John Maeda: STEM to STEAM

October 26, 2011


MIT Media Lab, E14-674


In the current moment of economic uncertainty, America is once again turning to innovation as the silver bullet that will guide us forward. Yet in the eyes of many leaders, innovation seems tightly coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math–the STEM subjects. We need to add "Art" to turn STEM into STEAM.
Artists and designers make information more understandable, products more desirable, and new invention possible through the project-based inquiry that has long been practiced in the art studio. By investing in art/science collaborations in research and education we can keep America at the forefront of innovation, ensuring our sustained global leadership and cultural prosperity in the 21st century.
The Media Lab has a history with the interdisciplinary thinking that STEAM represents. Come hear RISD president John Maeda speak about the history of the arts and design at the Media Lab, and the power for future innovation that he sees in the RISD studios.
He will be joined by RISD professors Andrew Raftery and Nancy Skolos.


John Maeda is a world-renowned artist, graphic designer, computer scientist and educator whose career reflects his philosophy of humanizing technology. For more than a decade, he has worked to integrate technology, education and the arts into a 21st-century synthesis of creativity and innovation. A recipient of the National Design Award and represented in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Maeda became president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in June 2008. At RISD, Maeda seeks to champion the necessary role that artists and designers play in the 21st century creative economy. He sees the traditional, hand-crafted techniques that are fundamental to a RISD education as increasingly relevant in an overly-digital world as people seek to reconnect with what is real and authentic. As President, he seeks to connect RISD to the political, economic, social, and business spheres where artists and designers will make a difference, and has prioritized fundraising for scholarships to ensure the broadest possible access to a RISD education. A former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Maeda taught media arts and sciences there for 12 years and served as associate director of research at the MIT Media Lab. Maeda's early work redefined the use of electronic media as a tool for expression by combining skilled computer programming with sensitivity to traditional artistic concerns. He has published four books including The Laws of Simplicity, now translated into 14 languages. His new book, written with Becky Bermont, Redesigning Leadership, expands on his micro-posts on leadership and innovation as @johnmaeda on Twitter. In 2008 Maeda was named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire magazine and in 2010 he was called the “Steve Jobs of academia” by Forbes magazine. A native of Seattle, Maeda earned bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from MIT, followed by a PhD in design science from the University of Tsukuba Institute of Art and Design in Japan and an MBA from Arizona State University.

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