Check out our list of the 25 best TED Talks that all UX designers should watch
Pleasant user experience on any interface is crucial to adding and retaining users, but what’s the best approach to solving UX design issues? UX design can be ultra-simple or incredibly intricate. Great design is born from studying the habits of your users, and the best inspiration can come from fellow designers.
That’s why we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of 25 insightful TED Talks on UX design. Learn from the industry’s leading minds and explore new and creative ways to approach your next design project.
1. Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast: Tom Wujec (9:01)
How does the simple act of making toast help solve complex problems? Designer and business visualization expert, Tom Wujec, uses this analogy to put common design issues into perspective. He says we intuitively know how to break down complex things into simple things and then bring them back together again. This way of thinking can help UX designers break down wicked problems in their own design, and truly match the needs and wants of their users.
Watch: Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast: Tom Wujec (9:01)
2. Simplicity Sells: David Pogue (21:26)
User interface problems are all around us, and some bring us to the point of smashing our computers. David Pogue, a tech fanatic and New York Times columnist, gives a name to the frustration associated with an awful interface—‘software rage’. In this witty and anecdotal talk, David reminds us that a great user interface design is both simple and intelligent—the musical numbers are also a huge plus.
Watch: Simplicity Sells: David Pogue (21:26)
3. The first secret of design is… noticing: Tony Fadell (16:41)
With creations like the iPod and the Nest thermostat under his belt, product designer Tony Fadell is experienced with disruptive technology. In this insightful talk, Tony tells us how smart design can battle issues in human habituation. Learn how great design is born from seeing the world the way it really is, not the way we think it is.
Watch: The first secret of design is… noticing: Tony Fadell (16:41)
4. 404, the story of a page not found: Renny Gleeson (4:07)
Nothing is more frustrating than landing on a 404 page. They’re basic, unpleasant to look at, and a representation of a failed search. Renny Gleeson wanted to take this unpleasant experience and turn it into something users can appreciate. Discover how brands are forming stronger user relationships through 404 pages.
Watch: 404, the story of a page not found: Renny Gleeson (4:07)
5. The Beauty of Data Visualization: David McCandless (18:17)
Data journalist, David McCandless, had a fundamental question to answer when it comes to complicated data – what does it all mean? He set out to transform complex data like military spending, media hits, and Facebook status updates into easy to understand diagrams. He believes changing data into visual landscapes is the best way to navigate, analyze, and understand big data. Data visualization is here to conceptualize and simplify complex problems in user interface design.
Watch: The Beauty of Data Visualization: David McCandless (18:17)
6. How Airbnb designs for trust: Joe Gebbia (15:57)
Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb, is no stranger to creating awesome vacation experiences, but what about digital experiences? In his talk, he tells the story of how Airbnb started from a struggle to pay rent, to a booming business. He also explains that innovative UI design can break down ‘stranger bias,’ and help build trust in our communities.
Watch: How Airbnb designs for trust: Joe Gebbia (15:57)
7. How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too): Margaret Gould Stewart (12:56)
How do we design pleasant UI experiences on a massive scale? Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, dives headfirst into the issue of designing an interface for every user on any platform. An example of this kind of design, Facebook’s Like and Share buttons are used by billions of users every day. Listen in to learn the three rules of designing on a huge scale.
Watch: How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too): Margaret Gould Stewart (12:56)
8. Designers, think big! : Tim Brown (16:50)
There seems to be a trend in design that is catered toward sales and not towards adaptability. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, wants us to focus the whole user-experience with the concept he calls, “design thinking.” In the world of design, this means balancing desirability with technical feasibility. Learn more about how this new way of thinking creates new human-centric solutions.
Watch: Designers, think big! : Tim Brown (16:50)
9. Reinventing User Experience: Kes Sampanthar (10:06)
How do we make people care about design? Kes Sampanthar, director of media strategy at Cynergy Systems, thinks the answer is found in motivating users. Most design is focused on aesthetics or simplicity, but challenging users can create the most engaging and worth-while user experience of all. Find out how this concept of ‘motivational design’ can create a truly rewarding user experience.
Watch: Reinventing User Experience: Kes Sampanthar (10:06)
10. The best computer interface? Maybe… your hands: James Patten (6:12)
The future of UI and UX design may surpass the digital spectrum. James Patten, a robotics and kinetics expert, believes the best way to interact with digital information is with physical objects. This fascinating talk dives deep into exploring the synchronization of human interaction with a digital user-experience.
Watch: The best computer interface? Maybe… your hands: James Patten (6:12)(16:50)
11. The Complex Relationship Between Data and Design in UX: Rochelle King (11:11)
Building a website can be a challenge, and there usually is a struggle between how the users will navigate the site and how the organization wants it to look. Rochelle King, the senior designer at Spotify, wants us to embrace data in the world of design. She says that data creates an ongoing conversation between the designer and the consumer. Learn more about the power of data in UX design from her experience with the Spotify interface.
Watch: The Complex Relationship Between Data and Design in UX: Rochelle King (11:11)
12. The Impact of Persuasion: Don Norman (17:12)
Persuasion has an incredible impact on our lives. Don Norman, who was named by Business Week as “one of the most influential designers,” gives detailed examples of how we are being persuaded in our everyday lives. Whether we notice it or not, companies are designing interfaces to get our attention and influence our behavior.
