Design and TED have shared a close relationship since the start of the conference in 1984. In fact, TED dedicates the “D” in its name to design, which explains how design and the inspiring platform have grown together.
For aspiring UX designers who love understanding the field through UX blogs or books, TED Talks are another great learning resource. But instead of leaving you to the wide gateway of inspirational video content, we have curated a list of the best TED Talks on UX design to get you started.
Our Favorite TED Talks on Design & UX
1. The first secret of great design is… noticing
Let’s begin with insider secrets that all young designers should know as they prepare to jump into the UX field. Tony Fadell, who created the concept of the iPod and co-founded Nest Labs, holds observation as the chief secret of good design.
Fadell discusses how designers need to break through the habituation process to notice everyday issues that require a solution. The aim is simple: improving user experience. He explains that designers like him “try to see the world the way it really is, not the way we think it is.”
2. The 4 superpowers of design
In this talk, Kevin Bethune addresses the misconception of what design is and who designers are. To add clarity to the definition of designs and designers, he dives into the superpowers that all designers share. These superpowers help shape emotional connections between businesses and their audiences by unlocking solutions for users.
Without spoiling the talk for you, here are the four superpowers that Kevin attributes to designers: X-ray vision, shapeshifting, extrasensory perception (ESP), and the capability to make others superhuman or boost their performance by improving their experiences.
3. Why design should include everyone
Sinéad Burke, who has achondroplasia (the most common form of dwarfism), sheds light on design's lack of accessibility, which inhibits independence for some people with disabilities. She stresses that design is not made with everyone in mind.
Burke is an Irish writer and broadcaster who is fit for bringing forth this important aspect of inclusivity in design for all established and intending designers.
4. How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too)
About 2.3 billion individuals use Facebook each month, and more than half of them use the famous "like" button. In fact, it falls among the most viewed design elements in the world. A redesign of the button in 2016 took half a year. This begs the question: what does it take to redesign such a tiny button that such a large audience is accustomed to using?
No one can answer this better than Facebook’s vice president of product design, Margaret Gould Stewart, which brings us to her worthwhile TED Talk. Steward digs into three principles for designing at a massive scale. These are: designing with a combination of audacity and humility, designing with data, and introducing change very carefully.
5. The complex relationship between data and design in UX
Undeniably, UX design revolves around enhancing user experience. However, data can be the means to that end as it helps designers understand user preferences. This TED Talk by Rochelle King elaborates on the nature of the relationship between data and design.
King is Netflix’s vice president of global product creative and was previously the global vice president of user experience and design at Spotify, where she managed the teams conducting user research and designing product experiences. She addresses the usefulness of data as a tool that “engages us [designers] in an ongoing conversation, where it helps us to hone and refine our customer instincts over time.” On the flip side, she acknowledges getting lost in the numbers as the drawback of too much data.
6. Design for all 5 senses
The design process can be elaborate, aiming to boost user experience with a visually appealing front. However, industrial designer Jinsop Lee shares his theory of designing for all the senses. Put simply, his approach is to make better designs by enhancing users’ multisensory experiences.
7. Got a wicked problem? Tell me how you make toast
A designer and pioneer in business visualization, Tom Wujec breaks down the design problem to solve it. To this end, he shares the simple exercise of making a toast by breaking the process down into steps. Wujec emphasizes that with this model UX designers can get to the bottom of any problem as well as understand why users act the way they do.
8. The art of first impressions – in design and life
Chip Kidd, a book designer, focuses on the first impression that designs leave. In an engaging session, Kidd explains that designers need to balance two techniques correctly—clarity and mystery—which he calls the yin and yang of design. Aspiring designers can learn a lot from this. Clarity makes your point clear to the user, reflecting sincerity. On the other hand, mystery, as Kidd puts it, “demands to be decoded,” provided it is done right.
9. Design, explained
Preparing yourself for getting a UX internship or adding the finishing touches to your portfolio? Destress from the worry by tuning into humorist and writer John Hodgman’s TED Talk, in which he shares his comic take on design. By breaking down the design of three modern iconic objects, Hodgman lightens up the mood and thoroughly entertains his viewers.
10. When we design for disability, we all benefit
Elise Roy, a former disability lawyer and human-centered designer who is deaf, centers her talk around design thinking. This is the process of finding solution-based answers to problems. She points out the need for change in a designer's mindset—designing for the disabled first. Roy shares examples of designs that were first designed for people with disabilities and came to become inclusive as all the users found them useful.
11. How Airbnb designs for trust
Joe Gebbia, co-founder and chief product officer of Airbnb, shares how he accomplished his dream of building a community for Airbnb with design. In this talk, he appreciates design for fostering trust to build a community as he shares, “We bet our whole company on the hope that, with the right design, people would be willing to overcome the stranger-danger bias.” Gebbia says design is not only about how something looks but about how it promotes the whole experience.
12. Intricate beauty by design
Lastly, in her talk, Marian Bantjes discusses the need for individuality in designs. As a graphic designer, illustrator, and typographer, Bantjes reminisces about how she built her career by maintaining the element of uniqueness in her work.
She boils down the motive behind her work into three questions. These are: “who is it for?” “what does it say?” and “what does it do?” Budding designers should adopt these principles when practicing their UX skills, she says.
Aspiring designers can learn a lot from these TED talks on UX design. If you wish to take your passion for user experience further, consider checking out UNH's UI/UX Design Online Bootcamp. This self-paced, mentor-led bootcamp is designed to bring you from a beginner to building a portfolio and launching a career in UX design.
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