One of the most interesting talks that I attended while I was in graduate school at Penn was by John Maeda.
John operates at the intersection of design, technology, and business, and I find his work fascinating. He’s probably best described as a graphic designer, visual artist, computer scientist, academic, and author. And when I heard him speak in 2008, he was also President of the Rhode Island School of Design.
More recently though, John has entered the world of venture capital by becoming a “Design Partner” at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) in Silicon Valley. But what’s really interesting about this move is that when he joined KPCB in January 2014, he was the first designer to arrive on Silicon Valley’s legendary Sand Hill Road. No other VC firm had a designer in-house.
And that’s because design hasn’t, at least historically, been considered that important. In fact, in some cases it was seen as being detrimental. Brian Chesky – cofounder of Airbnb – has gone on record saying that when they were first starting out, Silicon Valley didn’t think that a bunch of designers from RISD could build and run a company. Boy were they wrong.
So that’s changing. As of this month (March 2015), there are now 6 other designers on Sand Hill Road. The venture capital community has seemingly woken up to the value of great design.
John Maeda has branded this shift, #DesignInTech. And he recently gave a presentation on the topic at SXSW. It’s a great read, particularly if you’re somebody who cares about design. Click here if you can’t see it below.