NEEDS REVIEW BEHIND THE SCENES with Roman Mars

What interests you about design and why did you think radio would be a good medium in which to explore the subject

I like design because it's a process, and where there's a process, there's a story. Architecture and design also have a bevy of very invested characters that have strong opinions and can provide an enthusiastic, geeky energy to a piece (Note: This person is sometimes me). Covering design on the radio can be a challenge for obvious reasons, but being audio-only is a constraint that generally works in my favor. Most film documentaries about design are wall-to-wall lovely, close up images of curved teapot handles and funky chairs. When you can't rely on that, you have to stick to the objects that have the best story, but aren't necessarily the most beautiful. I also think audio allows me to widen the field a bit. When the images are secondary, the parallels between all the thought that goes into designing a flag and all the thought that goes into designing a public square are easier to fit into the big tent of design

How has making this podcast caused you to think differently about the designs in our lives

The show has changed me tremendously. For one thing, I'm way more judgmental. I viewed most of the built world as a landscape that was just there, like a mountain, not designed or planned. Now I stare at buildings, and fountains, and parks, and products, and wonder about every choice that was made. And then I criticize it

By nature, I'm pretty easy going and adaptable. I'm the type of person that would have a difficult time using the oven, or forgetting which light switch went to which socket, and think it was just my fault. Now I view every difficulty or confusion as a place where design can be improved and imagine that there's a story as to why a thing is the way it is

What has been the biggest challenge so far in exploring visual concepts through sound

The biggest challenge is making sure, when I do describe something visual, that I'm doing a good job and the writing creates an accurate image in the listener's mind. It's pretty easy to convince myself that the building or graphic I'm describing is clear and easy to grasp, but people don't listen that intently to the radio, so I have to step back, reinforce all the images through story elements, and create the piece in such a way that the content, tone and rhythm is pleasing, even if the listener doesn't grasp everything perfectly the first time they hear it

The episode we're featuring is about a designed (invented) language called Esperanto. Generally when we think of design we think of physical/visual spaces, but you must have quickly realized that design is in almost everything. What are the through-lines that you have run into while exploring concept of design across so many mediums

The realization that I could use design as a lens to view almost anything was the whole reason I got excited about 99% Invisible in the first place. I interviewed the filmmaker Sam Green for the Utopia episode of Snap Judgment a while ago, but I couldn't use the Esperanto discussion at that time, so I held onto it. I was taught Esperanto in 2nd and 3rd grades, and it has since fascinated me. I began to wonder if Esperanto's utopian idealism and its structure as a language were somehow related. Each episode of the program is about the intended and unintended consequences of a plan or design. The loose, but regular design of Esperanto was very intentional and led to it being the champion of invented languages. I also postulated that the design of the language had the unintended effect of fostering poetic expression that attracted a certain kind of artistic personality. I don't know if that is the right conclusion, but it is a fun idea to explore

Did you start this show and then get funding, or get funding and then start the show? What is some advice you'd give to people who have an idea for a show or podcast but don't know how to get it up and rolling

This was a contract assignment with funding attached from the beginning. Otherwise, I really couldn't have afforded to do it. I'm an indie producer that is the sole earner in a family of four. I can't do much that doesn't pay anymore. This certainly was underpaying at first, but I just knew I could make something special out of it and get more funding after the pilot season. I'm not sure if I'd be successful if I had a project in mind, but had to go search for funding from the get-go, so I don't have any advice for that scenario. I do think producing your own radio show and putting it out regularly is the best way to be a better producer, so if you can swing it, either by getting a little funding, or sparing the time to make a quality program without any support, I think everyone should do it. The only reason I was prepared to take advantage of this opportunity was because I had created and developed shows before and knew exactly how I wanted to pursue this and make it my own.