CM 062: John Maeda on Great Design

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blog-post-john-maeda-and-simplicityEveryone benefits from understanding great design. Whether you make products, program apps, or provide services, design plays a critical role in how effectively you accomplish your goals. And if you work in the field of design, there has never been a better time to showcase your skills.

In this thought-provoking interview, John Maeda talks about all of this and more. An award-winning designer who was described as a bellwether for the design industry by Wired Magazine, John sits at the crossroads of business, design, and technology.. His TED talks have been viewed by millions, and his books have been translated into dozens of languages.

John began his career Professor and Head of Research at The Media Lab at MIT. He then served as President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), authored a number of books, and then left academia to work as Design Partner for venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. He now works as Global Head of Computational Design and Inclusion at open-source tech firm, Automattic.

John shares what he has learned along the way. Insights from our interview include:

  • How the arduous practice of engineering informs his perspective on design
  • How he was raised not to know what he could not be
  • How curiosity is about having an openness to now knowing
  • How much of what he saw in Silicon Valley was reminiscent of MIT
  • How resilience can increase with curiosity
  • How each challenge he has chosen stretches him
  • How creatives often lack confidence – a normal occurrence for them
  • How a brilliant professor taught him to say I do not know
  • The three kinds of design that exist right now
  • How digital design is constantly changing, immature
  • How design thinking is a powerful strategy for understanding users
  • How schools can benefit from real-world practice
  • Why stepping out of academia was important for his understanding of the world
  • Why the addictive aspect of tech is not a problem for him
  • How he is always looking for new people to learn from
  • Why he wishes we were talking less about beauty in design and more about effectiveness
  • How he wishes design were more about who we can serve rather than trends
  • How he is asking how design can be more inclusive
  • How we can get caught up in making things in our own image through design
  • The fact that design tends to come to the foreground only once the tech matures
  • The challenges of leading and working with people in design
  • How he is learning to work in a 100 percent remote tech company

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned

John Maeda


MIT Media Lab

Rhode Island School of Design

Kleiner Perkins


Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer

Design Report 2016

Walker and Company, Bevel Brand


Jackie Xu

Justin Sayarath

The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Matt Mullenweg of Automattic

Paul Graham of Y Combinator


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Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo, and thank you to Rob Mancabelli for all of his production expertise!



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