Designing Interactions

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John Maeda

John Maeda is interviewed in Chapter 9 – Futures and Alternative Nows. His artistic endeavors relate to the work of Dunne and Raby and Bill Gaver, and the simplicity of his software has something in common with the original software designed for the Macintosh by Bill Atkinson.

John Maeda seems boundlessly prolific, as an interaction designer, computer artist, and teacher; you can feast your eyes on his retrospective book Maeda@Media.  He was raised in Seattle, the son of Japanese immigrants who toiled for sixteen-hour days in their tofu factory. He demonstrated talents in both art and technical subjects. He studied engineering at MIT, and he followed his future wife to Japan, where he studied product design at Tsukuba University. His graphic design talent kept surfacing, and he found a niche creating work that was both artistic and technical. Recognition started to arrive, with awards flooding in, including Japan’s highest honor, the Mainichi Design Prize, and the USA’s highest honor, the National Design Award. Soon he was a professor at the MIT Media Lab, directing the Aesthetics & Computation Group. He has recently made a fresh start, forming the Physical Language Workshop with a new group of students and researchers, plus an associated research initiative called “Simplicity.” He has a variety of work archived online at his personal Web site There are some misconceptions that MAEDASTUDIO is a large company, but it is not; it is the name he gives his desk at home.

John finds digital tools too complex and expensive today, so he has set out to write new software that is simple, extensible and open source. He talks about this initiative, with the help of his team members at the MIT Media Lab.

John at his interview in 2003. Photo Author