Earlier in the month, outgoing President John Maeda presented Post-digital: the past, present and future of design and technology, an insightful (and at times humorous) talk aimed at RISD students. In front of the packed auditorium in the Chace Center, the former MIT professor gave an overview of his early artistic experiments and some personal thoughts on the how creativity, art and design will help improve our ever-changing world.

Before the start of the presentation, Student Alliance President Rosa Glenn 14 TX and Graduate Student Alliance President Diana Wagner MID 14 gave Maeda a warm welcome. “As you’ll hear in his lecture [President Maeda] is enthusiastic, relentlessly inquisitive and is a model for how to ask questions that cannot be answered,” noted Glenn.

Wagner echoed her heartfelt sentiments: “To the rest of the world, President Maeda is known as an author, a graphic designer, a computer scientist, an artist and an academic. But here at RISD we know him as being one of our biggest advocates,” she said. “[He] encourages us to think creatively and consider the ways each of us can be an artist and/or designer as well as a leader.”

Maeda started off by revealing some of the interactive computer games he made in the 1990s. Inspired by Bauhaus artist Johannes Itten, he made a number of programs that play with color while testing the limits of early computing capabilities. For instance, Time Paint lets users make animations in multiple dimensions. And Reactive Square responds to sounds captured by built-in microphones. “You can make the computer do things that you wouldn’t expect,” he noted. “Why shouldn’t you play with that?”

The president also shared some insights gained after attending the National Design Awards at The White House. “The world is so tumultuous; people are desperate to [find] new inspirations for how to think,” he told the crowd. “[In art school] we fail, we fail, we create, we fail…We have a kind of fearlessness. That kind of ability is being called upon in this country – and many countries – to lead.”

Watch the video above to hear more from President Maeda – about his early experiments with computers, the benefits of growing older and other insights into the future of design and technology!

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