10 Unmissable TED Videos For Designers

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) has been existed since 1984 with the primary objective to spread some really great ideas and experience related with technology, entertainment and design. You might not be familiar with this conference, but seriously, cool technological devices like Xbox Kinect is inspired by one of TED’s talk.

For sure it’s not just about complicated technology or hardcore design theory. TED is flooded by top-notch and innovative designers, developers and scholars, namely Tim-Bernett Lee, Don Norman, and Dennis Dutton, who are willing to share their life story, experience and vision for greater benefit of the world.

Since we web designer are a hybrid of web developer and graphic designer, I’m going to introduce you 10 unmissable TED videos that either explore the way to create great design, or urges you to think big in your design career, or even predict the next 5000 days of the web. All 10 videos might cost you 10 to 30 minutes, but it will absolutely be one of the greatest time investment in your life.

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1. Finds Design In The Detail – Paul Bennett

IDEO’s creative director, Paul Bennett shows us, in a funny sense that, how solving individual’s need is also solving corporate needs, in other words, how The Small can help facilitate and create The Big. The presentation will not cover creepy organization chart or ghastly death-by-PowerPoint thing, but series of playful products that actually solved small, universal and overlooked problems.

As a designer, we mostly design from our view, but not knowing that users are the one who actually use our product. Throughout several examples like helping healthcare system in Minnesota to improve patient experience, Paul Bennett tells us that looking from the user’s view is vital for solving their problems, which seems tiny but can actually cause a huge impact.

Paul then brings in some famous invention stories to advise designers to be aware of anything around you and transforming them into a simple solution for users. For him, spending too much time on thinking how to make product beautiful is just irrelevant, compared to solving user’s real need. View his talk for more practical examples and explanation.

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2. Design + discovery – David Carson

Many designers share how to make a great design, but they don’t quite much share how they make a great design through discovering the world. David Carson fit that hole by sharing his inspiring and amusing life discoveries that ultimately lead to his own great design.

Unlike most talks featured here, this talk is pretty random. However, it covers many kind of designs, especially typography designs with his own opinion expressed. One of the great and entertaining examples is 2 different parking signs that write the same phrase ‘No Parking’, but the writing style has caused the driver feel that one of the sign’s author is psycho killer, thus avoiding them to park their car before that sign.

The talk then progressed with more entertaining discovery, and David has touched more designs that have serious issues which should be noted by web designers to avoid the similar mistakes, such as bad emotion expressed by the character in the ads has ruined the entire feel of what should be happy advertisement, or putting inappropriate ads beside the 911 incident’s photo was a terrible mistake that will get people really angry.

David ended the talk with encouragement for designers to have courage to try something new, and he further made a great definition of ‘good job’. So this talk is not just about laughter and entertainment, it’s a real life discovery that is aimed to explore and solve real life design problems.

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3. Three Ways Good Design Makes You Happy – Don Norman

Don Norman is a design critic who confesses that anything that follows his advice will be usable yet ugly. But, in this talk, he’s going to discuss about the relationship of good design and emotion, and explaining 3 emotional cues that a well-designed product must hit to succeed.

In the talk, Norman explores design that is less functional but people bought it only for its beauty, and also the design that contains both immense beauty and excellent functionality. He thus extends his topic to explore the levels of information processing by human’s brain, and how we can build a design based on these information processing levels.

The information processing levels are broken down into 3 levels: visceral, behavioral and reflective. Visceral is the level where the brain tells us whether the thing, color, sound and even face is good or bad. You can decide which font or color will make customer feels good based on this level.

Behavioral is all about feeling in control, so generally it includes usability, understandings and perhaps the feel. Global knife is a great example used by Norman to explain this level.

The third level, reflective level, is explained through series of examples that prove that human buys something not for its functionality, but for deeper reason like their own images or environment protection, as explained by Norman.

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4. Happy Design – Stefan Sagmeister

This is a talk which will makes you laugh and feel very happy, and this is what graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister wants to share, how those happy moments of his life have to do with good design.

After sharing his amusing moments in Hong Kong, Stefan showed a list of happy incidents happened in his life, then brings audience to the discovery that most of these happy incidents have relationship with his design career. He then concluded that there are 2 ways of experiencing happy design: being happy while experiencing the design and being happy while designing.

Following the talk is series of real life stories that explore true happy design, which is the design that makes you feel really happy but not just some visualizations of happiness. The designer ended the talk by sharing three types of designs that brings you true happiness and, you can probably expect it, some of them are also very funny designs.

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5. Intricate beauty by design – Marian Bantjes

Doubtlessly, throwing your individuality into your products make them unique, and Marian Bantjes is not going to show you some case studies, but her real life experience that proved this ideology.

Marian was just like most designers before, believed that the ego should not be involved into design. But after 20 years in typography and graphic design, she decided to go for a working style with more personal approach, also as a humble attempt to do what she really loved. For her, it sounds like a bad decision, but something weird happened. She became extremely popular.

Since then, she decided to apply her personal style into her products, creating something that creates benefit for both customer and herself. She then showcased several designs which were imbued by her personal style, talking how they work and customers’ reaction to her designs.

Marian believed that with more personal approach applied, your product will be more compelling, interesting and sustaining. Does it bring joy? Is there a sense of wonder? Does it invoke curiosity? These are what she thinks about in her current product creation process.

