John Maeda


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Global Head, Computational Design and Inclusion / 0.049 Years at Automattic / Image Editor: Sketch / Code Editor: Sublime Text (formerly EMACS) / USA

In the beginning days of the Web, Open Source was a human right. I can often remember in the 90s as the Web was just starting to emerge how important it was that all of the Web could be decoded by simply pulling down the menu and selecting, “View Source…” which let you see the underlying code that created a website. And you could easily copy it, and adapt it, and share it with others so that more people could make more sophisticated websites.

But the “View Source…” menu is now buried deeper in the browser’s menubar; and ever since Flash and other closed systems arrived on the Internet, it hasn’t been possible to view a lot of code written by the biggest companies out there. It’s happening in little pieces, but not at scale. Something important to creativity—Open Source—can easily go away. It’s vanishing, slowly, and quietly. We at Automattic intend to keep it alive, healthy, and growing.

🌎 Needs

Design is a poorly designed word—it can mean too many things. We need to sharpen its meanings in the contexts of computational media to unleash greater value for businesses and humans.

🌏 Wants

A world that respects each other’s differences, encourages each other’s differences, and that celebrates the hybridizing of each other’s differences.

👏 Talk

📱 Products

Lumio Lamp / You open it, and then everyone is in awe. You close it, and then everyone will ask you to keep opening it up again. It’s a portable light, charged with a regular USB cable, and the mini Lumio+ also serves as a battery for your tech gear.

Bellroy Wallets / I looked for years for the perfect men’s wallet, and funded every Kickstarter project where new, slim men’s wallets pop up every other week. Until I searched for the term “slim wallet” and found Bellroy.

❔ Whois

Hi! Prior to joining Automattic I was Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and got to work with over a hundred technology startups at all stages of development—to support their leadership teams to better leverage design. At KPCB, together with a team including Jackie Xu, Aviv Gilboa, and Justin Sayarath, we launched the #DesignInTech Report—which identified trends at the intersection of technology, business, and design in both private and public companies. Currently I serve on the boards of Sonos and Wieden+Kennedy, and I’ve written a few books including The Laws of Simplicity, Redesigning Leadership, MAEDA@MEDIA.

❤️ Favorite Emoji


Automattic is spread across more than 50 countries. If you are a product or marketing designer living anywhere in the world who wants to work from anywhere in the world on open source and the future of design with us, we are the place for you. Just visit our Work With Us page to learn more.

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One Comment

  1. Hi John, I am a student from the University of Portsmouth, UK, studying Graphic Design. I wasn’t sure how to contact you so I hope leaving a reply on here is ok. I have recently been given a research project where we were put in groups and given a designer to research and my group were given you to research. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind answering a few questions to help me with my research about you.

    I have listened to your TED talk about your journey in design which I have to say was very interesting. In my opinion I noticed that you have quite a quick thought process and would create pieces one after another, the plastic boxes and blue tape as an example of this. Do you agree with this? What is your opinion on your thought process?

    I also noticed from this talk that you have a love hate relationship with computers and technology as during the early stages of your career when computers had just become visual it appeared that you were quite interested in them and were creating your own pieces of software. However, later on in the talk you said that you became very disinterested in computers. Why do you think you changed your mind? What is your opinion on computers now?

    As part of my project I have to research and answer ‘What is Graphic Design?’, using a range of sources and others opinions. So in your opinion what is graphic design? Is graphic design art?

    Many thanks if you see this and respond to any of the questions.


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