20 UX Design Ted Talks you should check out
TED is an incredible free of charge resource that offers everlasting inspiring talks from some of the best designers and innovators all over the world. In the Studio, we have been listening for years to TED Talks about design because we consider them inspiring for our job and, in some cases, even funny.
Today we wanted to share with you a list of those which inspire us the most. We listed them in chronological order, starting in 1998. If you know about some other more that you think are worthy of being in this record, leave it in the comments, and we will make sure to add it.
And now, let’s enjoy these interesting speeches.
Milton Glaser. “Using design to make ideas new”. February 1998
We decided to start with this illuminative and quite old talk. It was back in 1998 and the video is from the TED archive. In this talk Milton Glaser, legendary graphic designer, dives into the analysis of new paintings inspired by Priero della Francesca and from there he reflects about composing a convincing sign deconstructing an idea and building it back in a new way.
Don Norman. “Three ways good design makes you happy”. February 2003
We could not miss in our selection the great master’s talk, design critic Don Norman. Almost twenty years have passed since this talk, but it is still up-to-date: Norman takes his incisive look towards beauty, fun, pleasure and emotion, while at the same time he analyzes the design that makes us happy. He points out the three emotional levels that a properly designed product should follow to be successful.
David Carson. “Design and discovery”. February 2003
Great design is a journey of endless discovery, so having a good and healthy sense of humour can help. Sociologist and surfer who turned into designer David Carson runs over a few amazing slides (some of them really fun) of his work and he finds some pictures.
David Pogue. “Simplicity sells”. February 2006
David Pogue, New York Times columnist and technology geek, points out the worst technology interface designs, and provides us with some inspiring examples of products that met their expectations. To cheer things up, he even starts to sing.
From Microsoft all the way to Dell, no interface is safe. You can’t miss this talk, or maybe show!
Philipe Starck. “Design and destiny”. March 2007
Philipe Starck, world famous French industrial designer recognisable for his designs’ functionality and aesthetics, dedicates 18 minutes analysing the roots of the question “Why should we design?”. A talk worth listening to with close attention: a mantra that suits all of them. Beneficial for people that will use the product is key for designing. “It is not about designing the object for the object, it is about the result”.
Paula Scher. “Great design is serious, not solemn”. May 2009
Designer Paula Scher looks back at a life in design and pinpoints the moment when she started really having fun. Her career mixes corporate identity with impressionist geography.
Marian Bantjes. “Intricate beauty by design”. February 2010
In graphic design, Marian Bantjes says, throwing your individuality into a project is heresy. However in this video she explains how she built her career doing just that, bringing her signature delicate illustrations to storefronts, valentines and even genetic diagrams.
Lastly, in her talk, Marian Bantjes talks about the need for individuality in design. As a graphic designer, illustrator and typographer, Bantjes recalls how she built her career by maintaining the singularity element in her work.
Her work reasoning in a nutshell: “Who is it for?”, “What does it say?” and “What does it do?”. Promising designers should adopt these principles when they practice their UX abilities, she explains.
David MacCandles. “The beauty of data visualisation”. July 2010
In this talk, David McCandless, a data journalist, examines how designers can fight against “information overload” by designing information to make sense and tell stories. He uses some great images and interesting ideas about how context, psychology and empathy can help users to understand the world around them.
Our digital lives are surrounded by complex data. From media trends up to Facebook status updates, we as users are asked to continuously analyse, sort out and understand ever larger quantities of information. It is up to UI and UX designers to make data understandable.
David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information saturation and it may just change the way we see the world.
Renny Gleeson. “404. The story of a page not found”. February 2012
Nobody wants to see the 404: Page Not Found. But as Renny Gleeson shows us, while he runs through a slideshow of creative and funny 404 pages, every error is really a chance to build a better relationship.
In this TED talk, Gleeson discloses how he and his tech startup developed the best 404 experiences for users. Having empathy with the user and recognising design’s potential is key for UX design in 404. After all, as Gleeson says, “It is the small things nicely done that really make a difference. Well designed moments build up brands.”
John Hodgman. “Design, explained”. March 2012
John Hodgman, humorist and writer, “explains” design behind three modern iconic objects.
In this talk he shares his comical view on design. While unravelling these three iconic objects, Hodgman cheers the atmosphere and really entertains the audience.
Jinsop Lee. “Design for all 5 senses”. February 2013
Good design looks great, yes, but why shouldn’t it also feel great, smell great and sound great? Designer Jinsop Lee (a TED Talent Search winner) shares his theory of 5-sense design, with a handy graph and a few examples. His hope: to inspire you to notice great multisensory experiences.
Design process can be elaborated, with a focus on improving user experience with an attractive visual front. However, industrial designer Jinsop Lee shares his theory in design for all senses. In a few words, his focus is improving design while also improving the multi sensorial experience of users.
Tom Wujec. “Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast”. June 2013
Making toast doesn’t sound very complicated — until someone asks you to draw the process, step by step. Tom Wujec loves asking people and teams to draw how they make toast, because the process reveals unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work. Learn how to run this exercise yourself, and hear Wujec’s surprising insights from watching thousands of people draw toast.
Designer and business visualisation pioneer, Wujec analyses the design problem to solve it. For this, he shares this simple practice of dividing the process step by step. Wujec points out that with this model, UX designers can dive into the bottom of any problem and understand why users act the way they do.
