Design on the Radio

It just occurred to me that there may be still be some designers out there who aren’t listing to Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible.

99% Invisible is an amazing little podcast that’s reinventing public radio—and just happens to focus on design, architecture and urbanism. They launched with the help of a groundbreaking Kickstarter campaign, and this year moved to a weekly format thanks to another record-setting Kickstarter effort.

Most episodes are under twenty minutes but the information, ideas, theories, and concepts linger long after. Not every episode is amazing, but most are. The ones that aren’t are very, very good. To get you started (which is to say, to get you hooked), here are my top five favorite episodes so far:

1. Episode 68: Built for Speed
Shortly after I heard this episode I found myself in standstill traffic on the I-5. Remembering the podcast, I stepped out of my car and measured the lane stripes on the freeway. Mind-blowing.

2. Episode 49: Queue Theory
All about the science and psychology of lining up.

3. Episode 32: Design for Airports
SFO’s International terminal was the last major airport built before 9-11. Terminal 3 in that same airport was the first major airport expansion post 9-11. The designs are diametrically different. This episode explains why.

4. Episode 29: Cul de Sac
How a single aspect of suburban design has made an impact on culture, policy, the economy, children and happiness. It’s only 11 minutes long, but oh my god this one is great.

5. Episode 33: A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll
How one of the simplest designs ever—just a circle and a line—saved thousands of lives on the high seas.

It seems weird to include myself in my own top 5, but I really do love this episode (one of the few on actual graphic design) about the UC Logo. I’m interviewed for an expert perspective, as is the creative director for the University of California. A thoughtful (and controversial) look into the politics of design and public opinion:

Episode 69: The Brief and Tumultuous Life of the New UC Logo