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Thursday, March 6, 2014

'Artists And Makers, It's Time To Be Leaders' - WIRED


This post by John Maeda first appeared in WIRED, 3/6/14

Twenty years ago, when I was a young coder/designer, my life boiled down to this haiku:

“All I want to be / is someone that makes new things / and thinks about them.”

At the time I felt really alienated by coders, who didn’t “get” design, and by designers, who didn’t “get” code. So I decided to focus on making things across both domains for the sake of doing so, without trying to intellectualise what I did or trying to fit in.

I’ve lived at both ends of the spectrum — the “pure” world of technology at MIT supervising a variety of research projects and the “pure” world of art and design at an art school in Japan, and as the president of Rhode Island School of Design. I’ve felt strongly about serving as a “bridge” to find, cultivate and empower younger people to cross the boundaries of art and technology — and to support them when they feel the discomfort of not quite feeling at home in any predefined box.

So I felt a bit like an alien, and a lot like I was coming home, at the recent Brooklyn Beta conference. There I was surrounded by people who were — uncontroversially — blurring technology and art, and coding and design, in a way that nobody questioned or discouraged. I met Elle, who started as a designer and now does Rails dev. And Charles, a former engineer who now leads design at a well known startup. And the cofounders and crew of Brooklyn Beta themselves perfectly epitomise the blurring of expertise that makes up this generation — one where it is difficult to be a successful designer without knowing how to code. At last, the interdisciplinarian life is beginning to be applauded.

The act of making — whether it is with physical materials or with code — feels good because…