How to do a design podcast: 99% invisible vs Section D

July 3, 2015 – Culture, Sound

You would have thought to discuss design, you would need to see the designed object. Never the less there are a significant amount of design audio shows, so when does it work and when does it not? I will look at two audio design shows that tackle the subject in a very different manor: Radiotopia’s 99% Invisible and Section D from Monocle 24. This article is part of a series looking at podcasts to look at to make your own podcast. See part 1 and part 2 here.

1. 99% Invisible


99% invisible is design show that explores the stories of objects. From whole cities to currency. Each episode is a documentary on the ideas or stories of our man made world. You have the narrator, Roman Mars along with various contributors guiding you the trials and tribulations of man made things. Even if you think that you have no interest in design, this show is great because its about the drama of making things and to see something though. You will develop an appreciation for designing if not design after you listen to an episode.

2. Section D


Section D is a global tour of the latest design events and happenings around the world. From architecture to graphic design. Its a weekly programme updating you on the world of design. You will get reports from the latest design expos, exhibitions and projects that have caught the Monocle editorial teams’ eye. From Salone Del Mobile to Irish Craft to Japan’s Narita International Airport and much more in between.

—Which works and which does not?

99% Invisible I believe works better. I say this despite listening to Section D since it launched but I find myself constantly tuning out of the programme. I have tried to wrestle with why I enjoy 99% invisible and not Section D. I enjoy Monocle’s design stores in print and film but not their audio. I think it is because there is too much reliance on the visual that Section D would really be better as a video show. You are constantly hopping all over the world and going to see things that are happening in the world of design. Its painting too many pictures.

Section D tends to be reports about events rather than specific objects or concepts. I feel one of the things they could do to make it a better show is focus on the process of the final designed object or review some new graphic identity in the studio rather than interview them. Ok you could still interview them but get them as source material to talk about what the goal for the design was and what they wanted to achieve but then get someone from Winkreative(a branding agency run by the editor-in-chief of Monocle) or Monocle or another design media outlet and critique it.

99% Invisible is about the process of design. Its about how something is designed and what were the steps along the way to getting to the final objects or idea. Section D is all about the final design. Its about look at this thing thats new. Section D should be about why something works, reviewing design from around the world, reviewing fairs, not reporting them. Section D needs more process, less reporting.

Section D is about the what, 99% invisible is about the why. Radio is great at the why because you don’t need to deal with feeding the eyes information that you do with video. Usually you would be filling up a website with text which need facts and information. Video has to be filled up with visuals. Video needs to show something and if you have worked in making a short documentary or a film of some describing, you need of a lot visuals to make a good film. Radio all you have is someone speaking and because of that its allows you to go in-depth more easily than with video. You can get nuance that you can’t get with text or video.

Section D is all about the what and because of that it should be a video show. 99% invisible is all about the why. Its add contexts to objects you don’t think about but use everyday.

Words: Sebastian Stephenson