In February 2016, TED put out a global call for creative people working on an important idea to join them in NYC for a three month residency. They recently announced their first cohort of 28 residents, an incredible group of multidisciplinary leaders across fields, from social justice to behavioral science, from software developers to tap dancers.
I’m excited to share that I am part of this founding cohort and that from now through the end of July, I’ll be working out of the TED offices in SoHo on The Leading Strand, an initiative that brings designers and scientists together to illuminate, inspire, and reveal what’s possible.
In my role as an Art Director at Primacy, I often get to connect my design expertise with my passion for health, science, and academic research. It was a big reason why I chose the firm over other agencies, and I’ve experienced deep satisfaction and professional growth while working on projects with Emory Healthcare, Otis, and Sikorsky, among other clients.
The TED residency allows me to take my work even further. While I’m in the residency, I’ll be on semi-sabbatical with Primacy, meaning I’ll devote a meaningful number of hours each week to high priority projects, though I’ll be spending most of my time at the TED offices working on The Leading Strand. I’m very grateful to the Primacy team for their support of this project.
What is The Leading Strand?
At The Leading Strand we believe that great design can shine a light on the breakthroughs happening in fields like neuroscience, genetics, particle physics and beyond. Our first cohort features five neuroscientists whose research spans a variety of topics, including the molecular mechanisms of memory, exercise and cognition and the neural circuit basis of social behaviors such as mating, parenting and aggression.
Each neuroscientist is paired with a world-class multidisciplinary designer, and together the two will co-create design solutions that will range from product design and data visualization to motion design and film. Our goal is to make each experience a stand alone piece that is delight to view and explore, yet maintains the rigor and nuance of the research.
Each team has already kicked off their collaborations, and is hard at work developing prototypes based on early conversations. I’m focused on assisting the pairs and securing a physical space to showcase their work later in the summer. I’m also preparing a TED talk that I will give at the TED offices in SoHo on July 13.
What’s at Stake?
So what is my “idea worth spreading” as TED might put it? I believe science is no longer a celebrated institution. Despite being the basis of everything from the shatter-resistant glass on our smartphones, the drugs that allow us to lead longer, healthier lives, and the rovers we land on Mars, science is under siege. From 2003 to 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) lost 22% of its capacity to fund research due to budget cuts, sequestration, and inflationary losses. So this means fewer grants, fewer new discoveries and an exodus of brilliant scientists leaving research. Nearly half of AAAS scientists in a 2014 poll said that now was “a bad time for science”, more than twice the response in 2009.
We can’t let this continue. Basic research is critical to our well-being as a society but Congress won’t act unless their constituents understand the value to their lives. I believe The Leading Strand can help change that. The work that our 5 teams is doing invites us all to reexamine the role science plays in our lives and highlights important topics in research through visual experiences that communicate their nuance and underscore their significance. Together we can reestablish science’s credibility and prominence in society.
If you believe in what we’re trying to do, you can help support our project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/840827025/the-leading-strand-a-design-exhibit-celebrating-sc