In February 2015, an exciting project came across my desk: The folks at TED, famous for their TED Talks (“Ideas worth spreading”), wanted to create a book for the TED Fellows program. A little surprise gift that would tell the story of this unique program—one that helps the best and brightest across multiple disciplines (art, science, journalism, food) to develop and spread their world-changing ideas. Blurb was thrilled to help; ideas worth spreading are ideas worth printing.
“It’s hard to sum up the incredible work that our 400 Fellows do every day all around the world,” says Tom Rielly, Director of the Fellows Program. “They are saving lives, uplifting communities, creating mind-bending art projects, advancing technology and medicine, building world-class companies, and so much more.”
Fast-forward to September 2015—during which time a book is written, designed, proofed, (by TED) and printed (by us). Four hundred of the world’s brightest minds (and me) are sitting in the darkened Julia Morgan-designed Hearst Social Hall in Asilomar, California. They have wrapped rectangular objects in their hands (Tom proudly notes that they weigh four pounds each). On the count of three, as lead by Tom—a man who relishes a surprise—400 people take the wrapping off the first every TED Fellows coffee table book: Swimming Against the Tide. It was incredible to see so many people reading a Blurb book in one space.
“Despite seeing hundreds of new books every week, this one took my breath away.”
It was a cool thing to see. We weren’t just the platform behind the printing of this book, but sponsors of the project. Blurb’s founder, Eileen Gittins, said, “Despite seeing hundreds of new books every week, this one took my breath away.” The book is a thing of beauty: offset printed, hardcover, every bespoke detail—the foil stamp, the linen, the head and foot bands—carefully chosen to reflect the design. But more than the physical aspects of the book, the beauty is also in the stories the book tells.
In February, almost a year after we first talked with Tom and his team, a second unwrapping occurs as nearly 2,000 TED participants receive surprise copies of the book in the mail. According to Tom, “this book, Swimming Against the Tide, will help us tell the amazing story of the Fellows program for years to come.”
We’re very happy TED decided to tell the story with us.