Invisible Design

I regularly listen to Radio Lab (which if you haven't heard yet you must go download it right now). On a recent episode I was introduced to another incredible podcast called 99% Invisible which the host Roman Mars describes as, "a tiny radio program about design and architecture and all the thought that goes into the things that people don't think about."

On this recent Radio Lab episode hosts Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad (an incredible sound designer himself) listened to and commented on three episodes of 99% Invisible including episode 15, "Sounds of the Artificial World".

This particular episode (like many on 99%) is short, clocking in under five minutes. In it Mars interviews Jim McKee of Earwax Productions about his work as a product sound designer. They talk about how "The best sounds are not completely synthesized. They come from the everyday world." and consider the "resonating quality of the sound in relation to the chassis itself" as a critical element to the sounds feeling "indigenous to [the] piece of plastic" they are to being placed in.

This is only one among many interesting takes on sound design found on Mars' podcast. Other episodes on the topic include:

Episode 1: Noise — Mars interviews Dennis Paoletti an acoustic designer at Shen Milsom & Wilke. They discuss the definition of noise which Dennis defines much like my Grandmother defines weeds as "very simply unwanted sound". And as Mars says, "The job of acoustic design is not just to make things quieter sometimes the best way to design a space to have less noise is to add more sound."

Episode 21: BLDGBLOG On Sound — An interview with Geoff Manaugh author of BLDG BLOG (a rich site on architectural conjecture, urban speculation, and landscape futures) about the acoustic aspects of architectural space. One of Geoff's most interesting points is that most architects "if they design for sound what they are actually designing to do is to design for silence. They are designing to keep sound out of the environments." They also get into an interesting discussion about Archaeoacoustics which Manaugh describes as "Indiana Jones meets John Cage."

Every episode of 99% Invisible is worth listening to and you could listen them all in less than four and half hours. I'm not sure if that's good news or bad—I, for one, can't get enough of either of these podcasts.

Also, Roman is running a Kickstarter campaign for season three and has set a goal of 5,000 backers (at any level). He's almost halfway there but he needs your help to tip the balance in favor of independent, authentic media experiences like he's creating with 99% Invisible.