Combine design, science, business, tech, empathy and wit, and the world gets John Maeda. He’s an accomplished, innovative leader spearheading the convergence of design and technology. You may have read his books or heard his famous Design in Tech reports. You may know his work at RISD, MIT and Automattic. But do you know what his favorite YouTube channel is?
As we gear up for AIGA DC’s event “John Maeda on Redesigning Leadership in Business, Tech, and Life” — register here — we’re sharing 32 things that will help you get to know him better.
1. Maeda was born and raised in Seattle.
2. As a kid, he wanted to be a dentist.
3. His parents made tofu for a living.
4. He learned how to think aesthetically by watching his father make meals for friends. The act of watching beautiful Japanese foods being made and his family’s lack of resources pushed him to be creative.
5. He is married and has five daughters.
6. His favorite color is blue.
7. In 1984, the same year he enrolled at MIT, the first Macintosh computer came out. His parents bought him a computer and it changed his life.
8. He always liked drawing. When he went to MIT, he discovered the architecture department and considered changing directions. His dad said, “No, no, no, no, no. You’re not going to be able to feed yourself. So computer science — go back there.” However, computers became more visual, and Maeda married his interest in computer science and visual communication with design.
9. He discovered design when he came across a book by Paul Rand at MIT’s library.
10. One of his passions is to help makers understand that, “Money is just a medium. And like all media, it can do good, it can do bad. In the same way we can’t say that all art does good — there are bad artists. There are evil artists … money can be used in the same way: for good, for bad.”
11. He was a part of the Swiss Typography mafia in Shinjuku.
12. Reebok collaborated with John Maeda to create the Timetamium sneaker.
13. Reading The Audacity of Hope gave him confidence to take on the position of the 16th president of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2008.
14. He was recognized as one of Esquire’s Most Influential People in 2008.
15. He has Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT.
16. He has an MBA from Arizona State University and a PhD from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
17. He’s been awarded honorary PhD degrees in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and Simon Fraser University.
18. In 2010, he was awarded an AIGA medal.
19. He launched the #DesignInTech Report to share emerging insights about design, investing, tech and business.
20. In regard to diversity and its importance, Maeda says, “No, it isn’t important. It’s essential to increase the quality of discourse. But I’m by no means perfect with regard to my diversity record, but I do strive to be conscious, aware, and take action on the matter.”
21. His work is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
22. He received Tribeca Film Festival’s Disruptive Innovation Award for catalyzing the national movement to transform STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) into STEAM by adding art as a priority area.
23. Maeda can be found on Twitter discussing technology, business and design at @johnmaeda, one of TIME Magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds.
24. He is a board member of wireless hi-fi innovator Sonos and the global advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy.
25. He is a member of the Technical Advisory Board for Google’s Advanced Technology + Projects Group, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on New Growth Models.
26. Maeda’s advice for someone starting out: “If you’re a good person, you will get a lot of advice from a lot of good people; being good is a good thing. If you hear good advice, write it down, because your world will take over, and you will quickly forget it … wisdom can come from anybody.”
27. In 2014, he stated his favorite music was by Ryuichi Sakamoto. We also heard, through the grapevine, that he enjoys Chance the Rapper.
28. He wears a lot of baseball caps.
29. His favorite YouTube channel is SNL.
30. He can’t live without pictures of his kids (which he sometimes steals) nestled in the pocket of his Bellroy wallet.
31. Maeda wears a Misfit Shine on a wristband, which looks like a watch. Only, he doesn’t wear it to tell time or to tell his fitness level. It simply brings him comfort.
32. One of his favorite fortune cookie quotes is “The great pleasure of life is doing what other people say you cannot do.”
More about John Maeda
2010 AIGA Medalist John Maeda is now the Global Head, Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic, an online publishing-platform company that has built several innovative products including WordPress. Maeda seeks to address the diversity gap in tech by exploring how inclusion can be a key ingredient for success. His long list of accomplishments includes serving as a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB); MIT Media Lab professor for 12 years; and president of Rhode Island School of Design. He has championed science and art education in school curricula and advocated for putting the “A for art” in STEAM. His work has earned him many awards, including a Type Directors Club Prize, White House National Design Award, and induction into the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame, to name a few. He holds multiple engineering degrees along with an MBA and a PhD.