Margaret Gould Stewart. “How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too)”. March 2014
Nobody can answer this question better than the previous vice president of Product Design of Facebook (now Meta), Margaret Gould Stewart, which drives us to her worthy TED talk. Stewart dives into three cornerstones for big scale design: designing with a combination of audacity and modesty, designing with data and introducing changes gently.
Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons are seen 22 billion times a day, making them some of the most-viewed design elements ever created. Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, outlines three rules for design at such a massive scale, one so big that the tiniest of tweaks can cause global outrage, but also so large that the subtlest of improvements can positively impact the lives of many.
The redesigning of the “like” button in 2016 took half a year. This bring up a question: What do we need to redesign a button so small that an audience so big is so used to seeing?
Rochelle King. “The complex relationship between data and design in UX”. October 2014
Rochelle King is vice president of Global Product Creativity in Netflix, and previously vice president of Global User Experience and Design in Spotify, where she directed teams carrying out user research and designed product experience. Her TED talk tackles the nature of the relationship between data and design.
She considers the utility of data as a tool that “involves us (designers) in a continuous conversation, which helps us perfecting and refining our clients’ instincts with time”. On the other hand, she recognises getting lost with numbers as an inconvenience of data over exposure. Without a doubt UX design revolves around improving the experience of users. Nevertheless, data can be the mean toward this objective, since it helps designers understand user preferences.
Tony Fadell. “First step in design is… Noticing”. March 2015
A very inspiring talk for young designers getting ready to jump into the UX world. Tony Fadell, creator of the iPod concept and co-founder of Nest Labs, considering observation as the main secret of great design.
As human beings, we get used to “the way things are” really fast. But for designers, the way things are is an opportunity … Could things be better? How?
Fadell takes a look into how designers must get past the process of “getting used to” and realise that everyday problems require a solution. The objective is clear: improve user experience. He clarifies that designers like him “try to see the world how it really is, not how we think it is”.
It is a great opportunity to listen to his incredible piece of advice to improve solutions in products.
Chip Kidd. “The art of first impressions — in design and life”. May 2015
Chip Kidd, Book Designer, focuses on first impressions that designs leave. In this interesting speech, Kidd explains how designers must balance appropriately two techniques, clarity and mystery, what he calls design’s yin and yang. Clarity helps make your point sharp for users, showing sincerity. Additionally, mystery, as he states, “demands to be solved”, as long as it is done correctly.
Kidd knows all too well how often we judge things by first appearances. In this hilarious, fast-paced talk, he explains these two techniques designers use to communicate instantly, clarity and mystery, and when, why and how they work. He celebrates beautiful, useful pieces of design, skewers less successful work, and shares the thinking behind some of his own iconic book covers.
Elise Roy. “When we design for disability, we all benefit”. September 2015
“I believe that losing my hearing was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received,” says Elise Roy. As a disability rights lawyer and design thinker, she knows that being Deaf gives her a unique way of experiencing and reframing the world — a perspective that could solve some of our largest problems. As she says: “When we design for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm.”
We have already discussed this talk in our blog (in Spanish) concerning Citia Gonzalez’s, Mobile Product Designer for Platzi, intervention for our Live in World Usability Day 2021, where she strongly recommends watching it.
Elise Roy points out the need for a change in designers viewpoint: design for disability first. Roy shares examples of designs thought for for disabled people first and became inclusive as every user found them useful.
Joe Gebbia. “How Airbnb designs for trust”. February 2016
Joe Gebbia, cofounder and Product Director in Airbnb, shares how he managed to accomplish his dream of building the community for Airbnb with design. In this talk he thanks design for promoting trust to build a community and shares: “We bet all our company hoping that, with the right design, people would be willing to get over the stranger-danger bias”. Gebbia says design is not just about how something looks, but about how it can build up a whole experience.
Joe Gebbia bet his whole company on the belief that people can trust each other enough to stay in one another’s homes. How did he overcome the stranger-danger bias? Through good design. Now, 123 million hosted nights (and counting) later, Gebbia sets out his dream for a culture of sharing in which design helps foster community and connection instead of isolation and separation.
Sinéad Burke. “Why design should include everyone”. March 2017
Sinéad Burke, who has achondroplasia, sheds a light about the lack of accessibility in design, which prevents independence for some disabled people. She focuses on how design is not made thinking about everyone.
Burke is acutely aware of details that are practically invisible to many of us. At 105 centimetres (or 3' 5") tall, the designed world, from the height of a lock to the range of available shoe sizes, often inhibits her ability to do things for herself. Here she tells us what it’s like to navigate the world as a little person and asks: “Who are we not designing for?”
Kevin Bethune. “The 4 superpowers of design”. October 2017
No spoilers, we are going to let you know which four superpowers Kevin Bethune says every designer has: X-Ray vision, shapeshifting, extrasensory perception (ESP) and the ability to make others superhuman or boost their performance while improving their experience.
In this talk, Bethune approaches the wrong idea of what design is and who designers are. Adding clarity to design and designer definition, he dives into the superpowers all designers share. These superpowers help shape emotional connections between businesses and their audiences while unlocking solutions for users.
What about you? Have you already seen all these TED talks? What other TED Talks would you recommend?
This article is a translation of the following one published on our corporate website: