TED 2019: Bigger Than Us - Visuals & Stage Design

  • Colours & Shapes was invited to design the main stage experience for TED 2019, including a complete stage redesign, visuals for all 12 sessions, title design, and projection mapping. Our design elevates the conference theme ‘BIGGER THAN US’ by exploring themes of multiplicity, scale and an environmental quality that prompts the audience to feel a sense of awe — of being part of something much bigger than ourselves.

  • Our stage design extends the projection canvas all the way to the stage deck, broken apart and punctuated by architectural forms on stage. These objects are anchored in classic architectural forms, namely, the exedra — a semi-circular recess that originated in ancient Greece as a location for public discourse, dialogue and philosophy.

  • Conference Opener

    We were approached by TED to craft an opener that would bring the playful and vibrant brand to life. We took Jordan Awan's incredible illustrations and then watched them build out into the iconic word mark that is the anchor for the 2019 brand.

    Illustration: Jordan Awan // Sound Design: John Poon // Animation: Ryan Woolfolk

  • Session 1: Truth

    We begin TED 2019 by setting out on a search for truth. A community of explorers search for gems of knowledge and truth in a dark, cavern-like space.

    Illustration: Matt Chinworth // Animation: Jonathan Bostic

  • Session 2: Power

    What does true power and courage look like? On a vast and unrelenting journey into the unknown, our heroine pauses to consider her next move in the midst of the open ocean.

    Illustration: Matt Chinworth​​​​​​​ // Animation: Jonathan Bostic

  • Session 3: Knowledge

    Setting out into the future in pursuit of new knowledge, we see a community standing arm in arm, facing into whatever may come.

    Illustration: Stephanie Stromenger // Animation: Jordan Bergren

  • Session 4: Audacity

    The Audacious Project is TED’s collaborative approach to funding big ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale. A group of fearless visionaries and adventurers survey the landscape on a breathtaking journey.

    Illustration: Matt Chinworth​​​​​​​ // Animation: Anthony Diehl

  • Session 5: Mindshift

    In this session, we see abstracted creatures navigate an ever changing, increasingly complex environment. We see this dynamic geometric world take over the stage and rearrange virtual set pieces.

    Illustration: Nick Counter & Mike Ellis // Animation: Nick Counter

  • Session 6: Imagination

    In this session we imagine capturing a spectacular one-of-a-kind moment on a stage of sorts.

    If a tree falls in the forest… you know the rest.
    But what if an incredible performance that sparks wonder takes place on stage and no one sees it?

    Our scene, rendered in a painterly style, is set in a dusty theatre or the back room of a carnival stage. Old mirrors and light reflectors are arranged on stage while beams of light breaking in through a hole in the ceiling land on stage. A single colourful butterfly flutters into view and lands on stage, catching the light as its colourful wings are reflected in all of the mirror nearby, creating a dazzling kaleidoscope effect. 

    Design: Anthony Diehl & Eleena Bakrie // Illustration: Eleena Bakrie // Animation: Jordan Bergren

  • Session 7: Possibility

    What does possibility feel like? What does the artist, the architect, the visionary feel when looking out on a blank canvas? For this session, we built a physical scale model of the stage and slowly poured paint over it, overtaking a stark concrete environment with a flood of flowing colour.

    Design & Animation: Anthony Diehl // DP: Geoff Heith

  • Session 8: Mystery

    For this session, we immerse the audience in a mysterious unexplored habitat filled with imaginary flora and fauna. Both beautiful and bewildering, we venture forward into the alluring unknown.

    Illustration, Modeling & Animation: Nick Ladd

  • Session 9: Play

    In this session, we engage in some carefree play, just for the fun of it. When we play, we form new mental connections, we see things in new ways. But really, we do it because it’s fun!

    Illustration: Nick Counter & Mike Ellis // Animation: Nick Counter

  • Session 10: Connection

    We all long for connection; we’re made for it. This session depicts a dreamlike train station — a connection point — brimming with joy-filled scenes of reunion and relationship.

    Design & Animation: Jordan Bergren

  • Session 11: Wonder

    What do you imagine in a moment of child-like wonder? What can you see? In this session, we enter a drifting cloudscape filled with castles that form and evaporate before our eyes.

    Design: Nick Ladd & Anthony Diehl // Animation: Nick Ladd & Anthony Diehl

  • Session 12: Meaning

    To close TED 2019, we take the audience to our own backyard, the Pacific Northwest, on the beach at sunset. As we stare off into the horizon and move closer to the water, the lens widens, the world gets bigger, we feel small. We sense what is real, what is Good, True and Beautiful.

    It’s a moment where we have clarity about what really matters.

    Design: Nick Ladd & Anthony Diehl // Animation: Nick Ladd

  • Community Theatre

    We were also tasked with the stage design for the TED Community Theatre. It was a pleasure being able to support the TED Fellows 10 Year Anniversary alongside their brilliant 2019 brand and visual identity, built on the idea of 10x.

  • Photos Courtesy of: Bret Hartman // Ryan Lash // Marla Aufmuth // Dian Lofton // TED