Podcasts are a decidedly aural experience. But to Seung Tae Oh, there’s ample opportunity to enrich the stories podcasts tell through tactile design.
So for his graduate project from the Royal College of Art, Oh reimagined three popular podcasts as objects people can collect and share.
Take Serial. The podcast detailed the saga surrounding the murder of a Baltimore teen. Oh created a box set for the podcast: It includes a fabric-wrapped case that holds envelopes for each episode, and those contain images and ephemera related to the story–almost like an evidence kit. He also designed a cardboard speaker that comes in the case.
For 99 Percent Invisible, a popular design podcast, Oh created pamphlets for the episodes. Each one contains a QR code that listeners can scan to access the episode directly, plus visual aids related to the topic at hand–a useful complement to audio stories that often focus on the visual world. The idea is that listeners will receive these in the mail in exchange for donations to the show.
Oh riffed on astronomy for his adaptation of It’s Your Universe, a podcast about explaining outer space. He made metal spheres with photographs of the planets the episodes discuss, which, with image-recognition software, also acts as a shortcut to play the episode. While they’re all the same size, they have different weights that correspond to how strong the planets’ gravitational pull is.
“We can listen to our favorite stories anytime, anywhere,” Oh tells Co.Design via email. “But I think it overlooks how people own, collect, and share their favorite things with friends and family like we do with books and CDs. That’s why I started exploring the possibilities of physical form. Also, physical elements will augment the experience of listening by giving more information.”
When MP3s took over, many people lamented the loss of a physical album and the joy of unwrapping a CD (or vinyl record!) that went with it. Podcasts, on the other hand, have never had that experience associated with them. Today, we interact with so many intangible things that creating a physical presence and a visual identity could help give a podcast some real staying power.