John Hodgman: Design, explained.


Translator: Katheryn McGaffigan
Reviewer: Jenny Zurawell Today I’m going to unpack for you three examples of iconic design, and it makes perfect sense that I should be the one to do it because I have a Bachelor’s degree in Literature. (Laughter) But I’m also a famous minor television personality and an avid collector of Design Within Reach catalogs, so I pretty much know everything there is. Now, I’m sure you recognize this object; many of you probably saw it as you were landing your private zeppelins at Los Angeles International Airport over the past couple of days. This is known as the Theme Building; that is its name for reasons that are still very murky. And it is perhaps the best example we have in Los Angeles of ancient extraterrestrial architecture. It was first excavated in 1961 as they were building LAX, although scientists believe that it dates back to the year 2000 Before Common Era, when it was used as a busy transdimensional space port by the ancient astronauts who first colonized this planet and raised our species from savagery by giving us the gift of written language and technology and the gift of revolving restaurants. It is thought to have been a replacement for the older space ports located, of course, at Stonehenge and considered to be quite an improvement due to the uncluttered design, the lack of druids hanging around all the time and obviously, the much better access to parking. When it was uncovered, it ushered in a new era of streamlined, archaically futuristic design called Googie, which came to be synonymous with the Jet Age, a misnomer. After all, the ancient astronauts who used it did not travel by jet very often, preferring instead to travel by feathered serpent powered by crystal skulls. (Applause) (Music) Ah yes, a table. We use these every day. And on top of it, the juicy salif. This is a design by Philippe Starck, who I believe is in the audience at this very moment. And you can tell it is a Starck design by its precision, its playfulness, its innovation and its promise of imminent violence. (Laughter) It is a design that challenges your intuition — it is not what you think it is when you first see it. It is not a fork designed to grab three hors d’oeuvres at a time, which would be useful out in the lobby, I would say. And despite its obvious influence by the ancient astronauts and its space agey-ness and tripodism, it is not something designed to attach to your brain and suck out your thoughts. It is in fact a citrus juicer and when I say that, you never see it as anything else again. It is also not a monument to design, it is a monument to design’s utility. You can take it home with you, unlike the Theme Building, which will stay where it is forever. This is affordable and can come home with you and, as such, it can sit on your kitchen counter — it can’t go in your drawers; trust me, I found that out the hard way — and make your kitchen counter into a monument to design. One other thing about it, if you do have one at home, let me tell you one of the features you may not know: when you fall asleep, it comes alive and it walks around your house and goes through your mail and watches you as you sleep. (Applause) Okay, what is this object? I have no idea. I don’t know what that thing is. It looks terrible. Is it a little hot plate? I don’t get it. Does anyone know? Chi? It’s an … iPhone. iPhone. Oh yes, that’s right, I remember those; I had my whole bathroom tiles redone with those back in the good old days. No, I have an iPhone. Of course I do. Here is my well-loved iPhone. I do so many things on this little device. I like to read books on it. More than that, I like to buy books on it that I never have to feel guilty about not reading because they go in here and I never look at them again and it’s perfect. I use it every day to measure the weight of an ox, for example. Every now and then, I admit that I complete a phone call on it occasionally. And yet I forget about it all the time. This is a design that once you saw it, you forgot about it. It is easy to forget the gasp-inducement that occurred in 2007 when you first touched this thing because it became so quickly pervasive and because of how instantly we adopted these gestures and made it an extension of our life. Unlike the Theme Building, this is not alien technology. Or I should say, what it did was it took technology which, unlike people in this room, to many other people in the world, still feels very alien, and made it immediately and instantly feel familiar and intimate. And unlike the juicy salif, it does not threaten to attach itself to your brain, rather, it simply attaches itself to your brain. (Laughter) And you didn’t even notice it happened. So there you go. My name is John Hodgman. I just explained design. Thank you very much. (Applause)

78 Replies to “John Hodgman: Design, explained.”

  1. good point. in case you weren't paying attention, Hodgman was pointing out that DESIGN can make technology that was once seen as scary and foreign very accepted. People will be wary of the silver statue but will complacently sleep next to their iphone.

  2. Poe's law made your comment the most epic in the universe.
    If this is a good TED talk (in case the metaphors for design he used aren't objectively useless), your comment is win.
    If this is a bad TED talk, your comment can also be seen as sarcastic.
    You can't lose.

  3. From my interpretation, it seems like he's critisizing Intelligent Design. I think he's trying to say that although something may seem like it was specifically designed for a particlaur function, it may have no design or intent for any function at all, but us humans may just find a function that is valueable to us & presume it was designed specifically for that function. Again, just my interpretation. I could be wrong.

  4. Ted Talk should stop trolling people with their title. This video has nothing to do with design and I just wasted 6 min watching people laughing about bad joke like they were completly stoned.

  5. I read or heard somewhere that those citrus juicers are only for show, because the material would rust and tarnish if exposed to citrus juices.

  6. Thanks TED – why not state up front this is an Apple advert from a fanboi? Then I wouldn't have wasted my time.

  7. it doesn't seem very practical to me either. it's too tall, there's no built-in container, and if you use a bowl large enough so that the juice doesn't end up all over the place, you have an unnecessarily large thing to wash by hand (or equally unnecessary clutter for the dishwasher).

    i think it really is an extraterrestrial tripod of some sort. 🙂

  8. mebbe its cuz i'm from LA that I haf 2 say, HEY! JH yer sher funny, makes me feel smart jus 2 lissen…:#

  9. I wouldn't mind if I saw this on The Daily Show, or as a commercial on TV. However, it's such a waste of time on TED

  10. Don't let this crap put you off Ted videos. I can recommend "William Noel revealing the lost codex of archimedes" as much more interesting than this.

  11. I was hoping for a lecture on the intricacies, impact, etc of comparative and contemporary design methods. I got a hipster being a hipster.

  12. Humor is better used to loosen up a dry and fact heavy TED speech, than being the main ingredient for the talk. Heavyhandedly interspersing with advertisement didn't help either.

  13. If I wanted humour I would go to a video with Dave Chappelle in it. This was a waste of my bandwidth.

  14. I started watching this and saw the amount of dislikes, and thought, "I'm gonna like this video"…. I was wrong lol

  15. i looked at the iphone. then i looked at the htc one x. then i wondered why this design talk is devoted to the iphone.

  16. One of the worst Ted Talks. If this is your first Ted experience please watch Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of choice. just to see how well done a talk can be delivered with humour instead of this crass nonsense that informs us of nothing other than the speakers stupidity and lack of knowledge of the subject he is clearly not an expert or even amateur at. Thumb up so people can see please

  17. WTF? This is the absolute opposite of a Ted Talk. It's like overhearing some overly clever latte-sipping college dropout douchebag pontificate on art history.

  18. First he attacks ancient astronaut hypothesis (i'm not saying I believe in it) and then he's a douche… ?… lol terrible ted talk. I was hoping to see something a bit more thoughtful…. Fuck this.

  19. Guy was funny. To me, anyway, but if you didn't have time for that fine, go watch another video. Not every talk has to be dead-serious.
    "Was hoping for a lecture on the intricacies, impact etc. of comparative waaaah waaaah waaah waaaah things are not what I wanted waaah".

  20. It's not an apple commercial. While I prefer Android phones currently, the original iPhone was a paradigm shift in phone design.

  21. I got the subtle hint about how the design of something can leave you in awe with the varies possibilities of its usage and the how the design of something can also be forgotten and may become a daily routine thing that's just there and we don't question it. both designs overall have opposite effects but the effects are both good and bad 😺

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