50 Must See TED Talks about Creativity and Design

If you’re looking for ideas about design or seeking a creative muse, TED talks can be a worthwhile watch to stir your curiosity.

From the latest web trends to the meaning of happiness, these 50 Talks are sure to arouse your creative fire.

01. John Maeda: How art, technology and design inform creative leaders

Old meets new as designers find balance among the possibilities of technology, the solutions of design, and the questions asked by art. Maeda explores these concepts with attention to how they can inform effective creative leadership.

02. Don Norman: 3 ways good design makes you happy

Design is about more than function.  It’s also about form – how it looks, how it feels, how it evokes an emotion. These concepts play on a subconscious level, changing the way people think about their experience.

03. Margaret Gould Stewart: How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too)

Websites that interact with huge markets such as Google and Facebook provide their own unique challenges shaped by the sheer size of the end product.  Even the tiniest things matter, and emotional and intuitive responses are just as important as the science of manipulating data for a positive user experience.

04. Jinsop Lee: Design for all 5 senses

Design is more than visual presentation.  The best designs engage multiple sensations: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, because that’s how we interact with the world at large.

05. David Carson: Design and discovery

Communication is about more than words on a page.  It is about context that brings about an emotional response even before the words are read.  To create that, we need to dig into our own intuition rather than simply thinking it through.

06. Stefan Sagmeister: Happiness by design

Happiness in design comes in two forms: that which brings happiness to the designer, and that which brings happiness to the user.  Bringing both together creates truly great design.

07. Paul Bennett: Design is in the details

Design is not always about the big picture.  Sometimes the most important elements are those that are so small they are often overlooked, yet can have big payoffs when addressed.

08. Philippe Starck: Design and destiny

A comedic look at the place of the designer in the “big picture” of society, reminding viewers that object design is not just about the object but about the ultimate result of that project.

09. John Maeda: My journey in design

A personal look into one man’s experience with creative development, in which he merges his mathematical and artistic talents with his love of creative design.

10. Timothy Prestero: Design for people, not awards

No matter how cool and interesting an idea might be, it doesn’t go far unless it addresses the myriad different potential scenarios of both use and purchasing.  Ask yourself this: who is going to be the buyer of your product?

11. Jacek Utko: Can design save newspapers?

The original purpose of the newspaper – providing news – has been usurped by the instantaneous reporting of the internet.  Newspapers need to find new ways of presenting themselves in order to survive, and one of those ways is design that create visual interest not unlike the websites with which they are competing.

12. Paola Antonelli: Design and the Elastic Mind

Elasticity of mind is our ability to accept and try new things, to step away from what is comfortable and embrace innovation.  Antonelli discusses the “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibition and the Museum for Modern Art.

13. Paola Antonelli: Treat design as art

Antonelli talks about her appreciation of all forms of design, and how functional objects can still tell their own story.

14. Marian Bantjes: Intricate beauty by design

Graphic design is traditionally thought of as personally neutral, devoid of the individuality of the designer.  Bantjes, however, has made a successful career of expressing herself through this medium, injecting a personality that resonates with viewers.

16. Milton Glaser: Using design to make ideas new

What makes a convincing poster?  Designs need to not merely be good, but to be new, to grab the viewer’s attention because it has never been seen before.  Here, Glaser starts with old images and transforms them into something more modern.

17. Rochelle King: The complex relationship between data and design in UX

In web design, the data involved is both something to be managed and a source of information in the form of how viewers are currently using that data, which helps in the redesign process.

18. Matthew Carter: My life in typefaces

The connection between changing technologies and design is highlighted here by the creator of some of the world’s most famous fonts.  Fonts are adaptable, conveying meaning in their shape beyond the words they are used to form.

19. Sebastian Deterding: What your designs say about you

Designers bring the perspectives of society into their work, even things as nuanced as morality.  Products of the modern age reinforce social expectations even when that is not necessarily the primary purpose.

20. David Kelley: Human-centered design

Previously, design was primarily fixated on the product itself.  Today, the ultimate product is the user experience, and that involves bringing in human behaviors and personality.

21. David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

Creativity is something accessible in different forms to everyone.  However, society has repeatedly reinforced the notion that only “creative people” can be creative, leaving others to shy away from it in fear of judgment.

22. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius

Genius is not something you are, but, rather, something we all have.  The trick is finding that genius within each of us, even when others may encourage us to fear pursuing creative genius out of fear of failure.

23. Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play

Playfulness allows us to open ourselves up to creativity, to be open to new possibilities without the tendency we have as adults to self-edit to protect our own insecurities.

24. David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

Data visualization takes large amounts of data and displays it in more visual, comprehensible forms.  Besides making the data more digestible, visualization can also reveal patterns and connections less obvious in the raw numbers.

25. Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from

Johnson discusses the influence of environment on creative processes, whether it’s an intellectual salon, a coffee house, or the Internet.  A chaotic bringing together of minds is an important part of nurturing creativity as participants influence and challenge the ideas of others.

26. Derek Sivers: How to start a movement

What makes someone a good leader?  They need to be innovative and new, but they must also make it easy for others to follow.  Once a movement starts, both leader and followers continue to draw more people into their movement.

27. Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread

In a world of too many choices, marketing requires something more than your product merely being good.  It requires memorable advertisement, something new that doesn’t blend in with the ordinary things we filter out.

28. Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?

Creativity comes from a variety of places both internal and external.  Tan illustrates these principles through stories of her own life.

29. Matt Ridley When ideas have sex

Creativity does not just come from great minds.  It emerges from groups of minds which can cooperate and react to one another.

30. Kirby Ferguson: Embrace the remix

Few things are truly original.  Even the great innovators borrow from others and build upon ideas that already exist.

31. Julie Burstein: 4 lessons in creativity

Burstein speaks about generating creativity by paying attention to the world around us, embracing challenges, pushing ones limits to find their true voice, and embracing loss.

32. Raghava KK: My 5 lives as an artist

KK describes how his artistic life has transformed over the years.

33. Janet Echelman Taking imagination seriously

Necessity can be the mother of invention.  Echelman starts with seeking a new artistic medium when her paints went missing, then continues with the engineering issues surrounding the building-size fabric art she now produces.

34. Phil Hansen Embrace the shake

Some obstacles can’t be overcome, but that doesn’t have to stop you.  Sometimes embracing the obstacle, owning it and doing something new with it brings its own creativity.

36. Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off

Despite the creativity designers can express in their day-to-day jobs, having time for personal pursuits allows one to experiment and learn.  It also gives one a break from the everyday, to escape the boredom of routine.

37. Ken Robinson How schools kill creativity

Children have great capacities for innovation, yet their creativity is commonly stifled by schools instilling a fear of being wrong. There is a focus on academics rather than creativity, with the unspoken understanding that creative pursuits are not productive.

38. Young-ha Kim: Be an artist, right now!

Embrace your inner child: stop telling yourself it’s not productive or you don’t have time for it.  Art brings hope and laughter and allows us to reveal a bit about ourselves that we often can’t otherwise express.

39. Aaron Koblin: Visualizing ourselves … with crowd-sourced data

The program Mechanical Turk is used to create new renditions of objects by bringing in vast numbers of people to perform small parts of the assignment. Vast amounts of data are also graphically rendered.

40. Nathalie Miebach: Art made of storms

Storm data is transformed into sculpture, which is then transformed into music, turning invisible information into visual and auditory experiences.

41. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin: Stunning data visualization in the AlloSphere

Kuchera-Morin interprets scientific data in tangible ways, creating beautiful auditory and visual displays.  The results are both beautiful and functional.

42. Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley: Mapping ideas worth spreading

Berlow and Gourley map out the comments on TEDx topics on YouTube, using the information to visualize connections between ideas.

43. Manav Subodh: How to activate ideas

Because people need to dream of something before they can create it, they need to be in environments that immerse them in creative inspiration.  People generally do not embrace things until similar people are also doing it, so we should form these connections.  People are also reluctant to take the first step in expressing their creativity because they first need to overcome their fear of failure.

44. Dan Phillips: Creative houses from reclaimed stuff

Dan Phillips presents unexpected solutions to a variety of facets of his recycled homes projects, hoping to spark this sort of creative drive in others.

45. Isaac Mizrahi on fashion and creativity

Inspiration does not always come from research.  Sometimes it is things you randomly come across and appreciate.  Creativity can also come from boredom; if there isn’t enough light in your life, go out and create it.

46. Malcolm McLaren: Authentic creativity vs. karaoke culture

In the modern world, we expect instant easy gratification and immediate success.  That’s not, however, how the creative world works.  We confuse imitation with creation, a process that includes experiment and failure as much as success.

47. Lawrence Lessig: Laws that choke creativity

Laws that once accurately addressed contemporary issues are now outdated,  being applied to new  issues such as user-created content, digital sharing and other mediums which were not in the minds of those making the laws.

48. Maira Kalman The illustrated woman

Author and illustrator Maira Kalman discusses a variety of her projects and some of the inspiration from which she drew.

49. Chris Jordan: Turning powerful stats into art

Jordan literally illustrates various common things in our individual lives that become almost incomprehensible on a world-wide scale.

50. Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change

Art does not merely reflect culture.  It also changes our perspectives of it.

A bit of a jack-of-all-trades, Cassie recently left college lecturing in history to pursue professional writing and web design opportunities. An American by birth but Brit by heart, her favorite assignment to date (besides writing for Canva, of course!) has been contributing to the Doctor Who role-playing game.