99% Invisible is, by far, our favorite radio show on architecture and design. Although, granted, there aren’t that many. As Roman Mars, the show’s host and producer, admits: ”since these are disciplines usually appreciated through the eye, you might be thinking: well, that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. Fair enough. It turns out [though], I don’t need pictures to talk about design, [...] I like making stories that tell us about who we are through the lens of the things we build.”
Despite being an auditory medium (and a low-budget project, sponsored by KALW and AIA San Francisco, but produced in Mars’ garage), the show works because it gets to the heart of any design project: its story.
Well, it turns out we’re not the only ones into Mars’ quirky approach (Aside: if you are too, stay tuned, we’ll be interviewing him for our Disruptive Minds series next week). After launching a modest Kickstarter campaign to help offset costs, a goal promptly smashed in 24 hours, Mars upped the ante. But not to a price tag. Rather, he wanted a show of support. 5,000 backers.
The results for this little-show-that-could were nothing short of extraordinary.
Read More about 99% Invisible’s Kickstarter Campaign, including the very cool design prizes that went with it, after the break…
Mars’ decision to go for 5,000 backers, rather than a specific dollar amount, was a call-to-arms: Let’s send a message to public media. Let’s prove that independent, quality programming has an audience. That it deserves attention too.
The campaign was considerably helped out by two players: Debbie Millman at the Design Matters Institute, who pledged $10,000 if Mars reached his goal; and a truckload of really awesome design gifts that, frankly, we’d want even if we didn’t like the show (especially Stephen Wildish’s “Architecture Alphabet” poster, featured above).
In the end, the show didn’t just get over 5,000 backers, it made $170,477: enough to hire Sam Greenspan (Mars’ long-standing collaborator) exclusively and move him across country, to increase the number of shows from 30 to 40 episodes a year, to produce a video episode, and redesign the 99% invisible website. It was also enough to make it one of only 237 Kickstarter campaigns to have made over $100,000 and, moreover, the most funded Kickstarter campaign in Journalism, ever.
We’ll be keeping you updated with 99% Invisible‘s progress (plus that upcoming interview we told you about). But for now, we suggest you check out one of our favorite episodes, “Purple Reign” – an exploration of how the public sees a building vs. how the architect does (spoiler alert: it’s not the same). The episode’s a great introduction to the kind of quality programming Mars will now (thanks to Kickstarter) be making a lot more often in the future. We can’t wait.