Conf-watching, our favorite design talks of 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, we take a moment to look back at the inspiring talks we have seen this past year. All selected lectures are publicly available. This year there showed up an inspiring mix of pre-recorded and live-streamed talks. Going from case study deep-dives to personal growth and everything in between.

A lot has changed in the design event industry in the past two years. If events go ahead, many of them are online or in some hybrid form. Before COVID-19, many organizers did not record the presented presentations, because of the experience. That has completely changed. Now everything is recorded. At the beginning of the pandemic, much was available for free or for a low fee. Now after two years, organizations are returning from this concept. It's financially not durable. Recordings are made, but many organizers choose not to share recordings for free after their event. They place them behind a paywall to recoup any lost income or use it as marketing material leading up to their next event.

We also saw that speakers choose to publish their planned cancelled talk themselves, which you can watch for a fixed fee. By doing this, speakers create an extra passive income stream. An extra benefit is that they are in direct contact with their fans. Examples include Gavin Strange, who we interviewed about publishing his talk using Gumroad and Lauren Hom, who explains her thinking in the lecture Three ideas for freelancers to diversify their income streams.

Watch all selected talks in one take on our Youtube playlist. The presentations are ordered on broadcast/event date. Enjoy watching! If you don't want to wait a year for this list, subscribe to our newsletter, Neon Monday, where we share great talks throughout the year.

Chris Do at Graphika Manila 2021

This is the highest produced pre-recorded presentation I've seen in the past year. Nothing in this presentation has been left to chance. With a dynamic mix of graphics, diagrams and head shots, Chris Do tells his story of moving away from graphic design / motion design and everything in between to YouTube to teach millions. He also shares you we can overcome obstacles and use them to your advantage.

Pablo Stanley at Config 2021

Pablo Stanley is a fantastic designer and illustrator. He has a unique style of storytelling, with lots of energy and drama. In this session you can get a glimpse of how Pablo tries to overcome ego and apathy and what he has learned along the way. All following an enlightening conversation with his mother. The entire presentation is narrated, illustrated and animated by Stanley.
Watch all design talks presented at Figma's Config 2021

pablo stanley at config 21

NFT Panel w/ panelists GMUNK, beeple, and Joshua Davis, moderated by Lady PheOnix at FITC Toronto

In this panel talk moderated by Lady PheOnix, panelists GMUNK, beeple, and Joshua Davis (Praystation) chat about all things NFTs! From environmental concerns and barriers to entry, to tokenomics and artists' legacies, this powerhouse panel dives deep into some controversial topics facing the NFT community and industry.

Sophia Smith Galer at Freelance Journalism Assembly

As one does these days I discovered Sophia Smith Galer on TikTok. She then worked at the BCC and now for Vice World News. In this presentation Galer, named one of TikTok’s top 100 creators, discusses how you can use TikTok as a creator and how you can connect with your audience, build trust and find and tell stories.

Liam Young at Ted

Liam Young is a speculative architect, production designer and director who operates in the space between design, fiction and the future. His way of storytelling is unique, embark yourself for a stunningly rendered sci-fi safari through Planet City: an imaginary metropolis of 10 billion people. Explore the possible outcomes of an urban space designed to accommodate the entire population of the Earth – and come up with answers to what is possible and sustainable for the planet. Get Liam Young's book Planet City

Brain Moore at TedxBritishSchoolManila

Brian Moore is a creative director/technologist based in Los Angels, I discovered on TikTok. Or rather: he appeared in my 'for you page' with his Zoomout pull switch video. In this Tedx presentation, he talks about how his weird, fun, and innovative engineering projects can bring joy to ordinary everyday situations.

Ruben Pater at AIGA + Artbook

Presentation with Q&A following Pater's new book CAPS LOCK: How Capitalism Took Hold of Graphic Design, and How to Escape from It. This is the most recent presentation I've seen following the book tour. In this presentation Pater goes through the book highlighting how our current economic system could not exist without the number systems, coins, banknotes, documents, advertisements, interfaces, typefaces and information graphics that graphic designers have helped to create. Even speculative design and social design play their part in fueling the economic system. By sharing examples of radical design practices that challenge the supremacy of the market, Pater hopes to inspire a different kind of graphic design. Highly recommended reading the book, its reads easly and is beautiful designed. Buy Caps Lock

Arthur Reinders Folmer (Typearture) at ATypI

Disclamier: this presentation is from 2020 but only recently posted on Youtube by Arthur himself. Anyway, as Ulrike Rausch recently put it, “Arthur is the absolutely craziest variable color font designer on planet earth” and this presentation is a wonderful proof of that. Arthur tells in this beautiful designed presentation about the possibilities of the variable fonts technology. Not only to create a font, but also illustrations, animations and ultimately a web-based interactive story. Fascinating.

Josie Young at Adobe Max 2021

This presentation touched me on several levels. As a full-time caregiver I totally understand what Josie is talking about. Make your life with a disability work for you and your health, not for your clients, friends and family, no matter how difficult it is, if you don't have a visible illness or disability. Josie manages to remove the “ackwardness” in this pre-recorder talk by adding “audience” sounds at key moments. Which makes her presentation light and funny.


Valerie Fuchs at Iterations: Creative Coding Symposium

Valerie Fuchs better known as Madam Robot, works at WeTransfer, leads Cafe Robot (the first “non-awkward Computer Club”), gives workshops in creative coding and runs the Female Freelance Developers website. In this well-structured presentation, Valerie takes you through her story of becoming a Full Stack Developer and turning all the awkward moments she encounterd allong the way into positive experiences for herself and the wider creative community, with humor and self-mockery. Valerie's talk starts at 1:59:00!
Watch all creative coding talks presented at Iterations

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