If your life is your biggest project, why not design it? | Ayse Birsel | TEDxCannes

Translator: Elisabeth Buffard
Reviewer: A. Bentahar What do you think is our biggest project? Our life! Our life is our biggest project. Life is just like a design project. It’s full of constraints: money,
age, location, circumstances… If you want more, you need to make what you want
and what you need coexist. But they oppose each other. Look: I want to be on vacation,
but I need to work. Now if I can find a gig to work
while I’m on vacation, which is kind of what I’m doing
right now in Cannes, that is making what you want
and what you need coexist, that’s creating value, that’s creativity,
that’s designing your life. But if you have a perfect life, don’t design it. In fact, you could leave now. Anybody want to leave? Because I’m going to show you
how to design your life. See, I had a perfect life: in 2001, Renault, the French
automobile manufacturer, asked me to design a concept interior. I knew very little about cars so I asked them for a mentor
from their side and they said: “We’ll send you Bibi Seck
and you’re going to love him.” Apparently they told Bibi the same thing: “You’re going to love her”. So can you guess what happened? You can, right, we fell in love. (Laughter) I mean we did as we were told. So things started happening really fast. Bibi moved from Paris
to New York with his son, we started our company,
Birsel + Seck together, we had two daughters… We were parenting full-time,
working like crazy, my life was designing itself. And I was really happy. Then the economy crashed in 2008. And I was really sad
because I hadn’t seen this coming. Suddenly it felt like overnight,
our clients took their work in-house. And I felt very responsible
because I had uprooted Bibi from a great life in Paris, and now we had a family to take care of. And I thought: “I should
have become a lawyer!” Because I come from a family of lawyers, but all I wanted to do
was to design products, and it started with a teacup. A family friend came to tea
and told me about industrial design and he said: “You see how the edges
are curved? It fits our lips better. And the handle is there so that
we can hold hot liquid in our hands without burning ourselves; and the saucer is there
so that if you spill your tea, you won’t ruin your mother’s
beautiful tablecloth.” And at that moment, I fell in love
with the human scale of industrial design. And I’ve been designing
products ever since, from office systems
to potato peelers to toilets. I mean I was known as the queen
of toilets, that was a compliment! And I just wanted to continue to design, except we needed clients. And I had all this time in my hands
and I felt very frustrated. It made me anxious not to work. It was Leia Kaplan, one of my dearest
friends and collaborators, who saw the opportunity
in the constraint and she said: “You know, Ayse, you have
all this time in your hands, but why don’t you use this time
to think about how you think? Because you think differently.” I think differently
because I think like a designer. We think that no matter
how hard the problem, we’re going to come up
with a better solution. We put ourselves in other people’s shoes. We see the big picture, the emotion,
the physical, the intellect, the spirit of things. We like to work together
and ask what-if questions. What-if questions,
all about having an open mind. So I asked myself, “What if I can create without products? What if I can design my life, applying design process
and tools to my life?” And from that, Design the Life You Love was born. And I became my first student
out of necessity. My life was made up of Bibi, our three kids, our work together
and our life in New York. But the irony is the economic crisis
had already deconstructed my life, had taken it apart, and it’s kind of like
having this compact black camera: when you open it up, you realize there are
hundreds of pieces in it. Now, can you put this camera
back together again? Thank you. No, not really. And that’s the beauty of deconstruction, that when you deconstruct something, you break the links
that hold them together and now you’re free to think about which parts to keep,
which parts to change, and which parts to get rid of. This brings us to our
second step: point of view, seeing the same parts differently. How do you go from what you know
and what you’re used to, something that’s different in you? The only way I know how to do it
is to do it playfully. Because when we’re playing,
we’re like kids, we’re not afraid of making mistakes, there is no right or wrong
when you’re playing. You just try things and you create
