How does a trend become a classic? Avery Trufelman unmasks collective beliefs
For years, Avery Trufelman was part of 99% Invisible, a wildly popular show on design that’s been around forever. She helped Roman Mars tell stories about how the world gets built and where ideas come from. There, Avery created a series that blew everyone away: Articles of Interest, a podcast about the history of what we wear and what we say with the clothes that cover our bodies.
Now, let’s embrace the things that are invisible because of their everydayness and celebrate new beginnings — a new, independent season of Articles of Interest and the launch of Memberful Design. What can we learn about telling a good story and crafting the future, from someone who has radio in her blood and design on her mind.
All images from this episode
Avery Trufelman in conversation with Harald Dunnink at the design studio of Momkai, in beautiful downtown Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo by Martijn van Dam. Make sure to follow Avery on Twitter →
To be a true nerd of design there’s one podcast to rule them all: 99% Invisible. A wildly popular show on design that's been around forever, at least in internet terms. Since 2010, its creator Roman Mars has been telling stories about all the thought that goes into everyday objects that most people don’t think about.
Before it won awards and Ira Glass of This American Life raved about it, the show had to fight for its life. Podcasts were still quite underground back in 2012, and then 99pi ran their first, and very successful, crowdfunding campaign to keep them on the air. Afterward, Mr. Mars shared he was looking for an intern to join him in his garage. This caught the eye of a student, and fan of the show, who also happens to be our special guest of today: Avery Trufelman. Photo courtesy of Podcast Movement →
Avery’s parents used to be radio producers. They quit when they had her, but always talked lovingly about it. With the birth of podcasts, that dream became a reality for their daughter. In 2013, Avery joined Roman Mars in California, and soon they moved to an architecture firm that granted them a tiny space in the back to do what they do best, talk about how the world gets built. And each time the architects had their design meetings, Roman & Avery had to stop recording. But she kept going and eventually created a series herself that blew everyone away. Articles of Interest, a podcast about fashion. It’s not about the latest trends, but rather the history of what we wear and what we say with the clothes that cover our bodies →
Avery’s third season of Articles of Interest takes on a new direction and completely focuses on one theme: preppy clothes. Think Ivy League schools, Ralph Lauren polos, and Tommy basics. Next to Avery’s wonderful series, you can read more at The New York Times on how one Japanese book from the sixties became hugely influential in the acceptance of this style: ‘Take Ivy’. Photo of the new Ralph Lauren collection that puts the spotlight on historically Black colleges →
Avery created two seasons of Nice Try! A wonderful show about big dreams that didn’t go as planned, designs that went nowhere, and products that made, kept, and broke promises of self-improvement →
Memberful Design is a show about firestarters sparking initiatives that have a lasting impact. It was formerly known as Verwondering, an award-winning Dutch design podcast. Now, we’re bringing it to the international stage in English. View all previous 40 episodes on the predecessor website, verwondering.com →
In the podcast Nice Try, Avery dives into the world behind the design of the doorbell. A great example of how in-depth she explores a subject: “The American dream of a suburban house with a white picket fence cordons off the home as a haven, separate from the outside world. This personal, private utopia becomes defined by who gets let in. And that is determined by a device that isn’t often thought of as technology. But it's the first thing that you touch when you enter someone else’s home.” →
For 99% Invisible, Avery created an episode, The Pool And The Stream, that showcased her talent to find the connections that define the designs that surround us. It starts as a podcast about why California swimming pools are shaped like kidney beans. She traveled all around the world chasing this story. It has the three elements that define her work. These are useful in telling any story about creativity: First, it’s an adventure, driven by curiosity. Second, its research is solid. Thirdly, it’s meaningful, going the extra mile to be honestly informative with humor. Photo by Seanbonner →
As this exhibition stated, Finnish designers Aino (1894–1949) and Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) both envisaged architecture as an integrated whole. The curved pool in Finland became an inspiration for the famous swimming pool in the Donnell Garden in California, USA →
The Donnell Garden was on the cover of House Beautiful magazine in April 1951. This brought the clean garden style and its kidney-shaped pool into the view of millions of Americans →
At the end of each episode of Articles of Interest, Avery thanks her mentor Roman Mars. Starting from the very first episode, Kids Clothes. Photo by Austin Hobart →
In this episode of The Cut, Avery discussed what it means to be nice and what it means to be kind. Do you have to be one to be the other? →
Russell Shorto wrote a wonderful book on the history of New York. The Island at the Center of the World is a must-read. His argument is that “the Dutch founding of Manhattan — and of the colony of New Netherland, which extended across the whole Middle Atlantic region — seeded not only New York’s immigrant culture but America’s melting pot.” →
The book Avery raves about is described as: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. In equal measure famous and infamous, Janet Malcolm's book charts the true story of a lawsuit between Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, and Joe McGinniss, the author of a book about the crime. Lauded as one of the Modern Libraries' "100 Best Works of Nonfiction", The Journalist and the Murderer is in equal measure fascinating and controversial, a contemporary classic of reportage.” →
UnREAL Co-Creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro explains “what it's like to be a contestant on a reality show and how the producers can manipulate the situation.” →
A common story is that the uniforms of the SS, or even all German uniforms from World War II, would have been designed by the Hugo Boss clothing brand. This is not true. Hugo Boss' clothing atelier did make uniforms - for the Wehrmacht, the NSDAP, the SS, and the SA, among others - but in this Hugo Boss was not unique. There were dozens of different companies making Nazi uniforms. The black SS uniform was designed by two SS officers. This uniform was manufactured by Hugo Boss, a tailor in Metzingen →
We loved this book. It’s a beautiful, hardcover creation that’s all pink – even down to the side of each page. It’s very insightful, showcasing elements of design that are often overlooked: “While birth often brings great joy, making babies is a knotty enterprise. The designed objects that surround us when it comes to menstruation, birth control, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood vary as oddly, messily, and dramatically as the stereotypes suggest. This design-driven book explores more than eighty designs that have defined the relationships between people and babies during the past century.” →
Bugaboo has been revolutionizing the world of stroller design since its inception in 1999. On a mission to do the same for the company’s digital brand presence, Bugaboo and Momkai implemented a fully fledged e-commerce strategy and built new digital platforms aimed at its global audience →
The Fool is one of the 78 cards in a tarot deck, when numbered it’s often the first one in the series →
We hope you enjoyed this episode. Now, we want to hear from you! We’re researching what makes communities, memberships, and movements so powerful. Or in short, how to better design for belonging. You can help by sharing your own experiences in our first listener survey.
It only takes a few minutes to share your wisdom and it’s completely anonymous. Even better, we’ll share takeaways on a future show. So keep listening and let’s learn together. Many thanks from the entire Memberful Design Team and complete the survey now →