TED2008: A bag and its contents

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(Running notes from the TED2008 conference in Monterey, California.)

The conference will be on in just a couple of hours. Attendees are lining up at the registration desk to get their badges. Then some head for the Google Café for a free latte, but most get into a new line in front of another station, to fetch their "gift bag".

In conference circles, the TED gift bag is the stuff of rumors and legends, and every year TED’s partnerships director (and resident fun guy) Tom Rielly and his team manage to outdo themselves. As a result this year every TEDster is receiving what is possibly the best bag ever given away at a conference — I should know, I’ve attended hundreds of them — produced by Mark Dwight and Rickshaw Bagworks and co-sponsored by design firm IDEO. Using 32 different design fabrics from Designtex, five body colors and five binding colors, Rickshaw came up with 800 different color combinations, and produced two pieces of each for TED. So each TEDster’s bag has a twin somewhere else in the audience. Mass customization at work, and of the sustainable kind: the fabrics are made from 100 percent recycled beverage bottles. And the leftover fabrics have been used to create an assorted wallet and iPhone case. The bag features a computer compartment, numerous pockets in the right places, and a very comfy shoulder strap. To top it off, IDEO added a conversation-starter tag featuring provocative questions, which exists also as a downloadable widget (get it here). These are gonna be iconic bags. Here (thx to Emily McManus for the pictures) is how they look:


The cute animal on the right is the first thing that jumps out of the bag when you open it. It’s the TED polar bear,  from the World Wildlife Fund — I’ve never seen so many grown-ups so excited about stuffed animals! And the bag is full of other items: a special edition of Microsoft’s Zune media player (with a custom engraving on the back and pre-loaded with TEDtalks and music performances from TED artists); an incredibly stylish Jawbone noise-cancelling Bluetooth headset by Aliph, created by star designer (and TED speaker) Yves Béhar; a voucher for a pair of eco-friendly sneakers from Keen; CDs from TED2008 artists such as Kaki King and Rufus Cappadocia, and from African musicians interpreting U2 songs (am listening to it while I write this post) and DVDs from Sony ("Surf’s Up" on Blue-Ray) and the Discovery Channel (the stunning documentaries of "Planet Earth"); the official TED black t-shirt from down under, by Remo General Store, featuring the "big questions" (this year’s TED theme) on the front, and the answer on the back; a digital tire gauge from BMW; discounts vouchers on items ranging from 23andMe personal genetic testing to Sony Bravia flat screens to Steelcase chairs to Lexus hybrid cars to Lynda‘s software-training sites; plus crucial conference items such as peppermints, beverages, vitamin tablets, pens and USB drives. (And I’m probably forgetting something: apologies).

Now I just have to find out who got my bag’s twin.