Hanabi JAVA calendar for
Calendar designed to
celebrate spring 1997 as a series of floral petal transformations. A
click reveals a new petal; a drag amplifies or reduces the visual area
of the spinning flower.
Morisawa 10 Poster, offset
Reaching the limits of
typography affliction, Maeda created 10 variants on the logotype of
Japanese type foundry Morisawa company.
For more than a decade, designer John Maeda was known as the leader
in a new generation of designers whose work not only used computers, but
also understood the conceptual shifts wrought by computation itself. He
wrote a book on the subject titled Design By Numbers in 1999, in
which he invites readers to explore “the many possibilities afforded by
creating in the raw computational medium.” The book has influenced
scores of younger designers, including UCLA professor Casey Reas, who
attributes his involvement in the creation of the programming language
Processing to Maeda’s book. While Maeda tends to be considered a
“digital” designer, he has consistently explored the boundaries—and
possibilities—of varying expressive modes, from pencils to computers,
and his reputation, until recently, was built on his penchant for
innovative thinking and an insistence on making computation accessible
to all. For this work, Maeda has earned numerous awards, both nationally
and internationally—he was dubbed by I.D. Magazine as one of the
year’s 40 most influential people in design in 2005, and, in 1999, he
was chosen by Esquire as one of the most important people of the
Since 2008 Maeda has become known for being the new president of the
Rhode Island School of Design, a position he accepted that June and
started in September when, as he remembers it, the country, not just the
college, was ready for youth, for change and for a fresh perspective.
Given his age and lack of administrative experience at the top levels of
higher education, Maeda was in some ways a surprise choice for the
prestigious gig at RISD. Seeing as Barack Obama, similarly young and
driven by a passion for innovation, also took office just a few months
later, Maeda’s perception that his new job was in part due to a shift in
the national zeitgeist seems right on.
After talking with Maeda and reading about his work, especially Maeda@Media
(a book published in 2000, written about his own creative
trajectory), it’s clear that Maeda pays attention to the ever-changing
moods of national perception. Born in Seattle in 1966, Maeda refuses
easy categorization as an artist and designer, and his methodology
centers on constantly disrupting any habits that risk becoming the
slightest bit habitual or routine. At the same time, Maeda clearly
cherishes a set of core values, many of which he has uncovered over time
and are rooted in his childhood.
Maeda’s father owned a tofu factory, and he modeled a particular kind
of dedication to craft and hard work that Maeda says he only later—as
he rediscovered the power of honing one’s skills—recognized as valuable.
Maeda often assisted his father with the tofu factory and began to
explore computing to help with the small business’ paperwork. This
helped move Maeda in the direction of computation, and he ended up
studying electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, where he
earned master’s degrees in both disciplines. He then traveled to Japan,
where he studied art and design, earning a PhD in Design Science from
the University of Tsukuba Institute where, as he says, he “rediscovered
mind, paper and pen.”
Maeda returned to MIT to found the Aesthetics and Computation Group, a
research studio, in the mid-1990s, and there he was able to unite all
of his fundamental interests—computation, engineering, art, craft and
thinking—both in his own work and in the field-building endeavors of his
new research group. ACG developed a set of key concepts, articulated in
short videos, with Maeda making the first contribution titled “Elements
of Reactive Form.” Through snippets of text and a demonstration of a
dynamic drawing application, the video captures the power and
seductiveness of forms that react to the user, building on an earlier
essay by Maeda titled “Reactive Graphics” (written for MdN Magazine).
ACG and its emphasis on computational design became a nexus for
foundational ideas just now being discovered elsewhere. The group’s
participants included, in addition to Casey Reas: Ben Fry, Reas’ partner
in creating Processing and a leader in information visualization; and
designer Elise Co, co-founder of the design and technology firm Aeolog
and an educator at both Art Center College of Design and the University
of Southern California.
While Maeda has been an exceptional designer and educator, his
groundbreaking influence nationally and internationally may also be
attributed to his writing. He contributes frequently to magazines and
newspapers—he assessed Apple’s design principles in a piece for The
Huffington Post in 2009, for example—and he contributes often to the
RISD community site. His texts, notably Creative Code: Aesthetics +
Computation and the recent The Laws of Simplicity: Design,
Technology, Business, Life, offer a list of guidelines to help
simplify complexity. The Laws of Simplicity also captures the
influence of designer Paul Rand on Maeda; Maeda discovered Rand’s book Thoughts
on Design as a graduate student at MIT, and it both humbled and
inspired him with its clarity, precision and power.
Maeda has joined Rand as an iconic figure in the design world. As
Paola Antonelli, curator of design at the Museum of Modern Art in New
York, said in a 2007 New York Times article, “What makes him
extremely influential is not only his enormous aesthetic talent, but his
capacity to extend a rigorous design philosophy, based on simplicity
and clarity of purpose, to the most important tool of the contemporary
design process, computer software.” Other design figures, including
Steven Heller and Nicholas Negroponte, extol Maeda’s brilliance and
creativity, and often highlight his attitude toward simplicity.
Even as a college president, Maeda continues to insist on the value
of creativity and innovation, not just for artists but also for all of
us. Within the context of the avid channeling of federal funds toward
educational programs designed to bolster literacies in science,
technology, engineering and math (commonly known as “STEM” programs),
Maeda insists on the need to add an “A for art” to the mix, creating
STEAM. “Adding art requires a different way of thinking,” he says,
noting that both right- and left-brain thinking is necessary to be truly
productive and innovative. Indeed, for Maeda, innovation should be
considered not simply in instrumental terms, but with regard to ideas
and people. “We need human thinking,” Maeda insists.
In June 2010, Maeda wrote an article, published in Forbes
magazine, entitled “Your Life in 2020.” In it, he offers a great summary
of what he stands for, as a designer, an educator and a leader. Maeda
argues that art and design will be the mainstays of culture in the near
future, as technology fades from its prominent position. “So, what will
take technology’s place?” he asks, and answers: “It begins with art,
design and you.”
Meet the 2016 AIGA Medalists! The distinguished AIGA Medal is awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements in the field of design.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, design educators, students
John Maeda was awarded the 2010 AIGA Medal in April 2011 at “Bright Lights: The AIGA Awards” in New York City.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, interview
What does the future hold for RISD and its next president—digital artist, designer, thinker and educator John Maeda? Heller goes to the source.
Section: Inspiration -
interview, Voice, design educators, students
How do you visualize what the eye can’t see? Willis examines some of the exquisite ways in which designers are using the open source program Processing.
Section: Inspiration -
Voice, digital media
Abbott Miller is recognized with the AIGA Medal for design that elevates culture by fusing content and form through elegant and incisive publications, exhibitions and identities.
On top of hunting for new London offices to house his eponymous design practice, Simon Esterson is busy ramping up the graphic design quarterly Eye, which he’s co-owned and designed since 2008.
Section: Inspiration -
INitiative, editorial design, graphic design, in-house design, print design, typography
We announced our new 2016 #AIGAmedalist's yesterday–but #tbt to our 2015 honorees https://t.co/5tfvQDmnvf #AIGAgala https://t.co/kkfnKKRbwN
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25 Films by Akira Kurosawa
Rodrigo Corral Design