Before I first listened to 99% Invisible, I had heard it be described as “an audio podcast about visual design.” I feel like I appreciate good design—in particular, I’m partial to beautiful picturebooks and slow drives through gorgeous neighborhoods I could never afford to live in. But do I know a single thing about how design works? No. Am I interested in learning how design works? Sure, but only after I finish reading the ten books stacked up next to my bed, find the time to clean out my pantry, and finally watch This is Us.
Lucky for me and my fellow time-and attention-challenged, design-ignorant podcast fans, 99% Invisible isn’t one bit technical, wonky, or boring. In a deep, soothing voice, host Roman Mars shares stories about a wide range of design-adjacent topics like, the history of New York City’s scantily-clad public sculptures, the powerful art of well-designed corporate logos, and the world’s love/hate relationship with Brutalist Architecture (I’m looking at you, City Hall!).
Art, architecture, and city planning are perennial 99% Invisible topics, but my favorite episodes are the ones that take you somewhere unexpected. Believe me: the episode on the exciting world of temperature-controlled shipping units is surprisingly fascinating! Episodes like this drive home the podcast’s central theme: that design is everywhere, invisibly impacting history, culture, and our everyday lives.
If you like listening to 99% Invisible, you probably like fun, fascinating nonfiction that teaches you something you never thought you’d want to learn about. Try one of these design-centric options.
For another podcast that tells engaging stories that teach you something new about the world, try Radiolab, Invisibilia, or The Memory Palace.