Inspiring TED talks about design

David Carson on design + discovery

David Carson’s boundary-breaking typography in the 1990s, in Ray Gun magazine and other pop-cult books, ushered in a new vision of type and page design — quite simply, breaking the traditional mold of type on a page and demanding fresh eyes from the reader. Squishing, smashing, slanting and enchanting the words on a layout, Carson made the point, over and over, that letters on a page are art. You can see the repercussions of his work to this day, on a million Flash intro pages (and probably just as many skateboards and T-shirts).

 

Chip Kidd: Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.

You know a Chip Kidd book when you see it — precisely because it’s unexpected, non-formulaic, and perfectly right for the text within. As a graphic designer for Alfred A. Knopf since 1986, Kidd has designed shelves full of books, including classics you can picture in a snap:Jurassic Park, Naked by David Sedaris, All the Pretty Horses … His monograph, Chip Kidd: Book One, contains work spanning two decades. As editor of comics for Pantheon, Kidd has commissioned work from graphic novelists like Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Dan Clowes and Ben Katchor. He’s a novelist as well, author of The Cheese Monkeys and The Learners.

 

Stefan Sagmeister: Designing with slogans

Stefan Sagmeister is no mere commercial gun for hire. Sure, he’s created eye-catching graphics for clients including the Rolling Stones and Lou Reed, but he pours his heart and soul into every piece of work. His design work is at once timeless and of the moment, and hispainstaking attention to the smallest details creates work that offers something new every time you look at it.

While a sense of humor invariably surfaces in his designs, Sagmeister is nonetheless very serious about his work; his intimate approach and sincere thoughtfulness elevate his design. A genuine maverick, Sagmeister achieved notoriety in the 1990s as the designer who self-harmed in the name of craft: He created a poster advertising a speaking engagement by carving the salient details onto his torso.

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Tim Berners-Lee on the next Web

In the 1980s, scientists at CERN were asking themselves how massive, complex, collaborative projects — like the fledgling LHC — could be orchestrated and tracked. Tim Berners-Lee, then a contractor, answered by inventing the World Wide Web. This global system of hypertext documents, linked through the Internet, brought about a massive cultural shift ushered in by the new tech and content it made possible: AOL, eBay, Wikipedia, TED.com…

Berners-Lee is now director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which maintains standards for the Web and continues to refine its design. Recently he has envisioned a “Semantic Web” — an evolved version of the same system that recognizes the meaning of the information it carries. He is also a senior researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and AI Lab.

 

 

Ze Frank’s web playroom

Ever since his “How to Dance Properly” viral video — born as a party invite for 17 friends — hit the Web in 2001, Ze Frank has been making people giggle, guffaw and gasp out loud whilst procrastinating at work. He defines, in many ways, the genre of online comedy, and continues to innovate madly on the form.

In 2006 he launched a year-long daily video blog called The Show with Ze Frank, which Slate.com called “the best sustained comedy run in the history of the Web.” His rapid-fire delivery and absurd explorations in audience participation (like Earth Sandwich) has influenced a generation of digital native YouTubers. Perhap his most brilliant move: calling on fans to write the show for him. Using collaborative tools, online viewers collectively put words in his mouth (and props in his lap); he faithfully performed this wiki-comedy each week for his “Fabuloso Friday” show.

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Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs

“Ethno-mathematician” Ron Eglash is the author of African Fractals, a book that examines the fractal patterns underpinning architecture, art and design in many parts of Africa. By looking at aerial-view photos — and then following up with detailed research on the ground — Eglash discovered that many African villages are purposely laid out to form perfect fractals, with self-similar shapes repeated in the rooms of the house, and the house itself, and the clusters of houses in the village, in mathematically predictable patterns.

As he puts it: “When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganized and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that the Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet.”

His other areas of study are equally fascinating, including research into African and Native American cybernetics, teaching kids math through culturally specific design tools (such as theVirtual Breakdancer applet, which explores rotation and sine functions), and race and ethnicity issues in science and technology. Eglash teaches in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and he recently co-edited the book Appropriating Technology, about how we reinvent consumer tech for our own uses.

 

 

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