Exploring The 99% Invisible City

We’re excited to celebrate the release of The 99% Invisible City book by host Roman Mars and producer Kurt Kohlstedt with a guided audio tour of beautiful downtown Oakland, California.

Together, we dive into different everyday designs, using examples from the blocks around our office as jumping-off points. You can also order the book today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop and Indiebound (internationally: the UK, Canada and Australia). The audiobook read by Roman is available on Audible and Libro.fm. Update: a limited number of signed copies are in stock at B&N!

Interior book layouts designed by Raphael Geroni in collaboration with the authors and HMH

In this episode, we explain how anchor plates help hold up brick walls; why metal fire escapes are mostly found on older buildings; what impact camouflaging defensive designs has on public spaces; who benefits from those spray-painted markings on city streets, and more.

Drawing from stories in the book, we talk about everything from stoplights and crosswalks to speed cushions and easement plaques. Some of these elements you’ve probably noticed before, but you’re still bound to learn something new about the roles they play in cities.

The 99% Invisible City chapter five book illustration by Patrick Vale

At the end of the tour, stick around for a behind-the-scenes look at the book as we answer a series of fan-submitted questions about how it was created, delving into the writing, illustration, and design processes.

In The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, Roman and Kurt zoom in and uncover engaging stories about all the thought that goes into cities. Over the course of 400 pages, we explore the origins and other fascinating tales behind power grids, fire hydrants, street signs, safety patterns, and so much more.

With beautiful line drawings throughout by artist Patrick Vale, this volume will captivate anyone curious about design processes, urban environments, and the unsung marvels of the world around them. Check out our book page for more info, including tour dates, book reviews, special offers, and other 99% Invisible City details!

  1. nancy von meyer

    My 10 copies arrived today. The book is beautiful and fascinating. They will be the excellent holiday gifts I expected. Good job. It would be so cool to connect you guys with the Esri folks in Redlands CA and make a story map with the images.

  2. Ed Howard

    Hi guys,
    You stated in the latest podcast about 99% Invisible City that AT&T put in the first coast to coast microwave network when it was actually Western Union that did it for the government and then the government handed it back to Western Union.
    The US Gov. wanted to see how quickly a network like that could be built. Cold war jitters driving their concern.


    Ed H.

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