6 TED Talks All Designers Should Watch

Posted on May 4, 2017 | Updated on January 25, 2023

As a designer, it is vital that you stay on top of new trends in your field. You need to learn ways to grow your business and get smarter about everything. Not to mention avoiding procrastination and looking at the world like an artist. Every year, experts in all types of topics give TED talks. These topics are meant to help you advance in various areas. Some speeches, in particular, speak to designers.

Courtesy of Giphy

Fortunately, these talks are available to view anytime, so you can choose from the best of the best TED talks of all time. What better way to use your downtime — or when you are procrastinating — than watching a talk that will inspire or grow you as a designer? Here are six that you won’t want to miss:

1. How to Build Your Creative Confidence by David Kelley

David Kelley’s TED talk is about building your creative confidence. This is a great place for every designer to start their TED talk journey. He’ll help you learn how to overcome self-doubt and indecision, so you can become the very best designer you can be.

Kelley is the founder of IDEO, a design firm that created legendary designs. Ever hear of the thumb up/thumb down on TIVO’s remote control devices? He was originally an electrical engineer, but went back to Stanford to study its cross-disciplinary course in design, where he was able to learn how to work with both his engineering degree and artistic talents.

In this particular talk, Kelley talks about creativity not only being the domain of a few artists, but also how it can apply to even the most practical person. He shares stories from his own design career. And, he gives practical advice about how to build your confidence as a designer.

View this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence

2. Designing Objects That Tell Stories by Yves Behar

Yves Behar is a designer who has created some truly unique and innovative products, such as the Leaf lamp and Jawbone headset. In his talk on designing objects that tell stories, he discusses objects that tell a story.

As a designer, you want to spend your time creating things people will remember for years to come. This talk focuses on how to find things to design that are more significant by their very nature.

Behar also delves into the concept of not just creating, but creating with a purpose. He shares what he has designed in the past, how that idea came to be and what he is currently working on. His creativity and focus on story will be sure to inspire you.

View this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/yves_behar_on_designing_objects_that_tell_stories

3. My Life in Typefaces by Matthew Carter

If you’re still trying to get a handle on the best typefaces to use for every kind of design project, you’ll likely find this talk fascinating. Matthew Carter, creator of famous digital typefaces such as Verdana, shares the details of his very successful career. And he breaks down typefaces to the last pixel and letter, so you can fully understand the process used to create such varied types.

He is extremely detail-oriented, and shares his design philosophy and the techniques he uses to create amazing fonts that millions of people use and view.

View this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/matthew_carter_my_life_in_typefaces

4. Design + Discovery by David Carson

David Carson is a well-known type designer known for his grunge style. His magazine Ray Gun explored all the possibilities of ways to use text design for maximum impact. From placing text sideways on the page to slanting letters, he explored various placement, styles and types to create something new and unique for his readers. He is a big believer that the way text is designed on a page is the equivalent of art.

In this TED talk, Carson shares slides of some of his most interesting designs and makes witty comments about each. He points out different designs and the emotional response he has to each. He encourages listeners to use their own artistic eye when designing pages and explains that they have to use their unique way of looking at the world to create page art.

View this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_carson_on_design

5. Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator by Tim Urban

What artist doesn’t procrastinate from time to time? Designers, writers, painters and other creative types are known to put things off until tomorrow. Knowing you procrastinate is one thing, but learning to overcome the tendency is quite another. Tim Urban claims mastery of the procrastination habit, although you’d never know it from his success as an illustrator and blogger.

Urban shares his own issues with procrastination and takes you on a journey where he explains how he goes off on rabbit trails, getting lost in clickbait articles and spending time on YouTube watching videos that have nothing to do with the work he’s trying to complete. Plus, the entire talk is given with an underlying hilarity that will have you laughing and nodding your head in agreement.

Does this type of procrastination sound familiar? If you’re the creative type, it likely does. Urban also explains some ideas on how to overcome this bad, but hilarious, habit.

View this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator

6. Four Lessons in Creativity by Julie Burstein

Julie Burstein is a radio talk show host who often interviews different creative types. In this helpful TED talk, she chats about four lessons that will get you through any kind of challenge. She also shares tips from filmmakers, writers, sculptors and photographers on how to overcome challenges, deal with self-doubt and keep writing even through a painful loss.

If you’ve ever wondered why your muse isn’t cooperating, this talk will likely inspire you and help you feel you aren’t alone in the creative process.

View this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/julie_burstein_4_lessons_in_creativity

Courtesy of Giphy

These are just six of the hundreds of amazing talks that can be found on the TED website. Every year, new talks are added, so you’ll want to visit TED often for new inspiration and ideas.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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