Only in it's second year, SXSW V2V has already had the honor of presenting a host of inspirational and innovative speakers. For 2014, each day of informative sessions will kick off with an hour-long Keynote presentation that will set the tone for the day. These special presentations will feature thought leaders whose careers and talents highlight the intersection of creativity and entrepreneurial innovation that SXSW V2V celebrates.
Design Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
John Maeda is Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, where he works with KPCB’s entrepreneurs and portfolio companies to build design into their company cultures. He served as the 16th president of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) from 2008 through 2013, during which time RISD saw increased applications, fundraising, and career placements. Prior to RISD, Maeda spent 13 years at the MIT Media Lab as a professor and head of research. His career bridging the intersections of graphic design, computer science, art, education, and leadership earned him the distinction of being named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire.
Maeda chairs the eBay Design Advisory Council, serves on the boards of the wireless hi-fi company Sonos and the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, and is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership. His books include The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code, and Redesigning Leadership, which expands on his Twitter feed at @johnmaeda, one of TIME Magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds. He has received a variety of international awards for his creative work, including induction to the Art Director's Club Hall of Fame and the White House's National Design Award.
John took a moment to answer a few questions that we thought our community would like to know about his career, inspirations and thoughts on creativity and entrepreneurship. Below is a peak at what he had to say.
V2V: How are you creatively inspired?
JM: I experiment and fail a lot. I mean, a lot. I also don’t take myself too seriously. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take my work seriously. I’m a huge fan of John W. Gardner’s book on Self-Renewal – it speaks to the fact that in life we always need to learn new things, and to do so, we have to become someone new. Gardner’s thesis was that if we can renew ourselves, no matter how old we are, then we can live a more fulfilled existence. And to renew ourselves, it means trying new things and failing, until we finally succeed.
My favorite quote along these lines is from Nelson Mandela: “Don’t judge be by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell and got up again.”
V2V: How important is creativity in entrepreneurship?
JM: If you look at the description of creativity above, it’s the exact same mindset people need to be entrepreneurs. The same fearlessness and willingness to dive in. I also think there’s truth to Edison’s maxim that genius is “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” -- starting a company is all about execution. Artists and designers, who are used to relentlessly pursuing a personal passion or vision, are perfectly suited to this endeavor.
V2V: Who was your hero/heroine growing up?
JM: I am forever grateful for the immense hard work my parents put in to afford me the opportunity to attend college and create a different life for myself. Owners of a tofu store in Seattle’s Chinatown, my father never finished high school and my mother’s old-fashioned father forbid her from going to college. But like many American immigrants, they both strongly believed that education could make the difference in their children's lives.
I once wrote a blog post about the power of teachers in my life. The piece told the story of how my chemistry teacher convinced my parents to let me take summer classes at the local college while I was in high school. The teacher said it would help me achieve my parents’ dream of my going to MIT one day - and he was certainly right. Without my chemistry teacher’s inspiration and encouragement, I never would have become an MIT professor, nor president of the Rhode Island School of Design.
V2V: How far would you travel for a favorite meal?
JM:I find my favorite food wherever I go. Though I find myself in many different places in the world, I can always seek out a comforting homestyle Japanese meal and feel at home wherever I am.
V2V: What is the best idea you wish would have gone mainstream?
JM:I guess one way to think about it is that I try not to think of the world in terms of regrets. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be reflective – heavens no. I stay stuck in my head reflecting for eternity sometimes; just like the late David Foster’ Wallace’s great line in “This is Water,” when he talks about the “freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms.” Anyhow, I’m an optimist about this - my feeling is that the best ideas do eventually get to the mainstream. It’s just a matter of when.
V2V: What do you envision as the most significant breakthrough or trend in the next five years?
JM:The discovery that there is no gigantic breakthrough. I think we still haven’t fully decoded how design and technology will successfully merge to transform our lives. But I feel confident that the next breakthroughs will come from designers who successfully integrate technology, or technologists who successfully integrate design.
Photo Courtesy of John Maeda