everything from movie novelizations to disco costume designs! Mini-Stories volume 9...

Roman Mars on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
Roman Mars joins Jesse Thorne on Bullseye this week to talk about life before podcasting, and what decades in radio has taught him. Roman has worked in podcasts and radio for decades at this point, but his career didn't start out in audio. He was originally getting a PhD in genetics, pipetting stuff into tubes, recording data and the like. Roman and Jesse also spoke about how the pandemic has affected the design of cities, and which of those changes might be permanent. Get The 99% Invisible City today...

Chapter 5: Housing Finally
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 long time. And there’s no guarantee she’ll be able to make the transition inside, even with the golden ticket.  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. Katie Mingle’s According to Need is a documentary podcast in 5 ...


Chapter 4: The List
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 U.S., your community probably has a list like this too. Where one ends up on the list can have huge implications, but how one rises to the top of it is a bit of a mystery. In this episode, Katie finally gets to see how it works. The List The way homelessness has exploded in California over the last decade, you’d think there was no system in place to address i...

Chapter 3: Housing First
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 thought it was necessary to keep someone safe, Sam would have people committed to a psychiatric hospital. But a few months later, he’d notice that person was back on the streets. Sam knew he needed to try something different. What he did changed everything about the way we think about solving homelessness. In this episode, what happens when you ask people what they n...

Chapter 2: The Hotline
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 people and service providers and advocates. In her mind, it was the 911 of homelessness. Only, more often than not, it seemed like when people called 211, the metaphorical ambulance never came. That was true for Tulicia, and it was true for lots of other people she met. If everyone starts at 211, why is it a dead-end for so many people? What is happening at 211? At ...


Chapter 1: Tulicia
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. Many people who are unable to afford a place to live end up sleeping on a friend’s floor or inside their car. This is what Tulicia did for years, until finally, she reached out to the system for help. Chapter 1: Tulicia...

According to Need: Prologue
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 documentary podcast in 5 chapters from 99% Invisible that asks: What are we doing to get people into housing? According to Need...

According to Need coming December 1
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
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 our time indoors on average -- however we think of ourselves, people are in fact largely an indoor species. Anthes looks at all of the ways our indoor spaces impact our health, and observes that there is so much we don't really know about the places we spend a majority of our lives. The Great I...

423- Sean Exploder
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 amazing original songs for 99pi to date! So this week, we are bringing you a tribute to one of our favorite shows Song Exploder, and to our favorite composer, Sean Real. Sean Exploder Plus a preview of Katie Mingle’s new 99pi spin off According to Need (Out December 1). Buy Sean’s first reco...

422- In The Unlikely Event
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 who has been collecting safety cards for almost ten years, and one day she started wondering how the modern safety card came about. In The Unlikely Event Buy The 99% Invisible City...


421- You've Got Enron Mail!
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 emails — about meetings and energy markets but also affairs, divorces, and fraud — have helped create new technologies, fight terrorism, and added to our understanding of how we communicate. You’ve Got Enron Mail! Learn more and subscribe to Brought To You By…...

420- The Lost Cities of Geo
Geocities was an online collection of metropolises, each with their own neighborhoods built around shared interests. The city metaphor helped make a whole new group of users understand the world wide web for the first time. At its peak, it was the third most popular destination on the internet, but it quickly fell out of fashion as the web became more commodified and professional. Before it shuttered, a few digital archivists scooped up as much data as possible before all that early internet experimentation...

419- Take a Walk
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 things to do, take a walk. We’ve been working so hard on the book release and new miniseries we’re launching in December that we’re going to take a walk with our friends at Pop Up Magazine. Pop Up Magazine's team spent weeks interviewing dozens of people about walking, including Jenny Slate, Ann...


99pi Presents The Next Billion Users
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 level of digital literacy – deserves an internet that was made for them. Google's Next Billion Users initiative conducts research and builds products for everyone, everywhere. Find out more at NextBillionUsers.google...

418- Sign Stealing
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 of what the catcher was signaling to the pitcher. Even with this long history, when the Houston Astros were recently caught stealing signs during their championship season it became a huge scandal. Sign Stealing The New York Times Bestseller The 99% Invisible City is on sale now! This episode is adapted from The Edge, a six-part series hosted by Ben Reiter....

417- For the Love of Peat
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 didn't know this remarkable fact about peat. If anything, bogs were seen as scary places to be avoided and thus we tended to not take care of them. But that’s changing. For the Love of Peat Buy The 99% Invisible City!...


