Design bigwig John Maeda is coming to Philadelphia - Philly


Design bigwig John Maeda is coming to Philadelphia

Currently the global head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic, Maeda will be giving a talk at Drexel on Jan. 24 to kick off a new ExCITe Center program.

John Maeda at a TED Talk in 2012.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

If the New Year’s resolutions for Drexel University’s ExCITe Center involve innovation, it’s off to a great start with the new initiative it has planned for 2017.

It’s called Learning Innovation, an year-long program focused on exploring, and sharing, innovative approaches to learning and education on a national level. The plan so far includes gathering research from a national survey of maker and learning spaces, testing out student-focused pilot programs geared toward creative ways of learning and lastly, hosting six thought leaders from around the country to have public conversations about all this at Drexel.

First up for speaking on Jan. 24 at 6:00 p.m. in the Bossone Research Center’s Mitchell Auditorium will be John Maeda, currently the global head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic (FYI: they’re the developers of Before that though, Maeda’s been involved in roles that encapsulate everything from engineering and art — as a professor at the MIT Media Lab and president of the Rhode Island School of Design — to the venture capital world in Silicon Valley as a design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers.


“He’s the type of radical thinker who’s developed successful radical approaches that we think highlights the spirit of our initiative,” said Youngmoo Kim, director of the ExCITe Center, who will be moderating the conversation with Maeda. “I think one of John’s strengths is that he’s always learning.”

As for the rest of the year, Kim is looking forward to what’s in store, especially with the national survey that’ll involve Drexel sending folks like Brian Smith, professor of learning technologies at Drexel’s School of Education, to creative spaces all around the country to learn what they’re doing to contribute to the development of their communities. Those findings will then be shared publicly.

“We certainly don’t think that we have all the answers — if we knew the answers to all the questions, why would we do the research?” Kim said. “But we also think there’s some incredibly innovative things happening here in Philadelphia. … What works really well in San Francisco may or may not have direct application here.”  


The program will also have its first fellow and undergraduate student in April developing an idea focused on the principles of learning innovation.

The last thing Kim wants is for Learning Innovation to just be another series of events. He hopes the Philly community — not just the design community or just the education community — can come together to make some real changes in the ways we all learn.

“It’s not just gonna be one thing, like buying more 3D printers. More 3D printers will probably be nice but that’s not in and of itself a solution,” Kim said.

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