The Podcast Review

99% Invisible

by Jessie Borrelle , February 6, 2013Leave a comment


In The Podcast Review, guest reviewer Jessie Borrelle takes a look at a highlight of the international podcasting spectrum.

‘A tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.’

Roman Mars is the kind of person who makes a thing I was convinced no one could make much better – heaps better. That is a pretty big claim, and a mighty grand claim to pin on a such modest little podcast.

With field recordings, music and interview-worthy people as his tools, Mars patrols the city with his microphone, and digs, and digs, and dusts off his findings like a…sonic archeologist? The podcast is glued together with dextrous production values and a certain effortlessness that you can guarantee takes a lot of effort.

The first episode is only five minutes long. It’s tiny, but it’s big enough to throw up questions as deceptively simple as ‘Is this sound or noise’, and not philosophically, not in an annoying-smug-debate-by-pseudo-intellectuals way, but in a pragmatically-and-lucidly-answered-through-expert-and-interesting-banter way. This is how it goes.

One of the most compelling episodes is Invisible-11, where Roman and his guest Lisa Margonelli, author of Oil on the Brain, talk frank about the infinite stupidness of  a modern world designed and built almost exclusively around the burning of oil. In five minutes they raise goosebumps and get your Google on faster than you’d care to admit.

Recommended podcasts? All of them, but here’s three to whet your thing:

  1. Invisible-67 Broken Window: ‘You have to make your own fun, if you don’t, it’s entertainment’
  2. Invisible-32 Design for Airports: ‘Some airports attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort’
  3. Invisible-11 Undesigned: ‘It’s the tyranny of the lack of design, the tragedy of building a bad idea, on a thoughtless notion, on a careless plan’


Originally from New Zealand, Jessie Borrelle is a Melbourne-based writer, editor and an executive producer of the antipodean podcast Paper Radio.




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