Two Teds walk into a bar, and Canva punches them both in the face

May 30, 2018 0 By John

This week I watched a couple TED Talk videos discussing best practices for design.  The two presenters, David Carson and Paula Scher, did a wonderful job with their speeches.  I also took the time to complete some tutorials related to design patterns.


David started off his presentation by showing two garage doors with the same design and same wording sprawled across the front.  His message is clear.  The way we design our messages has an enormous effect on how the message is interpreted.  In this case the words sprawled across one door made it seem like the owner was a ‘psycho killer’.  This would probably have the intended effect of keeping trespassers from parking in front of the owner’s garage.

David also makes it a point to state that graphic design has gotten simplified in years passed. I can agree with that.  There was definitely a minimalist movement taking place in ad or logo design for a while.  David goes on to say that he was happy to see the trend reversing itself as of late.  I on the other hand like things in their minimalist state.  When things get to complicated it just seems messy to me.


My favorite thing from David’s talk came around the twenty-minute mark of the speech.  David said that “as we get more technically driven, the importance of people becomes more than its ever been before”.  He makes a great point here.  Artificial intelligence can generate logos, images, ads, or basically anything we can program it to generate.  However, humans are fickle.  We grow weary of the seeing the same stuff.  This is especially true in advertisements or fashion.  If the algorithm generating this stuff cant detect this change in human interests, then there is a problem.  That’s why it is so important to have a designer who has a lifetime of experience to draw from in this subject.

Paula starts her TED talk out with a comparison that is a theme throughout the entirety of the speech.  She speaks of two states that you can be in the design industry (or any for that matter); ‘Serious’ and ‘Solemn’.  She describes provides a ton of examples of these two states.  The quick and simple explanation for them seems to be that solemn is when you are used to a subject and have developed a formula for something.  She makes this appear to be very bad, as you become complacent in your work.  She describes ‘serious’ as being the preferable state.  This state is one you usually don’t enter unless you are fresh to the subject being undertaken.


I found a fantastic quote from Paula’s talk that happens near the twelve minute mark.  She says, “The best way to accomplish serious design…is to be totally and completely unqualified for the job.”  This resonates with me as I found it to be completely true for many facets of life.  I have experienced in past jobs that veteran employees become completely blind to better ways of finishing jobs.  They become blind because they have been doing the same thing for so long that nothing else really stands out as plausible.


If I were to look for something that Paula and David contradicted each other on, I feel it would be rather hard.  I did see one small thing in regard to information portrayal.  David mentioned that one has to be very careful about the intended message that one portrays with their design.  Paula plays hard and loose with it near the end.  Particularly where she is describing how she was creating world maps with the information being wrong on purpose.  I know she had a different intent for those maps, but it is the only contradiction I could find while comparing the two.

The Canva tutorials seemed to be a lot of instruction on how to precisely do something.  A lot of it seemed to be teaching where to place text on the screen or asking you to choose a particular font.  Some even wanted you to choose an exact color for their particular tutorial.  I found this to be in DIRECT contradiction to Paula’s speech.  Paula was adamant that you not follow a formula.  This is a terrible violation of her vow against being ‘solemn’.

I truly enjoyed David and Lauras speech.  The Canva tutorials were ok, but I could have done without them.