john maeda: design as a discipline is not designed well to be understoodjohn maeda at design indaba 2013portrait © designboom




in john maeda‘s presentation at the 2013 design indaba conference he talked about how the design industry is changing and the importance design thinking, and the future of creative leadership–perhaps disguised more as a wallflower–and how to be successful in this competitive environment. he spoke about the intersection between art, design and technology, touching on such topics as the role of computer programming and the role of code in art.


maeda describes himself as humanist technologist and design as a discipline that is not designed well to be understood. design is often seen as ‘drawing a picture’, which it obviously is not. it’s also seen as confusing – the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to achieve. maeda’s call to action, so to speak, to all creatives is to think wider and be braver in our solutions. caring about the nature of being human, and the nature of technology, and reconciling both is important today, because it’s technology that connects people, but it’s always people that matter. design is key in that reconciliation.


his key project at RISD is to add art and design into ‘STEM‘–which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — as a core principle american education, to create STEAM.



STEM to STEAM: join the movementfrom STEM to STEAM



 design can be used to communicate complex information, visualize complex data. an artistic approach takes it one step further to make us care enough to do something about it. scientific data shows global warming — but how do we get people to care? through expression — art.


the critical thinking of artists and designers when added to STEM leads to new discovery, innovation and action. read more here.



 characteristics of the creative leader (versus authoritative leader):


     john maeda: design as a discipline is not designed well to be understood

john maeda: design as a discipline is not designed well to be understood




‘this chart represents a summary of the kind of creative leadership that is rising — and needed — in the face of our increasing interconnectedness due to global economies, mobile devices, and social media. In an age where anyone can ‘friend’ the CEO, and where complexity and volatility are the only constants, what should leadership look like?


I often say we are now operating within a ‘heterarchy’ though I’ve also cleverly seen it called the ‘wirearchy‘. in any case, it’s a world where I believe the natural perspective of artists and designers — who thrive in ambiguity, fail productively, and rebound naturally — will be become more and more useful in leadership contexts.


the chart was originally created for a workshop at the davos world economic forum in 2009 and became the basis of my book redesigning leadership, written with becky bermont. in my own observation, there are authoritative leaders and creative leaders everywhere — it’s not something wholly determined by industry, generation, or position. and every leader will need, on any given day, a little bit of both types of leadership.


I share it here because it’s been frequently requested — I hope it’s useful. ‘ – john maeda




 twitter quotes from john maeda


‘a scientific equation represents the conclusion of an intellectual pursuit that is forever, and perfectly, repeatable.’


‘artists and scientists tend to approach problems with a similar open-mindedness.’


‘like well-designed cars, well-designed videogames are ways of taking your mind to different places.’


‘it’s easy to pay little attention to life’s many happy durings.’


john maeda: design as a discipline is not designed well to be understood john maeda’s interactive lecture ‘atoms + bits = the neue craft’ has been the second exhibition of the web-based  adobe museum of digital media,




‘computers let us imagine digitally what we once could only validate by handcraft i physical form,’ maeda explains: ‘the infinite malleability and reusability of bits have forever changed the creative process. but […] digital tools have relied on many of the original tools and media used by artists in the pre-digital world.’says maeda in regards to his 2011 exhibition on adobe’s web-based adobe museum of digital media,







john maeda: design as a discipline is not designed well to be understood

design indaba conference 2013john maeda has been one of the speakers at the 3-day design conference in cape town, south africa. the design indaba conference, which took place at the cape town international convention centre from february 27 to march 1, featured forty protagonists from the architecture, art and design world.