416- Exploring The 99% Invisible City
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 beautiful downtown Oakland, California. In this episode, we explain how anchor plates help hold up brick walls; why metal fire escapes are mostly found on older buildings; what impact camouflaging defensive designs has on public spaces; who benefits from those spray-painted markings on city streets, and much more. Plus, At the end of the tour, stick around for a be...

415- Goodnight Nobody
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
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 great political importance. Deirdre Mask is the author of The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power, which looks at all the ways the world has changed since the popularization of street addresses during the Enlightenment. The book examines how addresses impact wealth and poverty, and how they serve as proxies for our m...


413- Highways 101
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 with Roman and Kurt for a crash course in roadside signage. We'll learn about the history of the stop sign, the iconic rural mailbox, and the signs that tell you what you'll find at highway exits. This is Highways 101. Highways 101 Pre-order The 99% Invisible City...

412- Where Do We Go From Here?
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 access became a big national story a little over five years ago after the passage of ordinances in cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, and Houston, TX, which attempted to restrict which bathrooms trans people could or couldn’t use. Many transgender, non-binary, and intersex people risk stress a...

411- Podcast Episode
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 cheaper food. In response, supermarkets had to figure out how to make their store brands more appealing. One chain in France, called Carrefour, was developing a discount store brand when they had an idea. Instead of using bright colors, or putting their own name on the box, or using slogans o...


244- The Revolutionary Post
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 under one flag, and in doing so, she believes the post office actually created the United States of America. This is a rebroadcast from October 2017 The Revolutionary Post Buy The 99% Invisible City, our first book!...

410- Policing the Open Road
Before the twentieth century, most Americans rarely came into contact with police officers. But with more and more drivers behind the wheel, police departments rapidly expanded their forces and increased officers’ authority to stop citizens who violated traffic laws. The Fourth Amendment—the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures—did not effectively shield individuals from government intrusion while driving. Instead, jurists interpreted the amendment narrowly. In a society depe...

409- California Love Scared Straight
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 this episode, Walter, through a chance encounter, checks-in with his friend who went through the program with him, their anti-tagging arch-nemesis, and how they have turned out after all these years. Part autobiography, part reportage, California Love is a richly sound-designed audio tour that takes us into the homes of communities that are touchstones to Walter...


408- Valley of the Fallen
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 basilica carved out of the mountain. This place is called The Valley of the Fallen. And it’s likely the most controversial monument in Spain. The Valley is synonymous with Francisco Franco, the general who ruled Spain from the end of its bloody civil war in 1939 until his death in 1975. When Fra...

408- Valley of the Fallen
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 basilica carved out of the mountain. This place is called The Valley of the Fallen. And it’s likely the most controversial monument in Spain. The Valley is synonymous with Francisco Franco, the general who ruled Spain from the end of its bloody civil war in 1939 until his death in 1975. When Fra...

407- The Dolphin that Roared
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 of the strangest political revolutions in history. The Dolphin that Roared Plus, we are so excited to announce the first 99pi book! The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt comes out October 6 and you should pre-order it right now!...


406- A Side of Franchise
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 with a much wider lens. In Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, Chatelain offers a critique of racial capitalism and a long history of trying to address social problems with business-based solutions. A Side of Franchise Plus, we are featuring an excerpt from the series Race Traitor fro...

405- Freedom House Ambulance Service
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 desperately to save a dying patient. Maybe today he wouldn’t bat an eye at this scene, but in 1970 nothing about it made sense. The two men weren’t doctors, and they weren’t nurses. And their strange uniforms weren’t hospital issued. Moon was witnessing the birth of a new profession—one that would go on to change the face of emergency medicine.  The two men were ...

404- Return of Oñate's Foot
All across the country, protestors have been tearing down old monuments. These monuments have been falling in the middle of historic protests against police brutality. Sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, these demonstrations have spread to communities, big and small, across the country and around the world. And as they've grown, the protests have become about much more than police violence. This national uprising has inspired a massive reckoning with our country's past. Suddenly, decades o...


403- Return of the Yokai
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, even prisons. There are mascots in cities that tell people not to litter, or remind them to be quiet on the train. Everything has a mascot and anything can be a mascot. The reason why mascots and character culture flourish in Japan is connected with the nation’s fascinating history with mythic...

402- Instant Gramification
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 London-based architecture collective Assemble. The design of the building had a lot to say about creating spaces that were functional, collaborative, and inexpensive. But people on Instagram mainly saw a pretty wall to serve as the backdrop to their photos. Instagram and architecture have formed a symbiosis and the consequences of them interacting and feeding back on ...

