The most tangible thing about podcasts is whatever device you use to play them on and the headphones you listen with. Seung Tae Oh, a design student at the UK’s Royal College of Art, aims to change that with his graduate project “Making Podcast Physical.”
Oh created different ways to physically interact with three podcasts.
The first is Serial, a show that spends a whole season unpacking one true story, such as the murder of an American teen in 1999. The episodes are released weekly, forcing listeners to hear the story develop sequentially. For its design, Oh made a box set for both of Serial‘s two seasons, including a speaker and an envelope for each episode. The envelope holds materials, such as images, that relate to its corresponding episode. It also has a RFID tag attached to it, which causes the episode to play when it’s slid into the box set’s built-in sleeve.
For the podcast 99% Invisible, Oh created a packet for each episode of the show, which focuses on design around us that often goes unnoticed with a different topic for each installment. Oh writes on his website that each packet has four major elements, starting with the cover he designed specifically for each episode. The QR code allows people to play the episode from their smartphones, and the booklet and additional material includes supplementary information.
The last podcast is It’s Your Universe, which uses nine episodes to explore the nine planets, including Pluto. For Oh’s project, each episode is represented by a sphere of the same shape and size, but weighs differently according to each planet’s gravitational force. The spheres all have a copper finish around the middle with an image of the corresponding planet on the top and bottom. Listeners can also scan the image with their smartphones to hear the episode.
The project’s goal is to show how the “possibilities of physicality” can make digital audio collectable, enhance it with visuals and expand its market and audience, Oh writes.
The project taps into the nostalgia of actually holding things and pressing buttons to make them work — similar to the phenomenon that drives the craze for vinyl players — but just brings it to a medium that never really had an experience attached to it before.
So if pressing play on your smartphone just isn’t enough to resonate with you, check out Oh’s latest work.