There’s a little trophy shop called Aardvark Laser Engraving down the street from our office in Oakland. Its small but bustling, and its windows are stuffed to the brim with awards made of all kinds of materials and in any shape you can imagine.
Vexillologists—those who study flags—tend to fall into one of two schools of thought. The first is one that focuses on history, category, and usage, and maintains that vexillologists should be scholars and historians of all flags,
“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” — Mies van der Rohe. The chair presents an interesting design challenge, because it is an object that disappears when in use. The person replaces the chair.
The Ouija board is so simple and iconic that it looks like it comes from another time, or maybe another realm. The game is not as ancient as it was designed to look, but those two arched rows of letters have been spooking people for over 125 years.
The first print advertisement for Wonder Bread came out before the bread itself. It stated only that “a wonder” was coming. In a lot of ways, the statement was true. Wonder Bread was the perfect loaf. “Slow food” advocates have pronounced i...
When you support Radiotopia, you are making sure 99% Invisible can keep coming to you weekly and you'll be supporting our entire collective of award-winning, independent radiomakers. Please go to our Kickstarter page and back us in our effort to remak...
On July 13th, 1977, lightning struck an electricity transmission line in New York City, causing the line's automatic circuit breaker to kick in. The electricity from the affected line was diverted to another line.
Everyone has tried it at some point. The authorities started turning a blind eye years ago, but it wasn't officially legalized until the summer of 2014. Finally, after more than 80 years of illegitimacy, the City of Oakland has legalized...
Straight lines form the core of our built environment. Building in straight lines makes predicting costs and calculating structural loads easier, since building materials come in linear units. Straight lines might be logical, predictable, and efficient,
In the beginning, there was design. Before any other human discipline, even before the dawn of mankind its self, design was a practice passed down from generation to generation of early humans. Today, everything that has been designed–space ships,
Around 2005, a Seattle neighborhood called Ballard started to see unprecedented growth. Condominiums and apartment buildings were sprouting up all over the community which had once been mostly single family homes and small businesses. Around this time,
Cities, like living things, evolve slowly over time. Buildings and structures get added and renovated and removed, and in this process, bits and pieces that get left behind. Vestiges. Just as humans have tailbones and whales have pelvic bones,
IKEA hacking is the practice of buying things from IKEA and reengineering—or "hacking"—them to become customized, more functional, and often just better designed stuff. The locus of the IKEA hacking movement is a website called IKEAhackers.net.
Way back in October 2011 (see episode #38, true believers!), we broadcast a short excerpt of a radio documentary produced by Peregrine Andrews about faking the sounds of sports on TV broadcasts. It was one of our most popular and provocative programs...
As humans have developed cities and built environments, we have also needed to develop ways to find our way through them. Sam Greenspan went on a wayfinding tour with Jim Harding in the Atlanta airport. Harding is one of the expert "invisibles" that do...
The best knock-offs in the world are in China. There are plenty of fake designer handbags and Rolexes, but China's knock-offs go way beyond fashion. There are knock-off Apple stores that look so much like the real thing,
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