Watch: The Impact of Persuasion: Don Norman (17:12) (6:12)
13. Designing for Simplicity: John Maeda (15:59)
How do we make technology and art simple? John Maeda, of MIT’s Media Lab, uses his interesting experience as an art designer to break down the benefits of simplicity. Life can get extremely complicated, so sometimes it pays off to act with simplicity.
Watch: Designing for Simplicity: John Maeda (15:59)
14. When We Design For Disability, We All Benefit: Elise Roy (13:17)
At the age of ten, Elise Roy lost her ability to hear, but she sees it as one of the greatest gifts she’s ever received. She served as a disability rights lawyer, and her experiences reinforced the importance of designing for disabilities. Her concept of “design thinking” has implications of improving the lives of people with or without disabilities.
Watch: When We Design For Disability, We All Benefit: Elise Roy (13:17)
15. Breakthrough Designs for Ultra-Low Cost Products: R. A. Mashelkar (19:40)
Does design have to be expensive and time-consuming? Engineer RA Mashelkar is an advocate for designing for all people. In this talk, he shares his experiences with low-cost design in India. Utilizing innovative design and creative engineering can help bring useful products to everyone regardless of income level. Learn more about the revolutionary movement of “Gandhian Engineering” and its future impact on the world.
Watch: Breakthrough Designs for Ultra-Low Cost Products: R. A. Mashelkar (19:40)
16. Intricate Beauty by Design: Marian Bantjes (16:28)
In the world of graphic design, your ego is not supposed to play a role in the finished product. Marian Bantjes, well known graphic designer, disagrees with this notion. By bringing her own emotions and style into her design, she was able to transcend the average. This talk explores the benefit of finding your passions and incorporating them into your everyday work.
Watch: Intricate Beauty by Design: Marian Bantjes (16:28)
17. Happy Design: Stefan Sagmeister (15:30)
Can design make you happy? Graphic designer Stephan Sagmeister explores moments of happiness in his life and how they connect to design. Find out how great design captures the visualization of happiness, and how the best designs actually make you happy.
Watch: Happy Design: Stefan Sagmeister (15:30)
18. Design and Discovery: David Carson (22:39)
Great design doesn’t come easy, and it requires a long journey of discovery. David Carson, sociologist and designer, explores the impact that intuition has on design. This humorous talk walks you through fascinating examples of design that work through the process of innovation and discovery.
Watch: Design and Discovery: David Carson (22:39)
19. The Three Ways That Good Design Makes You Happy: Don Norman (12:41)
How can design create beauty, wonder, and happiness? Don Norman makes our list again, but this time he looks at how designing with emotion can create happiness for viewers. There are hundreds of nuances that can make a design extremely dissatisfying or wondrously pleasurable. Find out the three ways great designs can create happiness in your life.
Watch: The Three Ways That Good Design Makes You Happy: Don Norman (12:41)
20. Design and Destiny: Philippe Starck (17:06)
Creating products involves a lot more than a simple design. Designer Philippe Starck—without the aid of slides—reinforces this notion by asking the question “Why design? Why do we innovate, and why do we recreate?” Philippe answers these questions and more with his entertaining 18-minute talk.
Watch: Design and Destiny: Philippe Starck (17:06)
21. Human-Centred Design: David Kelley (17:00)
For a long time products were being designed around the physical hardware, but there is a big shift happening in design philosophy. David Kelley, of IDEO, believes that the future of design should focus on the user experience. David calls this philosophy “human-centered design,” and it’s transforming the way we interact with products in our everyday lives.
Watch: Human-Centred Design: David Kelley (17:00)
22. The Art of First Impressions—in Design and Life: Chip Kidd (18:57)
First impressions go beyond interpersonal communication. They can also play an important role in the design. Book designer Chip Kidd explains the two main ways graphic designers can create first impressions—clarity and mystery. This talk shows great examples of how design can create lasting and meaningful first impressions.
Watch: The Art of First Impressions—in Design and Life: Chip Kidd (18:57)
23. The Agony of Trying to Unsubscribe: James Veitch (7:40)
Trying to unsubscribe from a product or service is becoming more and more difficult, and often creates unwanted frustration. Comedian James Veitch takes this common frustration and turns it into a talk that is both humorous and to the point. Find out how he was able to deal with the problem—hint; it may involve a bouncy castle.
Watch: The Agony of Trying to Unsubscribe: James Veitch (7:40)
24. How to make choosing easier: Sheena Iyengar (16:06)
We face hundreds of choices every day, and it can be affecting our purchase behavior in negative ways. Sheena Iyengar uses her detailed consumer research to pinpoint an issue that arises with an increase in choice. She describes this problem as “choice overload,” and it forces us to choose not to choose. Discover how businesses can combat this phenomenon in choice.
Watch: How to make choosing easier: Sheena Iyengar (16:06)
25. Design in the Details: Paul Bennett (16:05)
Great design doesn’t have to complicated or solve massive problems. Paul Bennett, of IDEO, reminds us that design should focus on the person that is using it and should also focus on the “tiny” things. Often, the revolutionary design comes from paying attention to universal and overlooked problems in our everyday lives.
Watch: Design in the Details: Paul Bennett (16:05)
We hope this list will inspire you to create the next big breakthrough in UX design. Get out there and think outside the box!
What was your favorite TED talk? Feel free to share this article with your colleagues, network, and friends.