John Maeda leaves Rhode Island School
of Design for venture capital firm and eBay

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News: president of the Rhode Island School of Design John Maeda has announced he will leave the school to join a Silicon Valley venture capital firm and chair eBay's new Design Advisory Board.

The Japanese-American graphic designer, computer scientist, academic and author will leave RISD at the end of this semester and join Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in Menlo Park, California, as the firm's first design partner from January.

"I firmly believe that art and design will transform our economy in the 21st century the way that science and technology did in the last century," said Maeda. "Joining KPCB was an irresistible opportunity to work alongside talented investment professionals and entrepreneurs to elevate design to the forefront of leadership and innovation."

KPCB says Maeda will work with their entrepreneurs and portfolio companies to "build design DNA into their company cultures". He'll lead the company's Design Council, a group of around 12 Silicone Valley designers that brings together and mentors upcoming design talent in the technology industry. He’ll also work with the firm's Design Fellows mentorship programme, launched a year ago to back internships for college students at startup firms.

A minority of his time will be spent as chair of eBay's newly established Design Advisory Board, reporting directly to eBay CEO John Donahoe and working with the company's marketplace and enterprise business teams, as well as PayPal.

"I've accepted a position in the technology industry to continue my life work at the intersection of design, technology and business," he added in a Youtube movie he made to announce the move to the RISD community.

Rhode Island School of Design's Board of Trustees will now begin to search for a new leader, with the president's duties to be taken over by provost Rosanne Somerson and chief operating officer Jean Eddy in the meantime.

"President Maeda has been a visionary, passionate and tireless leader for RISD over the past six years and for that I extend a heartfelt thank you on behalf of our community," said board chair Michael Spalter. "He has advanced not only our institution but also the role of art and design in the twenty-first century global economy."

During the past six years at RISD, Maeda led the STEM to STEAM movement to transform the traditional STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) to STEAM by adding art as a core subject, championing its inclusion in research policy, business and core education from kindergarten to graduation. Under his leadership the number of students applying to study at RISD has increased along with the number of financial aid packages offered, plus tuition fee increases have been at their lowest in decades.

Maeda was hired by the school to succeed art historian Roger Mandle in 2008. Before that Maeda was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for 12 years, where he also served as the associate director of research at the MIT Media Lab - the institute's research department focussing on the convergence of technology, multimedia and design.

He is also a director on the boards of consumer electronics company Sonos and crowdsourcing innovation platform Quirky, and sits on the board of international advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy.

  • http://instagram.com/riabhavnani Ria

    Silicon valley is thriving while the design world is stagnant.

  • Maria F

    To me, John Maeda always seemed out of touch with the RISD student body and faculty. Although I may respect some of his work and ideas, it leaves a lot to say when he steps down with such short notice, in the middle of a school year and with his STEAM initiative only at its early stages.

    Say what you want about previous presidents, but at least their main objectives were tangible on campus by the time they left.