Wedding Dresses: Articles of Interest #12
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 is together and you have accrued the time and space and resources to afford your ascent to another level of fulfillment. And there's no greater symbol for this day, and all the pressure it brings, than a white dress. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 20...


Diamonds: Articles of Interest #11
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? The ethics and costs of diamond rings have shifted with society, from their artificial scarcity perpetuated by DeBeers to their artificial creation in labs. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethin...

Suits: Articles of Interest #10
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 traced back to American Revolution, classical statuary, and one particular bloke bopping around downtown London way back in the 1770s. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what...

Perfume: Articles of Interest #9
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 solely by the brand and shape of the bottle. With the right amount of attention, perfume can be a key to a whole olfactory world. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what w...


Knockoffs: Articles of Interest #8
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 fashion impresario and has spent time on both sides of American trademark law. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us....

A Fantasy of Fashion: Articles of Interest #7
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 might seem like an odd thing to fund, but the fantasy of high fashion inspired hope in postwar Paris. These dolls also forever changed the curator who discovered them almost 40 years later, in a strange museum perched on a cliff in rural Washington state. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architect...

401- The Natural Experiment
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 the shutdowns have provided a unique opportunity—a whole new data set, a chance to gather new information, or to look at information in a new way. And so, this week, we’re bringing you stories very different academic fields, about researchers who are using this bizarre, tragic moment to learn...


400- The Smell of Concrete After Rain
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 due to COVID that were part of the world of architecture and design that we want to honor with a couple of stories today. First, we are mourning the loss of architect Michael McKinnell. Along with Gerhard Kallman, McKinnell designed the unforgettable Boston City Hall, completed in 1968. They won the commission for Boston City Hall after submitting their brutali...

399- Masking for a Friend
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 pandemic was a totally easy and normal adjustment. Rebecca Kanthor is a reporter based in Shanghai who has lived in China for the past 17 years, and she tells us why the culture behind masks developed so differently there, and the doctor who started it all. Plus, we look at the manufacturers who...

398- Unsheltered in Place
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 pandemic began to unfold. Suddenly, this vulnerable demographic was cast into the spotlight due to the virulent spread of COVID-19. It is clear from the data that this virus is hitting black and poor communities the hardest. COVID-19 has made American society’s racial and wealth inequities even more obvious. The disease is most dangerous to older and immunocompromis...


397- Wipe Out
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 product that we've always been reliant upon, toilet paper has not actually been around very long, and may not be as essential as we think it is. Instead, it's the product of very good marketing. Plus, we talk about the bane of wastewater utilities everywhere: flushable wipes. Wipe Out...

397- Wipe Out
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 product that we've always been reliant upon, toilet paper has not actually been around very long, and may not be as essential as we think it is. Instead, it's the product of very good marketing. Plus, we talk about the bane of wastewater utilities everywhere: flushable wipes. Wipe Out...

396- This Day in Esoteric Political History
In times like these, we could all use a little historical perspective. In this new podcast from Radiotopia, Jody Avirgan, political historian Nicole Hemmer, and special guests rescue moments from U.S. history to map our journey through a tumultuous year. On this episode of 99% Invisible, Jody talks with Roman about his new show and we play two short episodes of This Day in Esoteric Political History. Subscribe to This Day in Esoteric Political History on Apple Podcasts...


395- This is Chance! Redux
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 had skidded into the sea. But that brief and catastrophic quake was just the beginning of the story. This is the story of one woman who held a community together. This is Chance! Redux Buy Jon Mooallem’s This is Chance!...

394- Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are
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 Bandcamp or wherever you can find it. Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are...

393- Map Quests: Political, Physical and Digital
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 hands, you have to start making choices. We have to choose what information we're interested in, and what we're throwing out. Those choices influence how the person reading the map views the world. But a map’s influence doesn’t end there, maps can actually *shape *the place they’re trying to represent and that’s where things get weird. Map Quests...


392- The Weather Machine
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 reality full of existential associations with serious disasters. In his book The Weather Machine, author Andrew Blum discusses these extremes and much in between, taking readers back in time to early weather-predicting aspirations and forward with speculation about the future of forecasting, including potentially dark clouds on the horizon. The Weather Machine...

391- Over the Road
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 year: concerns about the steady march of technology, especially the recently imposed, mandatory electronic logging device, or ELD, which records every detail of a driver’s working hours. Over the Road is an eight-part series that gives voice to the trials and triumphs of America’s long haul truc...

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 (McMansio...


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 (McMansi...

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. ...

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 ...


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. Subscribe to Sidedoor on Apple Podcasts or RadioPu...

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...

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, ...


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...

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. S...