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John Maeda named president of Rhode Island School of Design

John Maeda
John Maeda
Photo © Webb Chappell

John Maeda, associate director of research at the MIT Media Laboratory, has been appointed president of the Rhode Island School of Design. He will assume leadership there in June 2008.

A pioneering voice for "simplicity" in the digital age, Maeda received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from MIT and has been teaching at MIT since 1996. He has also served as the E. Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. in design from Tsukuba University Institute of Art and Design in Japan, and received his M.B.A. from Arizona State University.

"It is my deepest honor to be asked to serve the Rhode Island School of Design as its next president. I look forward to realizing the potential of the school by using many of the lessons and skills I learned as a student and professor at MIT," Maeda said. "My MIT undergraduate education prepared me to see the future of arts and culture from a uniquely technological perspective, while my role as a professor deeply influenced my perspective on leadership. Through it all, I learned that education is always about innovation. Innovation is the MIT way."

Adèle Naudé Santos, dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, which includes the Media Lab, described Maeda as "a visionary, world-renowned graphic designer, artist and computer scientist. He is truly a trailblazer," she said, "a charismatic public speaker and a brilliant teacher who cares deeply about education. His contributions to the Media Lab culture have been enormous and it has been a privilege to have him on our faculty. This is an inspired choice for President of RISD and we wish him all the best."

Maeda pioneered the use of the computer for people of all ages and skills to create art. His early work redefined the use of electronic media as a tool for expression by combining skilled computer programming with a sensitivity to traditional artistic concerns. This work helped to pioneer the interactive motion graphics that are prevalent on the Internet today. He also initiated the Design By Numbers project, a global initiative to teach computer programming to visual artists through a freely available, custom software system that he designed.

Frank Moss, director of the Media Lab, said that "The Media Lab has always been a place where art, design and technology intersect to enable radically new forms of expression, and nobody represents this as well as John. His name is considered synonymous with the most exciting and dynamic concepts at this intersection. John has brought the 'Maeda Touch' to everything from buildings to sneakers and has had an enormous impact on the world. As such, he represents a fantastic choice to lead RISD into the future."

In 1999 Maeda was included in Esquire magazine's list of the 21 most important people for the 21st century. He is also the recipient of the highest career honors for design in the United States (2001, National Design Award), Japan (2002, Mainichi Design Prize) and Germany (2005, Raymond Loewy Foundation Prize). In May 2003, he received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Maeda is the author of four books, including his 480-page retrospective MAEDA@MEDIA (2001, Thames & Hudson), and his most recent book, The Laws of Simplicity (2006, MIT Press).

Maeda was born in 1966 in Seattle. He lives with his wife, Kris, and their five daughters in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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