Colours & Shapes was invited to design the main stage experience for TED 2019, including a complete stage redesign, visuals for all 12 sessions, title design, and projection mapping. Our design elevates the conference theme ‘BIGGER THAN US’ by exploring themes of multiplicity, scale and an environmental quality that prompts the audience to feel a sense of awe — of being part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Our stage design extends the projection canvas all the way to the stage deck, broken apart and punctuated by architectural forms on stage. These objects are anchored in classic architectural forms, namely, the exedra — a semi-circular recess that originated in ancient Greece as a location for public discourse, dialogue and philosophy.

Conference Opener

We were approached by TED to craft an opener that would bring the playful and vibrant brand to life. We took Jordan Awan's incredible illustrations and then watched them build out into the iconic word mark that is the anchor for the 2019 brand.

Illustration: Jordan Awan // Sound Design: John Poon // Animation: Ryan Woolfolk

Session 1: Truth

We begin TED 2019 by setting out on a search for truth. A community of explorers search for gems of knowledge and truth in a dark, cavern-like space.

Illustration: Matt Chinworth // Animation: Jonathan Bostic

Session 2: Power

What does true power and courage look like? On a vast and unrelenting journey into the unknown, our heroine pauses to consider her next move in the midst of the open ocean.

Illustration: Matt Chinworth​​​​​​​ // Animation: Jonathan Bostic

Session 3: Knowledge

Setting out into the future in pursuit of new knowledge, we see a community standing arm in arm, facing into whatever may come.

Illustration: Stephanie Stromenger // Animation: Jordan Bergren

Session 4: Audacity

The Audacious Project is TED’s collaborative approach to funding big ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale. A group of fearless visionaries and adventurers survey the landscape on a breathtaking journey.

Illustration: Matt Chinworth​​​​​​​ // Animation: Anthony Diehl

Session 5: Mindshift

In this session, we see abstracted creatures navigate an ever changing, increasingly complex environment. We see this dynamic geometric world take over the stage and rearrange virtual set pieces.

Illustration: Nick Counter & Mike Ellis // Animation: Nick Counter

Session 6: Imagination

In this session we imagine capturing a spectacular one-of-a-kind moment on a stage of sorts.

If a tree falls in the forest… you know the rest.
But what if an incredible performance that sparks wonder takes place on stage and no one sees it?

Our scene, rendered in a painterly style, is set in a dusty theatre or the back room of a carnival stage. Old mirrors and light reflectors are arranged on stage while beams of light breaking in through a hole in the ceiling land on stage. A single colourful butterfly flutters into view and lands on stage, catching the light as its colourful wings are reflected in all of the mirror nearby, creating a dazzling kaleidoscope effect. 

Design: Anthony Diehl & Eleena Bakrie // Illustration: Eleena Bakrie // Animation: Jordan Bergren

Session 7: Possibility

What does possibility feel like? What does the artist, the architect, the visionary feel when looking out on a blank canvas? For this session, we built a physical scale model of the stage and slowly poured paint over it, overtaking a stark concrete environment with a flood of flowing colour.

Design & Animation: Anthony Diehl // DP: Geoff Heith

Session 8: Mystery

For this session, we immerse the audience in a mysterious unexplored habitat filled with imaginary flora and fauna. Both beautiful and bewildering, we venture forward into the alluring unknown.

Illustration, Modeling & Animation: Nick Ladd

Session 9: Play

In this session, we engage in some carefree play, just for the fun of it. When we play, we form new mental connections, we see things in new ways. But really, we do it because it’s fun!

Illustration: Nick Counter & Mike Ellis // Animation: Nick Counter

Session 10: Connection

We all long for connection; we’re made for it. This session depicts a dreamlike train station — a connection point — brimming with joy-filled scenes of reunion and relationship.

Design & Animation: Jordan Bergren