5 TED Talks that will make you a better designer

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What qualities make up the best designers out there? Truth be told, it has much more to do with how you think than strong technical skills. Strong communication, forward-thinking, and empathy are all soft skills that lend a hand in crafting the best design solutions we know of today.

The TED Talks below were all selected with the purpose of challenging your design thinking and unlocking your highest potential as a designer. So, grab your favorite beverage and get comfortable because you don’t want to miss out on any of these nuggets of wisdom. Let’s go!

1. Start with why

Even if you’ve already listened to Simon Sinek’s iconic TED talk, it’s worth rewatching every now and then for a reminder that understanding your purpose and values (as a business, brand, or a designer) is much more impactful than simply what you do or how you do it. As a designer, letting the ‘why’ drive your design decisions rather than the other way around will make your work that much more relatable and appealing to your audience.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” — Simon Sinek

2. Why design should include everyone

Sinéad Burke’s inspiring talk poses the simple question, “Who are we not designing for?” Throughout this ten-minute talk, Sinéad challenges us to think about whose needs are not being accommodated for in the way our world is currently designed. While the talk focuses on obstacles in the physically designed world, the idea of accessible design should also transcend into the digital experiences we create. Get inspired to use your skills to amplify the voices and experiences of groups whose needs aren’t considered.

“Who are we not designing for? — Sinéad Burke

3. It’s not manipulation, it’s strategic communication

You’ve heard it before—communication is a must-have skill for designers of all trades. Whether you’re presenting designs to stakeholders or convincing a client why they should hire you, understanding how to effectively communicate your thought process and design decisions is a crucial soft skill to hone. In Keisha Brewer’s talk, she explains the art of strategic communication. Using this approach, you’ll learn how to communicate with purpose while showcasing value in order to achieve a goal.

“At the heart of it all, strategic communication helps you evoke specific responses out of your target audience.” — Keisha Brewer

4. Making it in the little leagues

Watch our friend Aaron Draplin as he shares his journey in design while highlighting the importance of using your passion and skills for the greater good. This TED talk opens your eyes to the larger role design can play in people’s lives, and the many gifts you, as an individual designer, have to offer. Aaron inspires us to use our skills to make a difference in other people’s lives because, at the end of the day, it’s much more rewarding than looking at design as a means to make money.

“It’s cool making money, but I throw away so many hours. Helping people… we can do a little more of that.” — Aaron Draplin

5. How to build your creative confidence

As designers, it can be really easy to compare our work to others, and deal with feelings of impostor syndrome. Design legend and founder of IDEO David Kelley gives a powerful talk about building the confidence to create and letting our ideas fly. He claims that creative confidence not only helps us come up with more interesting ideas, but also helps us make better decisions and work on the things that are really important in our lives.

“I decided the thing I most wanted to do was to help as many people as possible regain the creative confidence they lost along the way.” — David Kelley


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