Hidden Design

Have you ever sat down and looked at something you see every day and thought, “I wonder how it got to be that way?” Like, why is American money green? Who made the design decisions for the iconic Superman suit? How did we come to this concept of the ‘credit card’?”

99% Invisible is a design podcast that delves into this world of hidden in plain view design. Their description of the podcast on their website is: “A Podcast about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” And it’s by far my favorite podcast. In each episode, producers from the 99% invisible team guide listeners through select elements of design interest. Topics range from design in architecture and infrastructure to urban planning, product design, sound design and design history. The only rule: it has to be human-made for them to cover it.

Living in New York, I have the added advantage of going to visit a number of these buildings that get covered in the podcast. Join me on a tour through some of my favorite episodes of 99% Invisible!

New York Cancer Hospital

This beautiful façade hides some dark history – listen to “Castle in the Park” for an inside look into the past of this historic relic on 106th and Central Park West!

601 Lexington Avenue

Formerly known as “Citigroup Center,” this skyscraper at 601 Lexington seems to stand impossibly on stilts above a small church. Curious about the engineering oversight that almost spelled disaster for the surrounding area? “Structural Integrity” is your episode.

The Bradbury Building

Being from Southern California, I had to throw in a Los Angeles building to the list of my highlights. With Hollywood around the corner, there are some buildings in Los Angeles that have gained celebrity status of their own. Check out “On Location” to learn about the most filmed building in Hollywood.

Winchester Mystery House

As a kid, I loved visiting my grandparents in Sunnyvale, California so we could stop at this creepy, old mansion in San Jose for a ghost tour. Was Sarah Winchester an aspiring architect, or actually haunted by the ghosts of those killed by her family’s rifle? No matter how many times I listen to the “Mystery House” episode, I still get chills!

No matter if you’re an architecture nerd, tech guru or diehard historian, 99% Invisible has something for the designer and curious kid in all of us. I hope you enjoyed the brief tour. After listening over the last year, I’ve certainly found myself to be more aware of the hidden design that happens all around me. 


Sarah Hakes, Business Development