Design Faculty and Student to Speak at TEDxUTAustin 2023 Event: How & Why


February 22, 2023
TEDxUTAustin How and Why in LBJ Auditorium on February 25, 2023


Some of the brightest minds from The University of Texas at Austin will gather this Saturday to share their ideas at the sixth annual TEDxUTAustin conference. SDCT is well represented at this prestigious event, with two out of the nine total speakers coming from within our community. Center for Integrated Design director and Department of Design professor Gray Garmon and M.A. in Design focused on Health candidate Iya Abdulkarim will take the stage to share impactful lectures on designing for peace and learning through language differences, respectively. While both are designers, they each took inspiration from their individual backgrounds and passions as they developed their talks.

Gray Garmon branded headshot and title for TEDxUTAustin 2023 How and Why

Garmon’s topic focuses on a larger project he started about five years ago but delved deeper into once he was a designer in residence at the Buckminster Fuller Institute. There he developed the first iteration of Co-Designing Peace.

“Love isn’t defined as the opposite of hate, so why do we define peace as ending war?” Garmon says. This ongoing, collaborative project focuses on designing thoughtful tools or methods that engage people in community or with the planet. “I just thought, what if we used all our creative abilities for good and found ways to talk about it, hold ourselves accountable, and maybe enjoy ourselves while we do it too.”

For her lecture, Abdulkarim pitched a one-liner: “I’m going to teach you three words that will help you connect with three billion people.” She previously created a mini dictionary of Arabic terms she uses in her everyday life. “I use this as an opportunity to teach members of the audience the meanings of these words and how they can shape your mindset and outlook on life.”

Iya Abdulkarim branded headshot for TEDxUTAustin How and Why 2023

She goes on to mention this is the first time she is using her lived experience as a reference for her work rather than her usual quantitative method of research. “That was one of my goals while living in Austin. I wanted to lean into exploring topics and ideas I might not have the chance to do ever again.”

The theme for this year’s event is “How & Why,” which focuses on the steps it takes to make dreams a reality. Success is attainable, but not without mental and physical drive to push us toward that goal. While the theme applies to the lectures given during the event, it is also applicable to the process Garmon and Abdulkarim went through from the start of their application to the refinement of their lectures. 

Selection as a TEDxUTAustin speaker is just the beginning of the months-long process leading up to the event. Abdulkarim admits that the first draft she submitted was unfinished and still needed plenty of revision. 

“I think they knew they had some extra work to do with my case. I’m really grateful that the people they’ve assigned to work with me have been really patient and helpful.” In addition to revisions, she has been watching TED Talks about how to give a successful speech and practicing voice control. 

Garmon shares that he has gone through nearly 12 drafts of his talk and also reached out for feedback from trusted friends who are performers and authors.

“There is some vulnerability to caring about something like this and believing in it and wanting to share it with people,” he says. “But I’m really excited, and it’s an honor to be included in the group that’s presenting.”

After all the hours of discussion and edits, polished and captivating lectures are ready for their debut. Don’t miss Gray Garmon and Iya Adbulkarim at TEDxUTAustin on Saturday, February 25, at the LBJ Auditorium. Learn more and buy your tickets here.

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