and you learn by doing. So I decided, playfully like a kid,
that I needed superpowers. I looked to my heroes for inspiration. Our heroes are people
we know, like my mom, or people we know of,
like Michelle Obama. But they have something,
they have something that interests us, that we notice, that we admire,
that maybe we want to emulate. And so I thought of my hero,
Rowena Reed Kostellow. I met her when I went to Pratt Institute
to do my master’s and I was 20 years old, she was 80 years old
and we became friends. And she taught me how to design
in three-dimensional space. She had a unique methodology to teach it. She also taught me
how to live in New York, how to shop for food at Dean & Deluca, the beauty of living in a loft, she also suggested that I should get
a personal shopper. That’s probably the only advice
I didn’t listen to. But Rowena reminded me of my values. Our heroes connect us with our values. And our values are things
like constant evolution and having your own voice. Longevity, generosity, curiosity, fearlessly pursuing your dreams and being the best at what you love. Our values are the foundation of our life, which brings us to our third step: reconstruction, which is the other side of deconstruction,
putting it back together again, based on our values,
on things that matter to us. So I put my life back together
again as a tree. My foundation, my roots were in Turkey,
that’s where I grew up. And then my trunk, where I became visible, that’s New York, that’s where I had
my products, my process, and it made me realize
that my future is the world, that if I’m a tree I should bear fruit
and I should have seeds, and suddenly this idea
of teaching other people to think about their life with creativity,
with a creative process, started to make sense to me. Which brings us to thinking differently. What I was doing was thinking differently
about the same things and realizing for the first time
that design can transform lives, even without the intermediary of products, and that this is for everyone, we can all be designers of our life. Expression, our fourth step,
is giving form to our idea. If I’m designing a chair, I’ll sketch it, I’ll make a model, I’ll write about it,
I’ll visualize it to make it happen. Same thing with our lives: if we can
visualize the life we want to live, we can make it happen. And Stef Stefan from Amsterdam
expresses her life as the big bird; she stands tall,
she’s gentle, she’s strong, and this director of leadership
development sees himself as the Zen master of his garden,
working around stones, hard stones, that he cannot move. And this young father
who’s a strategist in New York is the center of his life tree, with projects dotting every ring
from here to 2050 on a life based on his values. And my graduate student
at SVA, he’s Tintin. He is pioneering, loyal
and steadfast and brave. And I, I am Katy Perry
of Design the Life You Love. Why Katy Perry? You have to remember I have two girls. When they were younger, we watched
Katy Perry’s documentary together. And I fell in love with how Katy Perry
connects with young people and their parents through
the beauty of her music and I thought, “That’s what I want to do,
I want to connect with young people who have their whole life
in front of them and show them you can design your life.” And I want to connect
with their parents, with you, and show you you can redesign your life. And here we are, I’m on tour,
at Palais des Congrès, with an amazing audience, you. This is my Katy Perry moment. (Applause) Thank you! Now more than ever before, we need
to think about our life differently. I grew up in Turkey
and Bibi grew up in Senegal. We grew up in very different places, but our parents gave us
a very similar roadmap. They said: “Go to school, work hard,
find a job, get married, have children.” That was the definition of a good life. But today, I don’t have that roadmap
to give to my children. Things are changing so fast
and so dramatically, our kids live in a different world. There are no road maps
and that’s an incredible challenge. But every challenge is an opportunity
when you think creatively. There are no roadmaps,
so create your own roadmap. Imagine your life with creativity,
playfully, with optimism. I cannot give my children a roadmap, but I can share with them
how to apply a creative process to their lives to approach problems with creativity and courage. And I can share that with you as well. So I have found my voice. Design your life, design an original life,
a life that looks like you, that feels like you,
that even smells like you, an original life that is coherent
with your values. Design your life and then go live it. Thank you. (Applause)


