99% Invisible

Despite having gone to school for architecture, I don’t get many chances to indulge the design skills and passion I paid so much money to hone. For whatever reason, moving products around on retail shelves just doesn’t hold the same cachet. But I recently discovered a podcast that allows me to feel engaged in the world of design, however fleetingly: 99% Invisible.

99% Invisible is an independent radio show/podcast about design. Not just architecture, but about everything that is designed, and how it affects in ways we may not realize. Topics can vary from the importance of reading building plaques to stories about statues that are no longer there; from how engineers reversed the Chicago River to how Warsaw almost-but-not-quite recreated their historic Old Town after World War Two. It potentially covers anything in our world with some designed aspect; that is to say, everything.

The first few episodes are short (under five minutes), but later ones, as the producers become more familiar with the podcast format, can last 15 or even 30 minutes. The wide variety of topics covered keeps things interesting, and the people working on the show obviously love what they do. I get easily annoyed by people having “high concept” conversations where they read too much into simple decisions (it seems like just so much intellectual masturbation to me), but this show manages to be educational without being preachy or out of touch with reality

So if the philosophy of design interests you, or you just want to hear some of the stories behind things we take for granted, I can highly recommend this podcast. The one piece of criticism I would offer is that it’s discouraging to listen to intelligent discourse about design while stocking shelves and moving pallets, but that’s likely a personal problem. It just throws the contrast into too sharp of a relief to be comfortable.

Sorry, didn’t mean to be a downer, there. 99% Invisible: check it out. It’s fun and educational!