The annual TED Conference in Long Beach is the crown jewel of the TED organization, a nonprofit dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading. Conference organizers bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, and challenge them to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less). The accompanying program guide is more than a collection of impressive biographies. It is a communications tool and a design object that has to express the big idea of the conference itself.
Early on, we realized that the event theme, “Full Spectrum” was more than a general indication of the conference content, but also a challenge to the standard TED presentation format and experience. This was where we started our exploration into the design of the program guide: what would the experience of the program guide be like?
We looked at previous years, and heard a lot about what conference attendees love and hate: “They hate small type,” “They love being able to take notes and rate the speakers,” “They love when it lies flat,” “They hate ‘too many’ pages…” We took a lot of notes, and came back with an approach that made inventive use of materials, was interactive and playful, yet highly functional.
The results were the highest-rated ever by the TED community. Here’s a quote: “Of the six years I’ve attended, this was the first time I took a meaningful set of notes, an activity that not only improved my experience of the actual event but that also serves as a great tool for reflection and integration now that the conference is over.”