John Maeda

An internationally recognized leader at the intersection of design and technology, John Maeda is Design Partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in Silicon Valley. He served until 2014 as the 16th President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and before that was Associate Director of the MIT Media Lab. He is a designer, technologist, and catalyst behind the national movement to transform STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to STEAM with the addition of the arts. He is the author of Design by Numbers (1999), The Laws of Simplicity (2006) and Redesigning Leadership (2011), all published by The MIT Press.

  • Redesigning Leadership

    Redesigning Leadership

    John Maeda

    Lessons for a new generation of leaders on teamwork, meetings, conversations, free food, social media, apologizing, and other topics.

    When designer and computer scientist John Maeda was tapped to be president of the celebrated Rhode Island School of Design in 2008, he had to learn how to be a leader quickly. He had to transform himself from a tenured professor—with a love of argument for argument's sake and the freedom to experiment—into the head of a hierarchical organization. The professor is free to speak his mind against “the man.” The college president is “the man.” Maeda has had to teach himself, through trial and error, about leadership. In Redesigning Leadership, he shares his learning process.

    Maeda, writing as an artist and designer, a technologist, and a professor, discusses intuition and risk-taking, “transparency,” and all the things that a conversation can do that an email can't. In his transition from MIT to RISD he finds that the most effective way to pull people together is not social networking but free food. Leading a team? The best way for a leader to leverage the collective power of a team is to reveal his or her own humanity.

    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 experimentation, honest critique, and learning as you go. With Redesigning Leadership, he uses his experience to reveal a new model of leadership for the next generation of leaders.

  • The Laws of Simplicity

    The Laws of Simplicity

    John Maeda

    Ten laws of simplicity for business, technology, and design that teach us how to need less but get more.

    Finally, we are learning that simplicity equals sanity. We're rebelling against technology that's too complicated, DVD players with too many menus, and software accompanied by 75-megabyte "read me" manuals. The iPod's clean gadgetry has made simplicity hip. But sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the simplicity paradox: we want something that's simple and easy to use, but also does all the complex things we might ever want it to do. In The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design—guidelines for needing less and actually getting more.

    Maeda—a professor in MIT's Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer—explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of "improved" so that it doesn't always mean something more, something added on.

    Maeda's first law of simplicity is "Reduce." It's not necessarily beneficial to add technology features just because we can. And the features that we do have must be organized (Law 2) in a sensible hierarchy so users aren't distracted by features and functions they don't need. But simplicity is not less just for the sake of less. Skip ahead to Law 9: "Failure: Accept the fact that some things can never be made simple." Maeda's concise guide to simplicity in the digital age shows us how this idea can be a cornerstone of organizations and their products—how it can drive both business and technology. We can learn to simplify without sacrificing comfort and meaning, and we can achieve the balance described in Law 10. This law, which Maeda calls "The One," tells us: "Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful."

  • Design by Numbers

    Design by Numbers

    John Maeda

    A pioneering graphic designer shows how to use the computer as an artistic medium in its own right.

    Most art and technology projects pair artists with engineers or scientists: the artist has the conception, and the technical person provides the know-how. John Maeda is an artist and a computer scientist, and he views the computer not as a substitute for brush and paint but as an artistic medium in its own right. Design By Numbers is a reader-friendly tutorial on both the philosophy and nuts-and-bolts techniques of programming for artists.

    Practicing what he preaches, Maeda composed Design By Numbers using a computational process he developed specifically for the book. He introduces a programming language and development environment, available on the Web, which can be freely downloaded or run directly within any JAVA-enabled Web browser. Appropriately, the new language is called DBN (for "design by numbers"). Designed for "visual" people—artists, designers, anyone who likes to pick up a pencil and doodle—DBN has very few commands and consists of elements resembling those of many other languages, such as LISP, LOGO, C/JAVA, and BASIC.

    Throughout the book, Maeda emphasizes the importance—and delights—of understanding the motivation behind computer programming, as well as the many wonders that emerge from well-written programs. Sympathetic to the "mathematically challenged," he places minimal emphasis on mathematics in the first half of the book. Because computation is inherently mathematical, the book's second half uses intermediate mathematical concepts that generally do not go beyond high-school algebra. The reader who masters the skills so clearly set out by Maeda will be ready to exploit the true character of digital media design.

