Design can change the way you see the world | Dana Tomić Hughes | TEDxSydney | Summary and Q&A

September 29, 2023
TEDx Talks
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Design can change the way you see the world | Dana Tomić Hughes | TEDxSydney

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In this video, the speaker discusses the essence of design and its impact on our lives. She shares her personal journey as a designer and how her perception of design has evolved over time. The speaker emphasizes the importance of recognizing and appreciating good design, and the responsibility we have to seek sustainable and meaningful design in our daily choices.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is design and who is it for?

Design is everywhere and it is for everyone. From paper clips to rocket ships, design can be found in all aspects of our lives. It has the power to engage our senses and make us feel alive. Whether it's reconnecting us with nature, embracing questionable taste, bringing healing, or leaving a legacy, design has the potential to improve our lives and transform the way we see the world.

Q: How did the speaker's journey as a designer unfold?

The speaker, born in Yugoslavia, escaped the war in Bosnia and lived as a refugee in Denmark and later moved to Australia. Initially, she did not have a strong interest or understanding of design. However, through personal research and exposure to influential designers like Dutch Collective Droog, her perception of design slowly began to shift. Upon returning to Copenhagen, she was deeply immersed in the world of design and realized the beauty and value it holds.

Q: Why is it difficult for some people to recognize the value of good design?

Many people dismiss design as fluff, expensive, or elitist because they lack firsthand experience and understanding of its true power. Good design is often hidden in small details or complex processes, making it challenging for those without design knowledge to recognize its value. Furthermore, the speaker suggests that the rapid image culture we live in, inundated with content and algorithms, limits our ability to fully engage with design beyond its aesthetic value.

Q: How does the speaker compare design to food?

The speaker analogizes design to food, stating that it is essential and available at different price points and formats. Design, like food, can be sustainable and good for us and the planet. By considering the provenance of our building materials and the environmental impact they have, we can align our choices with our values and seek out design that supports them. Just as we seek out high-quality meals at different price points, we can do the same with design.

Q: How does design impact our daily lives?

Design enhances our lives by providing real-life solutions and making them more convenient. However, it becomes truly great when it incorporates an element of vision or poetry that resonates with us. The speaker gives examples of how a mundane interaction, such as checking oneself in a mirror, can be transformed into a more meaningful and enjoyable experience through design. By aligning with our personal values, design can shift our expectations and deepen our relationship with it, going beyond copying trends to creating our own identity.

Q: What challenges does design face in today's image-driven culture?

The pervasive image culture poses significant challenges to design. With so much content competing for our attention, being intentional in how we engage with design through content becomes crucial. While images are powerful in communicating design concepts, reducing design to a mere image limits our understanding and responsibility towards it. Design encompasses sustainability, innovation, social impact, responsiveness to brief and budget, and many other factors that cannot be captured in a single picture.

Q: How can we engage with design differently to see its true value?

Engaging with design intentionally and deeply involves looking past its aesthetics or styling. By perceiving the many layers within an image and exploring design that takes into account broader issues, we can start to see design differently. This requires curiosity, time, and an open mind. The speaker encourages viewers to engage with design consciously, transforming the way they see and experience the world.

Q: Can you provide examples of design projects that showcase different aspects of design?

Sure! The speaker highlights various design projects as examples. For instance, Collective Encore Architects preserved the spirit of a dilapidated French farmhouse through minimal intervention, emphasizing outdoor spaces for both humans and nature. Australian architect Andrew Power used proportion, arrangement, and the empty spaces between rooms to elevate a modest home in Regional New South Wales. Marcante Testa embraced existing elements deemed tacky or ugly in an Italian home, creating a space that encapsulates joyful nostalgia and contemporary living. Tabbalou designed a clinic in Copenhagen that addresses death and grief head-on, promoting hope, healing, and emotional exploration. Design in these projects showcases the ability to reconnect with nature, be humble, embrace questionable taste, bring healing, and leave a lasting legacy.

Q: Why is it important to distinguish between authentic design and replicas?

Authentic design pieces hold tremendous value and have the potential to become cherished heirlooms. Replicas, on the other hand, fall short in terms of quality, comfort, longevity, and ethical considerations. Replicas are disposable items that contribute to landfill waste and have a higher cost for the planet. Recognizing and valuing authentic design helps to support sustainability and preserve the integrity of the design industry.

Q: How does design go beyond being a style or trend?

Design is not limited to being a specific style or trend. It is an iterative process that encompasses many facets and brings meaning in various forms. Design responds to broader issues, including sustainability, innovation, social impact, and much more. It is a relationship that develops over a lifetime, creating objects, spaces, and buildings that become deeply intertwined with our identity and significantly impact our lives.


Design is present in all aspects of our lives and is essential for improving our experiences. It is for everyone, but recognizing its value requires understanding and engagement. Design goes beyond aesthetics; it considers sustainability, innovation, social impact, and a range of other factors. To fully appreciate design, being intentional in how we engage with it through content and seeking out design that aligns with our values is crucial. Authentic design comes with immense value and contributes to a sustainable future, while replicas fall short in terms of quality and ethics. By consciously engaging with design, we can transform the way we see and experience the world, enhancing our lives and creating a deeper and more meaningful relationship with design.

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