John Maeda on creativity and challenges in leading creatives

In this 18:22 long video from

Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda defines the key qualities of standout innovators – a willingness to struggle, to make mistakes, to live with ambiguity – and tackles the creative’s biggest challenge: How to lead other creatives. Perhaps confronting the status quo, killing bureaucracy, and leading change can be its own art form.


  • Creative — sometimes considered to be a bad word.
  • Art and cretaivity is sometimes an awkward thing.
  • We look for solutions (like iPads) to problems that we don’t really have.
  • Evolution of computer technology, Internet, and mobile computing — an awkward loop. Starting with text, adding images, then audio, and video — each technology has followed the same loop.
  • Feeling that work we create is empty — an ongoing effort to fill in the gaps.
  • Told he was the creative guy his whole life and to not worry about the money part of things. He realized he needed to learn the orgainzational/leadership side of things in order to succeed.
  • Paul Rand – the Michael Jordan of graphic design.
  • Spent a day once working with Paul Rand when Paul’s assistance didn’t show up for work the day John was visiting
  • Advice from Paul Rand: Make lots of money (“woah, Yoda doesn’t talk like that”), in your life you will do things that you don’t like to do, and you can use that money to make the things you want to do.
  • Labor of love comes from the money you make doing other things.
  • All artists yearn to struggle. Only when they struggle do they feel alive.
  • How do you lead creative people? One of John’s and future leader’s biggest challenges.
  • Getting angry isn’t useful. Contemplated tweeting “Anger is an emotion I don’t often feel but often field.” Talked about transforming negative feedback received to make it easier to comprehend and consider.
  • Creative people love mistakes.¬†We love to learn from them. We don’t need to be right, but we hope to be right.

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