  • Iqbal Uddin

    Less interesting than expected from seeing the title.

  • Adele Frediani Irala

    Katy Perry and Michelle Obama are an example? My God!

  • downbntout

    44 seconds: boring…4 minutes: still bored…6 minutes: okay, coulda clicked away a while ago, done.

  • Cari G

    ok… but you never talked about how to design your life. You are clearly very lucky. At 20 years old you were able to go to an expensive college and learn the tools to create what was in your mind. But someone like me, I have always had design ideas but never the support or access to the knowledge, funds, tools, etc… to make my ideas a reality. So what then do you do when you are doing everything you can and it's still not enough because to don't have access to the right resources or opportunities?

  • Nevis Cameron

    Music came first rules afterwards

  • J.T. Emers

    ,,, and now the 'how', ,,,

  • Pep Cearnal

    Wonderful presentation. I will definitely focus more on design.

  • Nicholas Saephan

    so what i took from this is look at the same things differently, approach your problems with creativity, and create your own road map.

  • Candice


  • IsPoke Nerdindian

    Just filling up time. No stuff in it. Tedex take down this video

  • Heather Griffin

    Wait…she forgot to tell me how to design the life I love. So, I went to her website…I think I'll just make a list of stuff I want to do and do it. 😉

  • Dancedakini

    A talk about her

  • Anthon Ammal

    A need for self reflection will take us on a journey of redesigning our life.

  • remy money


  • Viv Wallace

    great idea. I will do it.

    But the deconstructed camera part made me sad. I wanted to repair it.

  • Melissa

    Thank you for sharing 😄 A great message!

  • Dennis R. Levesque

    I'm glad to see that someone is finally beginning to see, that design is more than just aesthetics/fashion. The better you are at engineering, the better you are recognizing the value of function. The better you are at valuing function, the better you are at engineering. It's a positive feedback loop. You'll get there. It's your life, and only can live it. Good luck.

  • Tashi Dolkar Samdrupling

    Thank you 🙏 so much

  • Grace M

    I was interested until she mentioned Michelle Obama the egotistic fake.

  • Ana Bonn

    talked a lot, said nothing

  • Wordsmith Asheesh

    Just by visualisation?

  • marcus finiosse

    kinda made sense in lot of ways. i got few ideas i can implement in my own life from her speech.

  • G B

    I enjoyed your talk. Thank you for sharing your designer mind. Helping me to see from a different perspective. Ready to approach my life differently.

  • elsa Grace

    So what am I supposed to do now? “Design your life” is a nice catch phrase. Sounds good but what does it mean? What are the steps? What is she talking about. Not helpful.

  • sonja k

    Many lawyers became unemployed after the financial crisis of 2008.

  • livin kitten

    I like her advice to just design my life and see my life as my biggest project. Thank you Ms. Birsel.

  • Dilpreet S. Madhok

    You need to design this presentation better .. Good Luck !

  • Ki Ki

    I dont understand what some rude jokers are complaining about. Maybe she was not speaking to you but every part of it is very important n very real.

  • Phillip Kanonhuhwa


  • Аглая Шатова

    Well, it's good for English learners, who are excited about her understandable speech, but native speakers certainly get bored and disappointed

  • cool arun

    1.5 speed perfect

  • Doa’a Akram

    How to design your life:
    1- deconstruct your life and take away the parts you don’t like
    2- identify your values and define your heroes and why they are your hero. Your heroes connect you do your values.
    3- reconstruction: based on your values:
    How to design your life: create a tree (actually draw one): consider your roots. Where do you come from. How has that defined you. The trunk: what you present to the world, branches: the future.
    4- Expression: visualize the life you want to live to make it happen.
    Be playful and optimistic throughout.
    Design an original life that is coherent with who you are and what you stand for and even how you like it to smell.
    Go live it.

  • Pramod Gopal

    We have all stopped appreciating the value each one of us hold, therefore comparing it and adding our negative minds to it. It is wonderful to see what Ms. Birsel had to share. We need people who reflect on the minds of others empathise and build a world filled with compassion.
    Thank you for uploading the video.
    Expectation makes one bitter.

  • Ergin Sağtaş

    I enjoyed this talk. Thank you.

  • Chetan Solanki

    Inspiring but to much repetition of same thoughts.

  • A B

    The takeaway is DON'T deconstruct your camera, you can never put it back together again 🙂

  • Lavender Violet

    FOR THE SAKE OF HEALING: I have a little girl in me that needs to let out a pretty wildly-loud scream!

  • Charles O ́Coineen

    This could of been said in 30seconds

  • Rohit Goswami

    Welcome sweetheart

  • Umbella virus How about now

    Already design but all answer is we us our

  • Umbella virus How about now

    Where are my phone?

  • Umbella virus How about now

    Never have my phone in world

  • Umbella virus How about now

    Where is them phone ? that for them only

  • Umbella virus How about now

    Everything learn know for delete

  • Veni Vidi Amavi

    seems like a sweet lady, love the outfit! Comments are pretty negative, but if you were bilingual I doubt you'd do as well 🙂

  • Jillian Schleger

    Design the life you love by mapping out qualities that fulfill you, muscle test where there is resistance and shift the resistance with NLP. One component of NLP allows you to align that which you want but have resistance to ( limiting beliefs ) with what you already know you are good at.

