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99% Invisible

Arts

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.

Popular episodes

468- Alphabetical Order

Dec 1 • 33:30

In much of the western world, alphabetical order is simply a default we take for granted. It’s often the one we try first -- or the one we use as a last resort when all the other ordering methods fail. It’s boring, but it works, and it’s so ingrained that it’s hard to imagine not using it. But despite its endurance for most of its history, the alphabet wasn’t initially use...

467- Cute Little Monstrosities of Nature

Nov 23 • 31:41

The French bulldog is now the second most popular breed in America. Their cute features, portable size, and physical features make for a dog that can easily travel and doesn't require a lot of exercise. But these characteristics sometimes have a detrimental effect on the dog's health. Tove K. Danovich writes "Rather than requiring human owners to change their lives to acco...

466- The Weight

Nov 17 • 50:17

Fitness trends come and go. But the simple weight is an anchor in the shifting tides of culture. As workout equipment has become canonized within the realm of home appliances, this heavy metal object aids in our dual — and sometimes conflicting — pursuit of athletics and aesthetics....

465- Shirley Cards

Nov 10 • 37:01

Even if we think of the camera as a neutral technology, it is not. In the vast spectrum of human colors, photographic tools and practices tend to prioritize the lighter end of that range. One example of this bias was Kodak's Shirley Card, a reference photo used to calibrate photo printing machines.  For decades all of the models on the Shirley Cards were white. This meant ...

464- Finding Julia Morgan

Nov 2 • 47:59

Born in 1872, American architect and engineer Julia Morgan designed hundreds of buildings over her prolific career, famous for her work on incredible structures like the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California....

11 reactions

463- Fifty-Four Forty or Fight

Oct 26 • 46:08

At a glance, the border between the United States and Canada would seem to be at the friendlier end of the international boundary spectrum. But even though the US-Canada border is now pretty tame, when two countries touch each other over a stretch of 5500 miles, it can result in some surprisingly weird disputes, misunderstandings,  geographical quirks and ...really good st...

472- I Can't Believe It's Pink Margarine

Oct 19 • 30:00

Margarine is yellow, like butter, but it hasn't always been. At times and in places, it has been a bland white, or even a dull pink. These strange variations were a byproduct of 150-year war to destroy margarine, and everything that it stands for. During this epic fight for survival, margarine has had to reinvent itself, over and over again....

461- Changing Stripes

Oct 12 • 36:18

Rioters carried many familiar flags during the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol -- Confederate, MAGA, as well as some custom-made ones like a flag of Trump looking like Rambo. Except for onlookers who were already familiar with the design, it would have been easy to overlook one particular bright yellow flag with three red horizontal stripes across the...

323- The House that Came in the Mail Again

Oct 5 • 38:59

The Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog was nearly omnipresent in early 20th century American life. By 1908, one fifth of Americans were subscribers. Anyone anywhere in the country could order a copy for free, look through it, and then have anything their heart desired delivered directly to their doorstep. At its peak, the Sears catalog offered over 100,000 items on 1,400 p...

2 reactions

460- Corpse, Corps, Horse and Worse

Sep 28 • 30:50

When it comes to English spelling and pronunciation, there is plenty of rhyme and very little reason. But what is the reason for that? Why among all European languages is English so uniquely chaotic today?...

5 reactions

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