99% Invisible is a fantastically realized podcast about some of the small design decisions that impact our lives in ways that we may never even know.
This podcast has some seriously great discussions, so you probably want to know what the fuss is about.
Read below to find out the 15 best episodes of 99% Invisible!
Table of Contents
Episode 154 – PDX Carpet
Have you ever wondered why carpets in airports are so odd and quite iconic in their own right?
You are not alone, and this episode perfectly explores the design work that created the pattern and why it became so iconic.
Episode 369 – Wait Wait… Tell Me!
Waiting is something we all do every day. 99% begins here by discussing Detroit residents waiting to see homes demolished! You will see how that turns into the frustrating world of waiting on a slow computer.
This episode explores what it is like when a computer begins acting slowly, freezing, or crashing and how this is often visualized for the user.
See how Detroit demolition and slow computers connect in this fascinating episode. Don’t miss out!
Episode 301 – Making It Rain
This episode goes way back to August 1814. The only time Washington, D.C., was occupied by outside forces.
British forces overtook the city and set fire to American landmarks.
The host explores the fascinating case of a freak rainstorm that was able to put out a fire in the White House.
From then on, humans have been interested in controlling the weather. In this episode, you will hear about some of the attempts to do so, from rain dancing to cloud seeding.
And how controlling the weather is used to benefit humans and war efforts.
Episode 397 – Wipe Out
This episode explores toilet paper’s simple but genius beauty and how it goes unsung. Yes. You heard that right. Toilet paper deserves to be celebrated!
Having made it through the 2020 Pandemic, you may understand the celebration toilet paper deserves better than anyone. The host, Roman Mars, discusses toilet paper’s history and how we have come to depend on it.
Listen to how toilet paper became a $31 billion industry and find a new appreciation for this household item.
Episode 285 – Money Makers
We don’t often think about the design work that went into the average US dollar, but there is some pretty genius design to be found in there.
This episode explores the history of the dollar. Find out how it gained its current look and how it has looked in the past.
Episode 300 – Airships
In the past, the skies were indeed the next frontier, and our lives would be lived in them.
This took the form of incredible towering airships. However, these airships did not become the vehicle of the future. Why is that?
Episode 287 – The Nut Behind The Wheel
Car crashes can often be fatal, and many cars are designed with failsafe to lower the likelihood of this.
These fail-safes are largely invisible, so this episode seeks to highlight and celebrate them in style!
Episode 456 – Full Spectrum
Remember ‘The dress’? Remember how some people viewed it as white with gold stripes, and others could see it as blue with black stripes?
This episode explains why such a phenomenon illuminates how the human eye perceives color. Very fascinating!
Episode 214 – Loud And Clear
Cassette tapes may now be an old and defunct form of media technology, but they were once prevalent and revolutionary within the music industry.
This episode is dedicated to the humble box that once contained a whole world of music. It explains the intricacies of their design and why they were so successful.
Episode 422 – In The Unlikely Event
Due to their grim contents, we may not like looking at them, but airplane safety manuals can teach us a lot about design.
In fact, the design of these manuals is so iconic that it has almost become an aesthetic unto itself. This is an episode you owe it to yourself to hear!
Episode 182 – A Sweet Surprise Awaits You
Fortune cookies are a perfect way to finish off a delectable Chinese meal.
These sweet cookies containing fortunes are iconic symbols, but how did they reach that status? Who designed them in the first place and why?
Episode 144 – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
This episode discusses the lightbulb’s incredible history and recounts the strange tale of a lightbulb that has been illuminated without stopping for over 120 years.
You can watch as this bulb glows in real-time on its website. This episode features such a strange and slightly inspiring story.
Episode 292 – Speech Bubbles
This episode is fantastic as it features the amazing guest Scott McCloud who has been writing and theorizing about comics for many years and has lots to say about the hidden design genius of comic books.
He dives deep into comics. How it is more than just picking the moment to depict. That every part of the art is important to get your point across. The artist has to make sure to balance words, pictures, and how the story flows.
McCloud believes it is a distinct art form. If you have any interest in comics or graphic novels, you should give this episode a listen!
Episode 142 – And The Winner Is
There are few things quite as ubiquitous as a trophy. Trophies signify victories and successes and thus are highly sought after.
This episode endeavors to discover the history of trophies and understand why they became such iconic symbols worldwide.
Episode 139 – Edge Of Your Seat
“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” Mies van der Rohe
To say that designing a building is easier than designing an item to sit on seems like hyperbole.
Yet many believe the chair presents a unique design challenge. One that must be functional, and invisible, but also look good empty.
We use them every day, yet we rarely sing their praises. This episode is dedicated to the wonder of chairs, their design, and a celebration of how they improve our lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many listeners does 99% Invisible have?
99% is one of the most popular podcasts on Stitcher, Pandora, and iTunes. They have approximately 500 MILLION downloads.
Why is 99% Invisible called that?
With a goal to expose the unseen and overlooked aspects of design, architecture, and activity. The name is based on the quote, “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable” – Buckminster Fuller