John Maeda talks about Neue Craft

The most recent addition to the the Adobe Museum of Digital Media is a lecture by John Maeda called A+B=C (Atoms+Bits=Craft). Once you get past the Museum’s virtual architecture, which I talked about in my blog on Tuesday (March 29th), you find yourself in John’s world, where he stands at a table talking to you, aided by a few props and a drawing pad, with illustrations projected onto a screen beside him. I think John has always been interested in the craft of design, but as he is now President of RISD, he is thinking more about the connections between the craft of digital design and the traditional craft based disciplines such as ceramics, textiles and glass. I’m in the same situation, coming to Cooper-Hewitt from Silicon Valley, and having the chance to be involved with shows about these crafts, as with our current shows.

A Summary of Influences in the Design of Digital Media

In the first part John gives a wonderfully succinct summary of the developments in technology in the last 40 years, showing how the content migrates from text to movies in each successive platform. Next is a summary of his own personal progress as a graphic artist and designer in the digital realm, leading into an illustrated story of development of digital media, identifying key contributors and designs. He poses the question, “Where do you think innovation comes from?

Casey Reas and Ben Fry, Creators of Processing

He explains that the craft for creating software is exercised as you design the computer code, giving credit to Casey Reas and Ben Fry for offering Processing in open source, where anyone can post both their art and its code. He links the punch card programs of bygone computers to similar programmatic control of a textile loom.

Examples of Traditional Crafts

John celebrates the act of making inherent to traditional crafts, bemoaning its loss in the digital realm. He shows typesetting and glass making at RISDI to illustrate the point that a craft is something you have to do right, supported by a belief in excellence. You can tell from his accomplished delivery that John Maeda is a great teacher. I hope he can continue to teach us about design, both physical and virtual, in his role as President of RISD.

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