A Talk with Richard Saul Wurman


Photo via The Society of News Design.

May 5-10 was the first ever West Michigan Design Week. What started as an initiative to start a design week tradition here in Grand Rapids turned into a collaboration between almost a dozen organizations and nearly 15 events over the course of 6 days.

The keynote event for Design Week was a lecture by Richard Saul Wurman. Mr. Wurman is accredited with coining the term “information architecture” and has written and designed over 80 books. He also was a cofounder of TED and conference chair from 1984 to 2002.

I’d never been to a talk like Mr. Wurman’s. There were no slides, and I am 99% sure there was no plan or outline whatsoever for the talk. It was in fact a true “talk” — a time for people to come and listen to the man speak.

That structure led to many little stories and insights about Wurman and his life. Some of them resonated with me, and others less so. Here’s what I took away:

  1. Everything that is “always here” will not always be here. It’s impossible to imagine a world without things we use all the time, but they will be gone.
  2. Fear having an uninteresting life. Fear not being able to answer the question. Comfort is not your friend.
  3. Design is everything. Design your life.

The following day Wurman spoke at TEDx Grand Rapids. Read more about that talk here.