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John Maeda      

Design Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; World-Renowned Artist, Computer Scientist and Educato Focused on Humanizing Technology

John Maeda is a world-renowned artist, graphic designer, computer scientist, and educator whose career reflects his philosophy of humanizing technology. For more than a decade, he has worked to integrate technology, education, and the arts into a 21st-century synthesis of creativity and innovation. In his books and on stage, Maeda champions the necessary role that artists and designers play in the new creative economy.

John Maeda is an American designer, technologist, and catalyst behind the national movement to transform STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to STEAM. He served as the 16th President of the Rhode Island School of Design where, as chief executive, he repositioned the esteemed and historic institution to regain its top position in the new economy. An internationally recognized thought leader at the intersection of design and technology, Maeda now works with early, mid and late-stage start-up CEOs as Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in Silicon Valley.

While the Web was being built in the 1990s, Maeda led a research team at the MIT Media Lab to connect design with computer science. It was there that he fostered the first generation of engineers who could elegantly design, and designers who could fluently code. His early work for print and the computer was accessioned into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In recognition of his career-spanning efforts to bridge design, computer science and business, Esquire named Maeda as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century. A celebrated author, his books include The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code, and Redesigning Leadership, which expands on his Twitter feed @johnmaeda, one of TIME Magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds.

Having formally or informally advised hundreds of companies over the course of his career, Maeda currently serves on the Board of Directors for Sonos and Wieden+Kennedy, and is a member of the Technical Advisory Board for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group and the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on New Growth Models.

Speech Topics

Design, Data, Decisions

With ever more complex technology, instant communication, social media, and big data coming at us, we live in times that beg for simplicity to have meaningful discussions, make better decisions, and have others be genuinely informed. At the MIT Media Lab, Maeda showed how design can simplify technology and help make our connections to each other more meaningful. Now, as the 16th president and CEO of the Rhode Island School of Design, he believes design can redefine leadership and be a powerful force in helping leaders navigate their competing priorities, agendas and relationships. In this talk he shows that in an age where anyone can friend the CEO, leaders need new tools that leverage the power of design and data to make them better informed and more effective communicators.

The Meaning of Innovation: Turning STEM into STEAM

How will American students remain competitive today, tomorrow, fifty years from now? How will they stay on the leading edge of innovation in a hyper-competitive world? Currently, President Obama's education initiatives have focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as the path to innovation and a robust economy. But, John Maeda says, these so-called "STEM" subjects will only get us so far. In this passionate, refreshing, and deftly argued talk, Maeda posits that we need to add "Art" to turn "STEM" into "STEAM." The arts teach us to empathize, to create, to collaborate, and—perhaps most importantly—to humanize. Through a personal exploration of his journey from MIT to the U.S.'s leading art and design college, Maeda argues that the critical thinking, critical making, and creative leadership embodied at RISD can lead us to an enlightened form of innovation—one where art, design, technology, and business meet. The role of designers and artists is changing and expanding; what we learn from how they work, how they process, and how they think will help drive innovation—the engine of our economy—in the critical years ahead.

Redesigning Leadership

When designer and computer scientist John Maeda was tapped to be president of the celebrated Rhode Island School of Design in 2008, he went from being a professor—free to speak his mind against "the man"—to being "the man." Asked if he has stopped designing, Maeda replied (via Twitter) "I'm designing how to talk about/with/for our #RISD community." Maeda's creative nature makes him a different sort of leader—one who prizes honest critique and learning how to "productively fail." In this candid, entertaining, and instructive talk, Maeda uses perspectives from his various backgrounds—as an artist and designer, a technologist, and a professor—to discuss new leadership lessons he's learned since taking the helm months before the Great Recession. What are the opportunities and the limits of using social media in the new networked organization? What does leadership even look like today? And how can we adapt and move forward in our ever-changing innovation economy?

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