Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep: drawing cartoons for a TEDx talk

In 2011 my friend Nick Crocker was approach to do a TEDx talk. Nick decided that the theme of his talk should be about personal behaviour change. In other words, a guide to replacing bad habits with good habits.

This ‘behaviour change’ theme was already the basis of a a successful blog post. For the talk, however, Nick though that cartoons would help to make his ideas stick in the minds of his audience.

Nick approached me with a month’s notice, and I began drawing images inspired by his draft script.

Cartoon Odysseus tied to ship's mast. Mermaids singing sirens.

The role of cartoons in a slide show: less is more!

I concentrated on creating fairly ‘iconic’ illustrations, which could be quickly absorbed by audience members. Simple, easily-understood images which directly complemented Nick’s words.

I wanted the cartoons to take the back seat and let Nick’s words drive the talk. In other words, the opposite of the RSA Animate’s videos, which maddeningly pull my brain in two different directions as I watch them. I am not a fan of RSA Animate for this reason, as it feels as though the cartoonist is constantly trying to steal the show from the speaker.

Cartoon Carl Sagan. Nick Crocker giving money to Carl Sagan in Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep.

Watch a video of Nick giving the talk

Nick did his talk on 6 August 2011, and you can see the results below. Also worth reading is Nick’s take on preparing and delivering the speech. A behind-the-scenes article about “how to do a TED talk”.

Nick describes the meaning of the title ‘Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep’ in the first minute of his talk.

Sessions: making regular exercise a habit

Nick’s talk seemed to be a turning point in his life, as he has since started the business venture Sessions, which helps its customers become more engaged with exercise. Like a super-duper personal trainer with apps and stuff.

Nick Crocker Sessions logo.

The Sessions blog is a great read for regular reminders of strategies to make health and fitness a priority in life. In case you were wondering, it’s written in a positive, non-preachy way, and is useful even for those who are not customers of their business.


Reflecting back on the talk, Nick said:

Stuart’s animations make a huge difference. I’m so glad he and I got to work together on this.
— Nick Crocker

Artwork from the slide show

As Nick’s post mentions, there were several nifty sequences which had to be cut from his talk. My artwork below includes images from these deleted scenes.

Cartoon man smiling with hands on hips. Drawing of Nick Crocker.Cartoon puzzled man. Black and white drawing hands on hips.
Cartoon man weight loss. Standing inside large trousers. Black and white drawing.Man stretching dental floss between two fingers. Black and white cartoon drawing.
Cartoon Animated GIF. Floss the Teeth you want to keep.
Cartoon Danish twins study.
Caveman cartoon, businessman cartoon.
Cartoon of boiling frog analogy.
Cartoon koala and eagle sitting on couch. Smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and watching TV. Sedentary Australian and American lifestyles.
Cartoon man angel devil over shoulders. Temptation.
Cartoon cookie and raddish sitting an exam at desks. Black and white drawing.
Cartoon Odysseus tied to ship's mast. Mermaids singing sirens.
Cartoon boy in marshmallow study.
Cartoon fat friends sitting on couch watching TV. View from behind the TV set.
Cartoon parody of Australian food brands - Coca Cola, Maggi, Milo, Nestle.
Cartoon Carl Sagan. Nick Crocker giving money to Carl Sagan in Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep.