JOHN MAEDA IS a bellwether for the design industry. His tenure at places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Rhode Island School of Design, and at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers illustrates his prescient understanding of where design is going, and his innate ability to get there first.
Maeda started his career two decades ago at the MIT Media Lab, where his work bridged art and engineering. The Rhode Island School of Design appointed him president in 2007, just as the iPhone spurred the rise of apps and made digital design an essential skill. Then he joined Kleiner Perkins six years later, when companies like Apple and Airbnb were awakening Silicon Valley to the potential of design-led businesses.
Maeda is moving on again, to Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com1. His title: Global Head, Computational Design and Inclusion. He invented the position, but it essentially places him in charge of improving the user experience in everything Automattic makes. (He will stay on at KPCB as a strategic advisor.) The jump, like all of Maeda’s jumps, suggests the future of design. This time it’s that open source, user-generated sites will grow increasingly important.
Originally trained at MIT as an engineer, Maeda later earned his PhD in design. Subsequently he joined the faculty at MIT’s Media Lab in 1996, and pursued his MBA after earning tenure. He left MIT in 2008 to become the 16th President of the Rhode Island School of Design. While at RISD, Maeda advocated nationally for STEM education to become STEAM (add Art).
An internationally recognized speaker and author, Maeda’s books include The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code, and Redesigning Leadership. He has spoken at TED, the World Economic Forum, and at many corporations and universities on the convergence of technology, business, and design.