Updated 3/29/2019: We’ve updated this post to include some more recent favorites. Enjoy!
Since the first conference way back in 1984, TED Talks have inspired us, captivated us, and given us something thought-provoking to watch over lunch. To help you catch the can’t-miss gems of TED’s 300+ design-focused talks, we’ve hand-picked a few of our favorites.
1. “How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too)” by Margaret Gould Stewart
Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons are seen more than 20 billion times a day, making them some of the most-viewed design elements ever created. Margaret Gould Stewart leads product design at Facebook and shares three rules for design at such a massive scale, where a tiny tweak to that “like” button could cause outrage.
2. “Why you should make useless things” by Simone Giertz
Most of us can identify with the fear of failure. But how do you fail at…failing? Simone Giertz, serial—and purposeful—fail-er, explains how the best thing she ever did for her performance anxiety was to begin to create useless things. From a teeth-brushing helmet to an in-your-face alarm clock, this is a story of creative confidence.
3. “The secret language of letter design” by Martina Flor
Have you ever noticed the letters on street signs, stores, restaurant menus, or covers of books? These letters are speaking to you, telling you something beyond the literal text. In this talk, lettering designer Martina Flor introduces you to this secret language and explains how changing the shapes, colors, and textures of letters can affect how we perceive them.
4. “How Airbnb designs for trust” by Joe Gebbia
Job Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb, built his whole company on the idea that people can trust each other enough to stay in a stranger’s homes. How did he overcome the fear of stranger-danger? Through good design. In this talk, he explains how design helps foster community and connection, instead of isolation and separation.
5. “Where joy hides and how to find it” by Ingrid Fetell Lee
Rainbows, bubbles, and googly eyes: Why do some images seem to evoke such universal joy? Designer and writer Ingrid Fetell Lee reveals the surprising roots of joy and shares how we can all find and create more of it.
6. “The first secret of design is… noticing” by Tony Fadell
Most of us get used to “the way things are.” But for designers, the way things are present an opportunity—how could things be better? The man behind the iPod and Nest thermostat shares some of his tips for noticing and driving change and innovation.
7. “The simple genius of a good graphic” by Tommy McCall
For the people who love infographics—aka everyone—this talk will open your mind to the endless possibilities of data visualization. Information Designer Tommy McCall explains how basic communication theory, matched with his passion for numbers, has allowed him to create simple graphics that explain the whole world around us.
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Margaret Kelsey leads content marketing at <a href=“http://appcues.com/">Appcues</a>. Before Appcues, she built content programs for InVision’s design community for 3.5 years and has roots in painting and PR. She’s a big fan of puns, Blackbird Donuts, and Oxford commas—probably in that order.