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6. A Darwinian theory of beauty – Denis Dutton

Often we want to design a beautiful product, but we don’t really know about human’s perception of beauty. Denis Dutton wants to explore this particular topic to you, with what he’s called as the Darwinian theory of beauty. And of course, as the one who loves art, he explains the theory with very entertaining and lively animation.

Denis studies philosophy of art and aesthetics for a living. He figured out that this is an extremely complicated subject, as things what we human call beautiful are so different. It can be a baby’s face, movies like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, or even a stunning match winning goal in a World Cup soccer match. An account that explains the existence of beauty on everything is going to be insane.

However, he discovered that there is some sort of uniformity in human’s perception to beauty, and it even passes though human’s evolution process. He gave few persuasive examples, such as peacock’s beautiful tail and Archeulian hand axe, to prove that human has exactly the same perception to natural beauty and artistic beauty.

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7. Breakthrough designs for ultra-low-cost products – R.A. Mashelkar

Engineer RA Mashelkar wants to challenge your thinking about possibility, as he shared three real life stories that how products that seem impossible to achieve can be created by them for every people with low income in India. These are stories of faith and smart business.

The first story is about a production of $2000 car. Sounds really impossible as even you want to produce a worst car in the world, the production cost must still exceed $2000. But they did it. And the car functions very well, just like other car in the world. Behind the success is an ideology that, you cannot use the same method as before if you want to breakthrough. He then explains in detail that how they achieved the product.

Next story is even more incredible and touching. Ever seen artificial leg? It costs $20000 and you can only use it to walk, provided that the pavement is perfect and smooth. And guess what, since Indian’s society cannot afford this cost, Jaipur foot was created as a $28 artificial leg for them. It’s not even an alternative, as with Jaipur foot, people with leg disabilities can walk, run and even climb trees. Simply incredible.

He then talks about the medical story that sounds completely ridiculous but has been achieved in India. All shared inventions were impossible for human before, but then they were invented successfully. The drive behind these inventions are the belief that you can achieve the impossible, and also to create more from less for more. This is what R.A. Mashelkar considered as Gandhian Engineering.

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8. Simplicity sells – David Pogue

Simplicity, every designer knows about it, but not every designer can achieve it. David Pogue uses both he considered as worst interface designs and encouraging examples of great designs to let you know what simplicity truly is.

The video is funny, but it might not be that funny for PC user as throughout the entire talk, David criticizes anything about Microsoft Windows while praises Apple’s anything. However, bias didn’t mean all his points are not true. For example, why choices in old Microsoft Windows’ log off dialog box need to be in pop-up menu. It takes 3 clicks to shut down the computer while Apple Mac only needs 1 click.

There are also some awesome examples other than Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac, like Google’s simple user interface and speech recognition software that focused on increasing speech recognition’s accuracy. All these examples are telling you that the simplicity will be the ultimate reason that a customer buys your product.

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9. The next Web – Tim Berners-Lee

20 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. But he didn’t cease to create, and now he’s building a web for open, linked data that could potentially unlock our data and reframe the way we use it.

What is linked data? Think about a world where everybody put data on the web and so everything you imagined is on the web. It’s called linked data. To help you understand the concept easier, here are four principles for Linked Data, taken from the author’s note:

  1. Use URIs to identify things.
  2. Use HTTP URIs so that these things can be referred to and looked up (“dereferenced”) by people and user agents.
  3. Provide useful information about the thing when its URI is dereferenced, using standard formats such as RDF/XML.
  4. Include links to other, related URIs in the exposed data to improve discovery of other related information on the Web.

The entire presentation revolves around these four principles with elaborations that touch real life examples and actual activities Tim Berners-Lee and others are doing to promote linked data.

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10. The next 5,000 days of the web – Kevin Kelly

World Wide Web is undoubtedly one of the fastest evolving things in human history, and it will evolve even faster than before. Kevin Kelly discusses about what will possibly happen in the next 5000 days of the web.

Kevin Kelly thinks that by buying computers, handhelds, cell phones and laptops that have connection to the world wide web, we are actually constructing a single, global machine. How big is this machine? Well, according to his survey, it has 100 billion clicks per day, and there are 55 trillion links between all web pages of the world.

So how constructing a global machine will influence the future? The answer is everything will be connected to the web, and everything will have something like chip that’s connected to the web. And ultimately, we human will be co-dependent with this global machine that we created.

It’s not just about connection, but also the existence of the linked data. One of the great example given by Kevin is you no longer need to tell about yourself again when you sign up a social site, as linked data will identify you and your entire friend’s network in the web. It’s simply because the web has linked every existed data in the web and taking information from those data.

Since the linked data needs every bit of our information, we will need to be completely transparent about ourselves, sharing our all personal information to the web. This is the price that we have to pay in order to achieve this very convenient feature. Will this be the future of the web, or the future of the humanity? You will need to figure out the possible answer by following this talk.

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I have really enjoyed so many TED videos yet I haven’t seen a designer or developer talking about how to make big money from design career. For me, what I’ve really learned from TED is web designer’s life is not just about making big money, but a life of pursuing art, skill, experience, leadership and contribution. I admired them, and I hope to be part of them.

Which TED video impresses or teaches you most? 10 is actually a very small number for TED that contains few hundred videos, so if you have discovered a great talk about design or web development, do kindly share with us!

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