    • Hardcover $80.00 £59.95
    • Paperback $43.95 £34.00

Contributor

  • Mismatch

    Mismatch

    How Inclusion Shapes Design

    Kat Holmes

    How inclusive methods can build elegant design solutions that work for all.

    Sometimes designed objects reject their users: a computer mouse that doesn't work for left-handed people, for example, or a touchscreen payment system that only works for people who read English phrases, have 20/20 vision, and use a credit card. Something as simple as color choices can render a product unusable for millions. These mismatches are the building blocks of exclusion. In Mismatch, Kat Holmes describes how design can lead to exclusion, and how design can also remedy exclusion. Inclusive design methods—designing objects with rather than for excluded users—can create elegant solutions that work well and benefit all.

    Holmes tells stories of pioneers of inclusive design, many of whom were drawn to work on inclusion because of their own experiences of exclusion. A gamer and designer who depends on voice recognition shows Holmes his “Wall of Exclusion,” which displays dozens of game controllers that require two hands to operate; an architect shares her firsthand knowledge of how design can fail communities, gleaned from growing up in Detroit's housing projects; an astronomer who began to lose her eyesight adapts a technique called “sonification” so she can “listen” to the stars.

    Designing for inclusion is not a feel-good sideline. Holmes shows how inclusion can be a source of innovation and growth, especially for digital technologies. It can be a catalyst for creativity and a boost for the bottom line as a customer base expands. And each time we remedy a mismatched interaction, we create an opportunity for more people to contribute to society in meaningful ways.

    • Hardcover $22.95 £17.99
  • The Acceleration of Cultural Change

    The Acceleration of Cultural Change

    From Ancestors to Algorithms

    R. Alexander Bentley and Michael J. O'Brien

    How culture evolves through algorithms rather than knowledge inherited from ancestors.

    From our hunter-gatherer days, we humans evolved to be excellent throwers, chewers, and long-distance runners. We are highly social, crave Paleolithic snacks, and display some gendered difference resulting from mate selection. But we now find ourselves binge-viewing, texting while driving, and playing Minecraft. Only the collective acceleration of cultural and technological evolution explains this development. The evolutionary psychology of individuals—the drive for “food and sex”—explains some of our current habits, but our evolutionary success, Alex Bentley and Mike O'Brien explain, lies in our ability to learn cultural know-how and to teach it to the next generation. Today, we are following social media bots as much as we are learning from our ancestors. We are radically changing the way culture evolves.

    Bentley and O'Brien describe how the transmission of culture has become vast and instantaneous across an Internet of people and devices, after millennia of local ancestral knowledge that evolved slowly. Long-evolved cultural knowledge is aggressively discounted by online algorithms, which prioritize popularity and recency. If children are learning more from Minecraft than from tradition, this is a profound shift in cultural evolution.

    Bentley and O'Brien examine the broad and shallow model of cultural evolution seen today in the science of networks, prediction markets, and the explosion of digital information. They suggest that in the future, artificial intelligence could be put to work to solve the problem of information overload, learning to integrate concepts over the vast idea space of digitally stored information.

  • The Storm of Creativity

    The Storm of Creativity

    Kyna Leski

    The stages of the creative process—from “unlearning” to beginning again—seen through examples from the practice of artists, architects, poets, inventors, scientists, and others.

    Although each instance of creativity is singular and specific, Kyna Leski tells us, the creative process is universal. Artists, architects, poets, inventors, scientists, and others all navigate the same stages of the process in order to discover something that does not yet exist. All of us must work our way through the empty page, the blank screen, writer's block, confusion, chaos, and doubt. In this book, Leski draws from her observations and experiences as a teacher, student, maker, writer, and architect to describe the workings of the creative process.

    Leski sees the creative process as being like a storm; it slowly begins to gather and take form until it overtakes us—if we are willing to let it. It is dynamic, continually in motion; it starts, stops, rages and abates, ebbs and flows. In illustrations that accompany each chapter, she maps the arc of the creative process by tracing the path of water droplets traveling the stages of a storm.

