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5 Amazing TED Talks to Inspire Designers


TED, in their own words, is “a small nonprofit dedicated to ideas worth spreading”. This conference, focused on Technology, Education and Design, started in 1984 as a way reconnect people with the power of speaking – that intimate experience of being in a room with someone passionate about what they believe in, and passionately sharing that belief.

Possibly the coolest part about TED, apart from the quality of their speakers & ideas shared, is the fact that TED is all about sharing and creative commons. What this means is that their website has a huge library of videos with great production value that are free for people like you and I to watch. There are talks based around advertising, marketing, industrial design, graphic design, and the list goes on and on. The scope of subjects covered is almost overwhelming, but the common link between all of them is the creativity of each idea shared.


I recently got a chance to attend TEDx Edmonton, an independently organized TED event in my city. This event was a hit, with great ideas shared throughout the whole day. This is what inspired me to write this post for you, 5 Amazing TED Talks to Inspire Designers. Some of the videos are directly related to design, some are about advertising, and some are about unique ideas – but all will inspire you and get your wheels turning.

Each video clocks in around 15-20 minutes. If you’re at work, be warned there are a few swears here and there, but nothing too bad. Besides, it’s professional development, right? Enjoy!

Rory Sutherland: Life Lessons from an Ad Man

This talk is an absolute masterpiece – both highly entertaining and highly informative. Rory talks about changing perception rather than changing the actual subject/product itself, showing some great examples along the way – something that really made me think when it comes to my creative projects.

Rory Sutherland TED talk

Seth Godin on Standing Out

Seth Godin is a marketing guru/rockstar/insertflatteringtitlehere, and it’s well-deserved. He’s a brilliant man, and he shares his brilliance with people every day through his mega-popular blog. Seth has a couple of videos on TED, but this particular talk of his really struck me as useful for all designers, and especially those who either freelance or run their own studios. In this talk, Seth shares his thoughts on the explosion of information, and how “very good” ideas are the worst you can have, as they’ll just become lost. It takes something remarkable – that is, “worth making a remark about” – to stand out. This is a concept we as designers can & should apply to our client work as well as our own personal work.

Seth Godin TED Talk

Hit the jump for 3 more awesome TED videos!

Paula Scher Gets Serious

Paula Scher is a well-known graphic designer who’s had a long and successful career; her name is synonymous with the iconic Citibank logo and the world-renowned design firm Pentagram. In this talk, Paula looks back on her career and discusses the idea of “serious play”. It starts off a little slow, but starts to really kick in around the 3 minute mark – a great view even if you just want to see some great design work. Of particular interest to me is the section regarding her work for the Public Theatre.

Paula Scher TED Talk

John Maeda on the Simple Life

No, not the Paris Hilton show; in this talk, John Maeda focuses on simplicity vs. complexity. I know I constantly harp to clients about simple, simple, simple; however, “simple” isn’t an all-encompassing design concept that works everywhere. An entertaining and informative talk, marrying technology and design, that is sure to get your design mind battling between complex and simple.

John Maeda TED Talk

Paul Bennett Finds Design in the Details

Keeping with the simple theme in the previous video, Paul Bennett explores effectiveness in innovative yet relatively simple solutions to overlooked problems. He shows some great examples of solutions his studio has come up with, and mentions a cool theory regarding “having beginner’s mind”. These ideas are ones that I’m looking forward to taking into my work; as we all know, being a graphic designer doesn’t just entail the technical work, but the conceptual work quite often as well.

Paul Bennett TED Talk

Hopefully these videos will get your creative brain working as they did mine. As well, feel free to share this post via the links below and subscribe to our RSS feed!

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