Friday, September 5, 2008

A Bold, Fresh Perspective at RISD

On September 12, John Maeda will be inaugurated as the 16th president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). RISD was founded in 1877 as one of the country's first colleges to offer a combined education in arts and design. RISD is one of only 35 colleges and universities that offer dual art and academic accreditation - see Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).

While Maeda has been a university professor, he has never worked in education administration. He is a designer. He is best know for design the Reebok "Timetanium."

In a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, "Design for Learning: RISD Gets a New Type of President," Maeda admits, "I don't know how to do this job! But, I know how to learn! I love to learn!" How refreshing that a university would tap someone who is creative and industrious and not wed to the "we have always done it this way" mindset. He can't be because he has never done college presidency before. RISD is setting themselves up for an organizational growth mindset and freshness and new perspective that comes with naivete. There is real courage and boldness to this choice that will yield a leg-up on innovation.

What does Maeda bring? The succinct answer is his mind and his energy. Art is about learning to see and problem-solving, in that order. One must be able to see clearly and anew what a problem is. To do this one has to ask obvious questions to tease out entrenched, subliminated assumptions and beliefs. One also has to be comfortable with developing a sense of what if..., why not?... and imagine....all stances of inquiry that lead to vision. Artists/designers make things go together, sometimes loosely connected yet exciting things. More organizations should consider this sort of fresh boldness that is much more likely to lead to innovation and renewal.

Mr. Maeda is a consummate blogger. Check out his blogs:
Our (and Your) RISD
The Laws of Simplicity
Simplicity at the MIT Media Lab
Technohumanism/Technology Review MIT

The Reebok Strucess by John Maeda

No comments: