During the first week of November 2015, TED Talks Live electrified the Town Hall Theater in New York City. Hosted by author and comedian Baratunde Thurston, the event featured six nights of thought-provoking talks, short films and musical performances. The stellar speaker lineup included biological engineers, futurists, animators, and everything in between. For the first time ever, TED opened the event to the public.
TED hired OXBOW to create customized, media-rich presentations for six of the talks. Working directly with the speakers and collaborating with TED and plenty of other friends, we handcrafted compelling visual narratives to accompany the presentations. OXBOW designed, directed, illustrated, animated and curated unique content for each speaker's stories.
The event consisted of three themes, each of which lasted for two nights:
Sam Kass is a food entrepreneur, policy expert and chef. From 2009 to 2014 he worked at the White House, where he served as President Obama's Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition, Executive Director for Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and as Assistant Chef. He currently serves as the Senior Food Analyst at NBC News.
As one of the Obamas' most trusted policy advisors and a renowned chef in his own right, Sam Kass has a unique cultural and political perspective on the food crises afflicting our country. Speaking on the second night of Education and Revolution, Sam explained how a lack of proper nutrition in schools, particularly those in low-income districts, is compromising the potential of our country's future generations. Sam weaved a compelling narrative, offering a wealth of both significant data points and personal anecdotes.
OXBOW created a stark yet optimistic tone, realizing Sam's ideas in a series of brief vignettes through the visual lens of an imaginative student. We used bright, playful hues and simple line-work to bring light, and color, to this culturally significant issue.
Juan Enriquez is a futurist, academic, businessman, entrepreneur, and best-selling author. He's the founding director of the Life Sciences Project at Harvard Business School, and is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on the economic and political impacts of life sciences. He is currently the Managing Director of Excel Venture Management and the CEO and Chairman of Biotechonomy, LLC.
A seasoned TED vet, Juan spoke during the sixth and final night of the series. His topic: editing the genome (coined "Lifecode") and what it could mean for future generations of the human species. Juan guided us through a brief history of Lifecode, discussing the current and future applications of the technology. He forecasted the ethical complexity and societal implications, warning us to be both mindful and preemptive in our inevitable adoption of the revolutionary science.
An colorful character by all accounts (evidenced by his electric yellow sneakers-see pics below) Juan loves to incorporate humor and personality into his talks. With such a controversial and ominous issue, we decided to choose as a delivery system the most human form of communication we know of: texting. We filled his presentation with emojis, iMessage GUI graphics, and memes, making the conversation more personal and approachable to the viewer. What - you don't text with your friends about non-random mutation and the human genome?
Zaria Forman is a New York-based artist who creates large-scale pastel drawings that document Earth's shifting landscape and the effects of climate change. In 2015 she was invited to be an artist-in-residence aboard National Geographic's Explorer traveling to Antarctica. Her work has also been featured on the popular Netflix series "House of Cards."
Where science fails, art may be able to step in. As one of the world's most prominent climate change artists, Zaria believes that her medium can bring awareness, action, and emotion to an issue that has stirred so much controversy in today's society. In her talk, Zaria takes us on a journey through her artistic life, telling tales from her travels, revealing her incredible process, and sharing her own personal strife surrounding the death of her mother. Zaria's stunning drawings echo her energetic presence and compelling personality.
With Zaria, it was simple; let the work speak for itself. We crafted her presentation with a minimalist approach, featuring her drawings and photography front-and-center, full-bleed, in crisp detail.
Eric Haseltine is a technologist who has worked in senior-executive positions in both the private sector and in the United States intelligence community. He was head of research and development at Walt Disney Imagineering until 2002, when he joined the NSA as Director of Research. Haseltine currently serves as President and Managing Partner of Haseltine Partners, LLC, and is on the advisory board of TTI/Vanguard.
Remember that curious professor whose passion for the subject matter was uncontainable? That's Eric Haseltine. An accomplished technologist, his talk centered around human innovation, and how we must use the successes of past innovators as a playbook to determine our own future. He chose to tell the stories of three unlikely scientists and their incredible contributions to humankind.
With Eric, it was all about the personalities, so we chose to design the presentation as an interactive app that highlights the rag-tag team of explorers, innovators and doers. These personal portraits are set within a futuristic visual environment with bright color gradients, dynamic textures, and kinetic typography.
Sangeeta Bhatia is a biological engineer and professor at MIT, where she investigates applications of micro- and nano-technology for tissue repair and regeneration. In 2003, Bhatia was named to the Top 100 Innovators to Watch Under 35 by MIT Technology Review TR100 and as a Scientist to Watch by "The Scientist" in 2006.
Dr. Bhatia has made a career off of thinking small. Really small. At MIT, she leads investigations into the biological applications of nanotechnology. The possibilities are endless, says Bhatia. To prove it, she explained one such application: detecting cancerous tumors. The conventional screening process is extremely expensive and difficult to administer, often leaving tumors undetected until it's too late. Using her nano signals, we can quickly and efficiently detect tumors in the body at a shockingly low cost with a relatively small amount of equipment.
For Sangeeta's presentation, we were tasked with animating the journey the nano signal takes as it enters the blood stream, detects the tumor, and releases a signal that is filtered out of the body through the kidney. OXBOW ensured that the 3D sequence was both scientifically accurate and diagrammatic, providing the viewer with a detailed look into the human body. The simple, off-white animated world transported the viewer while remaining true to the brand.
Tierney Thys is a marine biologist, science educator, and National Geographic Explorer. In addition to writing, producing, and narrating short films, she has held positions as the Director of Research at the Sea Studios Foundation, a science editor for "The Shape of Life" and a director for "Strange Days on Planet Earth."
Tierney Thys has our dream job. She travels the world with organizations like National Geographic, exploring some of the most remarkable species on Planet Earth. For the final night of Science and Wonder, Tierney explored the biological and therapeutic importance of nature imagery in our daily lives. Nature scenes have a remarkable effect on our brain states. Many products and technologies these days are attempting to simulate nature in order to take advantage of this phenomenon. She reviewed the pros and cons of such efforts, implored us to dig into the issue on a deeper level, and discussed the implications of such technological advances, especially for those members of society who do not have regular access to nature and its healing powers (i.e. prisoners, astronauts, and hospital patients).
For Tierney's presentation, we had the honor of working with content produced by esteemed nature cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg. In addition to curating and adding motion graphics to many of Louie's clips, we also created a suite of illustrations and scenic assets, branded in a soft, soothing palette that gestured to the design aesthetic of a scientific textbook.