A Design Conversation with John Maeda


John Maeda is a design partner at KPCB, a VC firm in Silicon Valley with Google and Amazon in their portfolio. It was an honor to hear him speak live about design and hybrids. Big thanks to Poptech for organizing for free and Patrizia of Legoviews for sharing the event.

I got to know about John Maeda when shortlisting schools to go for a Design Masters in 2008. John was the president of RISD (Airbnb founders are alumni) which was on my shortlist along with IIT and Carnegie Mellon etc in the US. Recently, John’s research piece around design in tech made me do a few ‘victory’ whoops. Though I went to Northumbria, the design course there encouraged ‘hybridity’ and the use of design-thinking for innovation and generating economy value.

John gave a very engaging talk on design and the importance of hybrids. The audience responded well with a number of questions which dug deeper into some aspects of the talk.

Some interesting things

Be Bold: Take the next Steps.

John said he was inspired by reading Obama’s Audacity of Hope and became a president himself in 2008. While working in that capacity he found a vision which was to build a justifiable case for creativity in the world. He took a lot of time encouraging people to take the next step (spoken by Joe Gebbia, co founder Airbnb) and realized it was something he had to do as well, which saw him take the leap to Silicon Valley.

Make better designers so they can make better designers.

This was the first nugget I resonated with. The reason we are given anything is so we can give. Every healthy ecosystem works on that principle, recieve, give, recieve, give. So take time to grow designers who will grow others better than themselves.

User Experience matters so much, because we are Experiencing so much.

We are currently in the age of experience because we are experiencing so much all the time. Pain points have now become pain plains. If an experience hurts, it hurts so much more, if an experience is delightful, the delight lingers for long. So we need to design with this in mind and always strive to facilitate the best experiences.

Design must be led by C-Suite

Top-down sponsorship AND bottoms-up effort is essential to make meaningful culture transformation progress.” —Dane Howard

We must be willing to design the right incentives, culture and system to enable growth. When the CEO cares about design, progress gets made fast


“Design is vexing, curious and affecting”

Read the Design in Tech Report

Download the Design in Tech report


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