Strange places an SUV can take you to

Early on in the design process for TEDxWarsaw 2019 our team decided to follow several guidelines. One of them was to “Be the Range Rover”. Car enthusiasts might be a little confused now. Be luxurious? Be British? Be one of rappers’ favourites? None of those things.

The meaning of this phrase is based on an excellent ’80s Land Rover ad:

Just an FYI: this is not a sponsored article

This picture perfectly encapsulates the spirit we nurtured. Challenge yourself and the rules around you. Don’t take the easiest route, take an exciting one. Have fun. That’s what we mean when we say “Be the Range Rover” and having a visually simple reminder — a retro ad in this case — is a great tool for team alignment.

On top of that, our automotive guideline corresponded nicely with this year’s theme: DARE. And as you probably predict, talks were not the only element which we wanted to fit the bill. Several of my implemented ideas which have nothing to do with the talks are described below.

Two thank-yous are in place here. To:
Iryna Oleksyuk — for an impulse to do things differently for our 10th event;
Werner Puchert — for professional help with the creative process.

With that said, we can — comfortably — set out into the desert.

Let’s see how to:


Curation matters. It’s obvious when it comes to speakers. Less so with the audience. At TEDxWarsaw we curated both from the very beginning. Judging by the atmosphere experienced during the event, audience curation worked reasonably well. As an activity it was eye-opening, but also one of the most time-consuming.

Applicants filled-out the form which included questions about their personal and professional details. The most important question was simply “why me?” A short note explained that we expected to learn what people wanted to give, not take. Each application was read by at least two team members. Two “yes” votes meant an invitation.

One of hundreds of applications |

Now, this time why won’t we let applicants themselves vote? Yep, audience self-curation was the name of the game. Before finishing application, system showed what others would see about you and gave a chance to rewrite it. After applying, everyone could read anonymous responses (one shown on the left) and had to vote for at least five people in order to be considered for an invitation. It worked. Not just in relieving us from work but also in increasing feeling of event ownership and camaraderie among audience.

Special thanks here to:
Hugo Dutka — for developing voting system
Ievgen Vietrov — for making it look great
Karol Górski — for making front end work


Do you remember picking up an ID badge at any event? Probably only if there was a huge queue. After all, this process is not designed to be a memorable experience. It’s — hopefully — designed for efficiency: the quicker you can get what’s yours, the better. Toilets and catering are enough of a bottleneck.

Still, you can make it cool enough for people to stop and take a photo. Even better — you may not even have to do the actual job of looking for strange sounding surnames and handing out ID badges. People can pick them up themselves. How? One of the ways is to build an ID wall.

We took an inverted “U” shape truss and stretched a string between the vertical parts. Instead of lanyards we used strings, just red, not beige. And so red strings were twisted around horizontal beige ones to form a wall. You found your surname and simply pulled it.

Wall was 7m long and two-sided | fot. Tomasz Piotrowski


Many events treat ID badges as ad space, either for the event itself or for sponsors. While brand recognition is understandable, one may consider being remembered for more than using a lot of ink. At TEDx events — and probably beyond them as well — what actually matters on the front side of an ID badge is the name of its owner.

Since name length varies and even the longest ones deserve to be big and legible, we use horizontal orientation and two holes to avoid uncontrollable rotation. What about surname? As N. N. Taleb reminds after Book of the Courtier: “People need to be equal, at least for the purpose of the conversation, otherwise it fails.” Surnames tend to formalize conversations.

Oh, it’s that person, I better sound smart! When it’s simply John, you relax. Obviously, if you don’t have any different method to assign this particular ID badge to that particular person, you may have to print surnames. And we did, on the side, with a light, small font. On the back there’s great space for entire agenda, logos and extra notes.

Yeah, we slightly overdid this whole “dare” thing | fot. Tomasz Piotrowski


Someone did a remarkable job. So remarkable, a simple “thank you”, even in front of the entire team and audience, ain’t enough. What do you do? One of the ways is to make him or her feel like a superhero.

What are superheroes known for? Movies, yes. Where do you learn about a movie from? Superhero movie posters, of course. Well, less and less so, but still — they’re cool. Professional-looking ones require a lot of skill and some computing power. Fan-made ones — not necessarily. There’s a whole genre of minimalist posters which can be designed by pretty much anyone.

Ideas matter here far more than skills. A simple idea was turned into a simple poster. It became a one of a kind gift:


Goodie bags are typically boring and used only during the event. Shame, since they can be great as evidenced by what TED or TEDxAthens — examples known to me — do: high quality and themed designs respectively. If you have the resources to design and sew fabric bags, go ahead.

If you don’t have the resources, you probably resort to paper bags. Here’s an idea: make them mini posters. You know, that’s paper. You probably print on it anyway. Why not put extra effort into designing something people would like to hang on their walls and envelop that with a line to show where to cut?

Admittedly, our design isn’t that great, both in terms of aesthetics and size which turns out not to be A4 for easy use, as requested. I’m sure you can do much better. Maybe a folding model?

Your typical poster | fot. Tomasz Piotrowski

That’s it for now!

Have you seen those ideas implemented elsewhere? Would you like to implement them, but there are some details you’re not quite sure about (e.g. how do you efficiently cut hundreds of strings of the same length)? Want to share a “Why haven’t I thought about it?” moment?

Let me know in the comments!