Pearlman says she envisions that Small Thing Big Idea will also be a platform for lesser known design enthusiasts to speak eloquently about design in their surroundings. “It’s just not a celebrity or a PhD who can respond to this treatise on how to look at design.” she explains, noting the desire to tap suggestions from TED’s global audience. “My dream is that people watch this series and think about the objects around them in new ways.”

The new video series also signals TED’s experimentation with new formats outside the increasingly unsurprising 18-minute-or-less talks at its elite annual ideas conference. (With over 93,000 TED and TEDx talks online, it can get pretty formulaic.) Colin Helms, TED’s head of media, confirms that they’re exploring “new audio and video programs designed to serve TED’s mission of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.”

And in many ways, the series is a revival of TED’s original premise. In 1984, architect and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman invented a conference format that rejected many rules of big professional gatherings: no panels, no verbose introductions and certainly no long, meandering speeches. Wurman and co-founder Harry Marks centered the conversation around what they thought were the three most consequential forces of their time: technology, entertainment and design, or TED. Since selling TED to former tech journalist Chris Anderson in 2001, the D in TED has arguably fallen by the wayside—overshadowed by everything from science to business to global issues, as TED expanded its social mission. Small Thing Big Idea, Pearlman explains, is an attempt to re-focus the conversation about the invisible forces that shape our daily lives.

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