15 Inspiring Ted Talks to Watch on Design and Creativity

As a creative mind, you are always looking for new ideas and how to think outside of the box. One of the best options to refresh your mind and find inspiration at the same time is for sure, the TED talks conferences.

TED talks offer people the opportunity to learn from professionals on the topic. You’ll find experts not only sharing their success stories but their failures as well. Stories that will thrill, motivate, and inspire you to see things from another perspective. 

If you are looking for some inspiration, we’ve curated the best TED Talks that have inspired us to keep creating and designing. Whether you are an illustrator, graphic designer, photographer, or any other creative mind who just wants to spend time hearing some inspirational stories by great professionals, here’s your must-watch list.

Choose the topic you want to watch or keep reading to watch them all (you won’t regret it):

Talks for designers

Talks for photographers, font lovers, and designers

Talks for creative minds

You are fluent in this language (and don’t even know it)

For Christoph Niemann, we are all fluent in the language of reading images. This language can take a very complex idea and make it understandable in a very simple way. They do not only communicate ideas, but they can also evoke emotions and feelings. The bars of the wifi icon, for instance. Are you wondering how you can achieve that as a designer? Give yourself these 12 minutes of fun-creative talk and you won’t regret it!

“Your interaction with an image, your ability to read, question, be bothered, or bored or inspired by an image is as important as my artistic contribution. Because that’s what turns an artistic statement really, into a creative dialogue.” 

Intricate beauty by design

After 20 years in graphic design and typography, Marian Bantjes changed the way she was working to pursue a more personal approach to her work. The result of this transformation gave her great popularity. But what did she do? She started following her heart and her interests in order to create something beneficial to both the client and herself. She has begun using all sorts of materials and procedures, for example,  how she crafts valentines. Don’t miss out on this great talk where Marian shares her amazing work and her insights into life and design.

“I want as many people as possible to see my work, notice it, be drawn into it, and be able to take something from it. And I actually really feel that it’s worthwhile to spend my valuable and limited time on this Earth in this way.”

Why design should include everyone

A compulsory watch for every designer. Sinéad Burke shares her vision of how designers are not paying attention to everyone’s needs. Accessibility in design is something that we all now have to think about. Put yourself in Sinéad’s shoes and see if you can accomplish your everyday tasks without struggling. Who are we not designing for? Inspiring and well-presented talk to give you another perspective on design. Thanks, Sinéad!

“Design is but a tool to create function and beauty. Design greatly impacts upon people’s lives, all lives. Design is a way in which we can feel included in the world, but it is also a way in which we can uphold a person’s dignity and their human rights. Design can also inflict vulnerability on a group whose needs aren’t considered. ”

Design and discovery

Another hilarious must-watch talk on design is this one by David Carson. He shares some creations of his own and other found images that are quite disturbing, in a manner of speaking. Why? Well, Carson sees another way of looking at a design. The power of design that gets us to do one thing or another depending on how they are represented. He analyses a lot of issues, including how the media handled the 9/11 events or what could be wrong about changing the toilet symbols. The whole 22 minutes are worth it! 

“I’m a big believer in the emotion of design, and the message that’s sent before somebody begins to read, before they get the rest of the information; what is the emotional response they get to the product, to the story, to the painting — whatever it is.”

The power of time off

Stefan Sagmeister is a New York-based graphic designer, storyteller, and typographer who every seven years closes his studio for taking a yearlong sabbatical to refresh his creative outlook and to investigate. But he’s not the only one, chefs like Ferran Adria or writers like Danny Gilbert also tend to take a break from time to time to investigate in their fields. After the time off he came close to design again, it was fun and over the long term, it was financially successful. Great, right?

How photography connects us

The former director of photography for National Geographic, David Griffin, talks about how great photographs can create a flashbulb memory to the viewer. Throughout his talk, he shows great masterpieces created by National Geographic photographers and raises awareness of the importance of storytelling, because nowadays everyone can take photos, right? But to be a great photojournalist you need to know how to achieve a visual narrative

You are going to be moved by the stories behind photographs in Iraq, India, or Antarctica. Stories that go beyond the superficial shoot and create a real connection to people and issues.

“Photography carries a power that holds up under the relentless swirl of today’s saturated, media world because photographs emulate the way that our mind freezes a significant moment.”

The secret language of letter design

Lettering designer Martina Flor talks about letters and how they are designed to convey a message without even understanding the word itself. She describes herself as a storyteller by drawing letters. We see letters every day in every situation. Imagine yourself in a foreign country with no idea of the language at all. You’d be able to understand certain street signs or messages across the city, and that is thanks to the design. She explains how altering the shapes, colors, and textures of letters changes how we perceive them. Join Martina in this lettering journey in which you’ll hear more stories than the drawing itself.

My life in typefaces

Matthew Carter is the designer behind typefaces such as Verdana or Georgia. In his talk, he explores the connection between technology and design of types. Explaining his journey from the mid-60s to nowadays, from working on a piece of paper to working directly onto the screen. Adapting to vector technology was necessary and working closely together with engineers was also required. Join Matthew in his pragmatic journey through types

“Type is very adaptable. Unlike a fine art, such as sculpture or architecture, type hides its methods. I think of myself as an industrial designer. The thing I design is manufactured, and it has a function: to be read, to convey meaning.”

Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed

Through this talk, Roman Mars shares the basics of vexillology (the study of flags) and compares it with anything else. Once you understand the design of flags, what makes a good or bad flag, you can understand the design of almost anything. Keeping it simple, deep meaning, few colors, uniqueness, these are some of the principles shared among the talk. Discover how some cities like Milwaukee or Amsterdam have done it in terms of their design flag and decide for yourself. Watch this talk and you’ll soon be obsessed with flags too!

“When you decode the world with design intent in mind, the world becomes kind of magical. Instead of seeing the broken things, you see all the little bits of genius that anonymous designers have sweated over to make our lives better. And that’s essentially the definition of design: making life better and providing joy.

Designing for simplicity 

Dr. John Maeda shares his vision of simplicity. But, what actually is simplicity? Is it good? Is it bad? Is complexity better? We are surrounded by simplicity, letter signs, logo design, branding messages. But at the same time, we can’t help but love complexity. We’re human beings: we love complex things. In this brilliant talk, John Maeda shares thoughts and experiences that have provoked something in his life. His work is very related to technology and art, among them you’ll find the stories of the Cheeto painting or the large fries scanning. Watch Maeda narrating his fun cookie versus laundry theory and his explanation. You’ll 100% agree with him!

“So, I think it’s as simple as this. You know, when you want more, it’s because you want to enjoy it. When you want less, it’s because it’s about work. And so, to boil it all down, simplicity is about living life with more enjoyment and less pain. I think this is sort of simple more versus less.”

4 lessons in creativity 

As she mentions in her talk, the best way to learn about anything is through stories, and she brings four great stories about how to create in the face of challenge, self-doubt, and loss. Join Julie together with insights from filmmaker Mira Nair, writer Richard Ford, sculptor Richard Serra, and photographer Joel Meyerowitz. How artists face the creative process? Well, there are artists who speak about how some of their most powerful work comes out of the parts of life that are most difficult. They also share how pushing up against the limits of what they can do, sometimes pushing into what they can’t do, helps them focus on finding their own voice. Four great lessons we cannot take for granted. Thanks, Julie!

“In order to create, we have to stand in that space between what we see in the world and what we hope for, looking squarely at rejection, at heartbreak, at war, at death.”

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Although we don’t like to admit it too often, we are all a little bit procrastinators. In this hilarious talk, Tim Urban shows us how he masters this art and gives us some insights into what is going on in his brain. Meet the Rational Decision-Maker, the Panic Monster, or the monkey inside his brain to know a little bit about how we act the way we act. But there are two kinds of procrastination: one happens when there’s a deadline behind the job to do and the other when there’s no deadline at all. Do you want to know the difference between them and how to get things done? Don’t miss Tim Urban’s talk!

Where joy hides and how to find it?

Designer Ingrid Fetell Lee introduces the topic of “Aesthetics of Joy“. She has studied over the course of her career things that evoke joy and why do they do that. She has come to the idea that round things, bright colors, symmetrical shapes, multiplicity, or a sense of abundance are the pattern behind the things we find “joyful”. But surprisingly, we live surrounded by a more grayish color palette. Why? Should we change that? Join Ingrid in this exciting talk through joy!

“Color, in a very primal way, is a sign of life, a sign of energy. And the same is true of abundance. We evolved in a world where scarcity is dangerous, and abundance meant survival.”

How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas 

Journalist Manoush Zomorodi explains in this talk the connection between spacing out and creativity. After researching and talking about that with neurologists and mathematicians, they came up with a project called “Bored and Brilliant”. It turns out that when you get bored, you ignite a network in your brain called the “default mode.” So our body goes on autopilot while we’re folding the laundry or we’re walking to work, but actually that is when our brain gets really busy. Nowadays, we don’t do one thing at a time, we do several, imagine yourself, you are watching TV, checking Twitter and sending an email, and that is supposed to be our time to relax and thinkCheck Manoush talk to learn more about this interesting topic! 

“A decade ago, we shifted our attention at work every three minutes. Now we do it every 45 seconds, and we do it all day long. The average person checks email 74 times a day, and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day.”

Your elusive creative genius

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert shares her thoughts on how creative must dissociate from their work in order to prevent emotional risks of creativity. She is better known as the huge best-selling author of “Eat, pray, love” but that’s a double-edged sword. How can you keep writing knowing that you are not going to top that? Well, don’t miss out on Elizabeth’s research and join her in the elusive genius story, you’ll love it!

Your turn

Sometimes we need to see life and design itself with another perspective. These talks have inspired us in many ways; we have learned, cried, laughed and in most of the cases, we have felt inspired to do many things, push boundaries and explore the creative outskirts of our minds

What do you think? Did we miss any other must-watch? Share with us your favorites and tell us if they changed you or the way you work!