    Leski describes unlearning, ridding ourselves of preconceptions; only when we realize what we don't know can we pose the problem that we need to solve. We gather evidence—with notebook jottings, research, the collection of objects—propelling the process. We perceive and conceive; we look ahead without knowing where we are going; we make connections. We pause, retreat, and stop, only to start again. To illustrate these stages of the process, Leski draws on examples of creative practice that range from Paul Klee to Steve Jobs, from the discovery of continental drift to the design of Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Familia.

    Creativity, Leski tells us, is a path with no beginning or end; it is ongoing. This revelatory view of the creative process will be an essential guide for anyone engaged in creative discovery.

    The Creative Process UnlearningProblem MakingGathering and TrackingPropellingPerceiving and ConceivingSeeing AheadConnectingPausingContinuing

  • Make It New

    Make It New

    A History of Silicon Valley Design

    Barry M. Katz

    The role of design in the formation of the Silicon Valley ecosystem of innovation.

    California's Silicon Valley is home to the greatest concentration of designers in the world: corporate design offices at flagship technology companies and volunteers at nonprofit NGOs; global design consultancies and boutique studios; research laboratories and academic design programs. Together they form the interconnected network that is Silicon Valley. Apple products are famously “Designed in California,” but, as Barry Katz shows in this first-ever, extensively illustrated history, the role of design in Silicon Valley began decades before Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak dreamed up Apple in a garage.

    Offering a thoroughly original view of the subject, Katz tells how design helped transform Silicon Valley into the most powerful engine of innovation in the world. From Hewlett-Packard and Ampex in the 1950s to Google and Facebook today, design has provided the bridge between research and development, art and engineering, technical performance and human behavior. Katz traces the origins of all of the leading consultancies—including IDEO, frog, and Lunar—and shows the process by which some of the world's most influential companies came to place design at the center of their business strategies. At the same time, universities, foundations, and even governments have learned to apply “design thinking” to their missions. Drawing on unprecedented access to a vast array of primary sources and interviews with nearly every influential design leader—including Douglas Engelbart, Steve Jobs, and Don Norman—Katz reveals design to be the missing link in Silicon Valley's ecosystem of innovation.

    • Hardcover $30.95 £24.00
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.99
  • I'll Have What She's Having

    I'll Have What She's Having

    Mapping Social Behavior

    R. Alexander Bentley, Mark Earls, and Michael J. O'Brien

    How we learn from those around us: an essential guide to understanding how people behave.

    Humans are, first and foremost, social creatures. And this, according to the authors of I'll Have What She's Having, shapes—and explains—most of our choices. We're not just blindly driven by hard-wired instincts to hunt or gather or reproduce; our decisions are based on more than “nudges” exploiting individual cognitive quirks.

    I'll Have What She's Having shows us how we use the brains of others to think for us and as storage space for knowledge about the world. The story zooms out from the individual to small groups to the complexities of populations. It describes, among other things, how buzzwords propagate and how ideas spread; how the swine flu scare became an epidemic; and how focused social learning by a few gets amplified as copying by the masses. It describes how ideas, behavior, and culture spread through the simple means of doing what others do.

    It is notoriously difficult to change behavior. For every “Yes We Can” political slogan, there are thousands of “Just Say No” buttons. I'll Have What She's Having offers a practical map to help us navigate the complex world of social behavior, an essential guide for anyone who wants to understand how people behave and how to begin to change things.

  • Simulation and Its Discontents

    Simulation and Its Discontents

    Sherry Turkle

    How the simulation and visualization technologies so pervasive in science, engineering, and design have changed our way of seeing the world.

    Over the past twenty years, the technologies of simulation and visualization have changed our ways of looking at the world. In Simulation and Its Discontents, Sherry Turkle examines the now dominant medium of our working lives and finds that simulation has become its own sensibility. We hear it in Turkle's description of architecture students who no longer design with a pencil, of science and engineering students who admit that computer models seem more “real” than experiments in physical laboratories.