  • hassan nooree

    Ya it`s true so you must always thinking about the word you say friend if you floor that you will win friend anyhow have a nice time may ALLAH bless you friend!

  • Damien Ramos

    Bravo !

  • Sila Eser

    Inspirational, thanks.

  • Jabeen Fatima

    Easier said than done

  • Never Beaten

    Aa Ted talk serisi yaparken Türk çıktı karşıma 🙂 Hem de Türkçe değil.

  • The Resistance

    …Thank You <333

  • b nf

    She should have explained on what bases we should redesign or redefine our life.
    Everyone says "Design/make your original life.", but it's impossible to have genuine original life because our thought is based on what we've known in the past. So it's impossible to design genuine original life.

  • Nihat Kutlu

    İngilizcenize bayıldım. Congrats.

  • ay hirsizi

    Turkce crviriside olsa keske

  • Mugdha Mg

    Beautiful speech😊👌

  • Janáček Vítězslav

    Noisy people know nothing in fact.

  • Siphiwe Ngubane

    Can we just talk about her love outfit, love it. And that necklace is truly a work of art❤

  • Pamyawon Sharon

    Thank you🖤

  • Văn Tín Nguyễn

    Yeah, I am designing my life, I have a huge project in this year is to get band 7 IELTS. I know my English is still not good but I always believe myself that I will do it. Because of my future, I have a lot of aim to achieve and one of them will be a good IELTS band.

  • Ian B

    The answer to her question is simple: you should be too busy living it.

  • Felix Bruyns

    Because no matter what design you choose, others will object to it and say it steps on them in some way, and with no objective external standard, there is no way of determining who is right or wrong. Either we have a supernatural designer (God) and hence an absolute purpose that cannot be questioned, or no purpose at all.

  • Miralda Sanchez

    That is exactly what I´m doing this saturday and then this Ted Talk video comes up in my suggested playlist, E X C E L L E N T !

  • ficktao

    A good start would be to redesign this lecture, so it has more usable content for the viewer. This was simply lame, self/congratulatory, and quite useless. It was not even inspirational.

  • Jen Marie

    Michelle Obama and Katy Perry as her heroes… Really? Not much to aspire to, and she never said 'how' to design our lives.

  • raymond rubio

    I believe there was purpose behind the way she designed her presentation. Not being specific as for her to personally design your life…she allows you to use your brain, your mind, your spirit and circumstance to flex your courage to trust yourself to chill, and have fun, and joy in designing your new life for you…by leaving enough unsaid, or by giving you the squeleton you can put the clothes on the way it fits you. God bless her…and you.

  • Ali Naderzad

    What Lovely and inspired person. what laughable gibberish.

  • Rohit Chakrabarti

    Great title but nothing in the presentation! She had nothing to give 😂


    My plan Stan,

  • Santa Lúcida

    De verdad me aburre cuando cuentan su vida… Dime el. Resultado ahorrate la triste historia. Fin

  • Mart peru

    life itself doesnt have constraints but the society we built up

  • Mart peru

    life itself doesnt have constraints but the society we built up

  • Zahid H Khan

    Wow! Inspiration.

  • Mohamed Attar

    That's such a meaningful speech, however, a lot of us are confused by the opportunities that cause tremendous confusion to ourselves, despite the fact that having a schedule will be vital to your life, regardless having some days that will be out of the designation. In conclusion, life can not be planned for long-term, merely for short-term in my opinion.

  • Lynda Davidson

    Beautiful woman!. Thank you 😊

  • eng moh

    It really need to redesign the presentation . I think that points can not help you to design your life .

  • Valerina Crichelli

    love this

  • Deep L

    I didnt comprehend a single word…pls design speech well..

  • German Muñoz

    no me dijo nada. diseña tu vida eso es todo

  • Remi Lalaque

    If I deconstructed my life and take away the parts I Don't like…
    I would be super violent…
    other than that, I have a hero and visualised my life

  • Cabdicasiis Abdeeq

    Thank you

  • SaturnDirect



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