    Echoing architect Louis Kahn's famous question, “What does a brick want?”, Turkle asks, “What does simulation want?” Simulations want, even demand, immersion, and the benefits are clear. Architects create buildings unimaginable before virtual design; scientists determine the structure of molecules by manipulating them in virtual space; physicians practice anatomy on digitized humans. But immersed in simulation, we are vulnerable. There are losses as well as gains. Older scientists describe a younger generation as “drunk with code.” Young scientists, engineers, and designers, full citizens of the virtual, scramble to capture their mentors' tacit knowledge of buildings and bodies. From both sides of a generational divide, there is anxiety that in simulation, something important is slipping away. Turkle's examination of simulation over the past twenty years is followed by four in-depth investigations of contemporary simulation culture: space exploration, oceanography, architecture, and biology.

  • Processing

    Processing

    A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists

    Casey Reas and Ben Fry

    An introduction to the ideas of computer programming within the context of the visual arts that also serves as a reference and text for Processing, an open-source programming language designed for creating images, animation, and interactivity.

    It has been more than twenty years since desktop publishing reinvented design, and it's clear that there is a growing need for designers and artists to learn programming skills to fill the widening gap between their ideas and the capability of their purchased software. This book is an introduction to the concepts of computer programming within the context of the visual arts. It offers a comprehensive reference and text for Processing (www.processing.org), an open-source programming language that can be used by students, artists, designers, architects, researchers, and anyone who wants to program images, animation, and interactivity. The ideas in Processing have been tested in classrooms, workshops, and arts institutions, including UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, New York University, and Harvard University. Tutorial units make up the bulk of the book and introduce the syntax and concepts of software (including variables, functions, and object-oriented programming), cover such topics as photography and drawing in relation to software, and feature many short, prototypical example programs with related images and explanations. More advanced professional projects from such domains as animation, performance, and typography are discussed in interviews with their creators. “Extensions” present concise introductions to further areas of investigation, including computer vision, sound, and electronics. Appendixes, references to additional material, and a glossary contain additional technical details. Processing can be used by reading each unit in order, or by following each category from the beginning of the book to the end. The Processing software and all of the code presented can be downloaded and run for future exploration.

    Essays Alexander R. Galloway, Golan Levin, R. Luke DuBois, Simon Greenwold, Francis Li, and Hernando Barragán

    Interviews Jared Tarbell, Martin Wattenberg, James Paterson, Erik van Blockland, Ed Burton, Josh On, Jürg Lehni, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn, Mathew Cullen and Grady Hall, Bob Sabiston, Jennifer Steinkamp, Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, Sue Costabile, Chris Csikszentmihályi, Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman, and Mark Hansen

  • The Plenitude

    The Plenitude

    Creativity, Innovation, and Making Stuff

    Rich Gold

    Lessons from and for the creative professions of art, science, design, and engineering: how to live in and with the Plenitude, that dense, knotted ecology of human-made stuff that creates the need for more of itself.

    We live with a lot of stuff. The average kitchen, for example, is home to stuff galore, and every appliance, every utensil, every thing, is compound—composed of tens, hundreds, even thousands of other things. Although each piece of stuff satisfies some desire, it also creates the need for even more stuff: cereal demands a spoon; a television demands a remote. Rich Gold calls this dense, knotted ecology of human-made stuff the "Plenitude." And in this book—at once cartoon treatise, autobiographical reflection, and practical essay in moral philosophy—he tells us how to understand and live with it.

    Gold writes about the Plenitude from the seemingly contradictory (but in his view, complementary) perspectives of artist, scientist, designer, and engineer—all professions pursued by him, sometimes simultaneously, in the course of his career. "I have spent my life making more stuff for the Plenitude," he writes, acknowledging that the Plenitude grows not only because it creates a desire for more of itself but also because it is extraordinary and pleasurable to create.

    Gold illustrates these creative expressions with witty cartoons. He describes "seven patterns of innovation"—including "The Big Kahuna," "Colonization" (which is illustrated by a drawing of "The real history of baseball," beginning with "Play for free in the backyard" and ending with "Pay to play interactive baseball at home"), and "Stuff Desires to Be Better Stuff" (and its corollary, "Technology Desires to Be Product"). Finally, he meditates on the Plenitude itself and its moral contradictions. How can we in good conscience accept the pleasures of creating stuff that only creates the need for more stuff? He quotes a friend: "We should be careful to make the world we actually want to live in."