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RISD President John Maeda Accepts Position as Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers


In a video message sent to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) community today, President John Maeda announced that he has accepted a position in Silicon Valley and will be leaving RISD at the end of the fall semester. In January 2014, he will assume the position of Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where he will help KPCB’s entrepreneurs build design into their company cultures; he will also chair the eBay Design Advisory Board, working with the company to evolve design capabilities.

“The courage, inspiration and rigor that RISD students show in their work and their choices to lead – why we say that RISD is the Reason I’m Sleep Deprived – is what inspired me to seize these opportunities,” Maeda notes in the video. “I am passionate about revealing art and design’s role in innovation, and this next step represented irresistible pathways to strengthen design’s place in the digital age. At the same time, I feel privileged to have led this amazing community, and I know that I leave RISD as the best art and design school in the world and with every opportunity that it will be even better in the years to come.”

“President Maeda has been a visionary and passionate leader for RISD over the past six years, advancing not only our cherished, 136-year-old institution but also the role of art and design in the 21st century global economy,” noted RISD Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter. “I congratulate President Maeda on his new opportunities and I am delighted that he will continue to be an advocate for creativity and a leader at the intersection of design, technology and business. RISD’s Board of Trustees will take the appropriate next steps to ensure a smooth and orderly transition, working closely with our extraordinary, seasoned and talented leadership team – Provost Rosanne Somerson and Chief Operating Officer Jean Eddy.”

Under Maeda’s leadership, RISD was ranked the #1 Design School in the World in Business Insider’s 2012 survey. Applications increased by 9.4% in 2012 and are up another 3.5% in 2013. During his tenure, Maeda placed a high priority on fundraising for scholarships and, beginning with his family’s own six-figure scholarship gift, more than doubled the amount raised for scholarships compared to the previous five-year period. As a result, RISD has enrolled the most diverse undergraduate classes in its history, thanks in part to increases in financial aid, with nearly three-quarters of accepted freshmen offered financial aid packages this year (compared with just one-third two years ago).

Fundraising for academics also increased exponentially under Maeda’s leadership. RISD received its first endowed gift for a visiting scholars program – the largest gift ever from an international donor – along with an endowed faculty chair. In addition, long-deferred renovations to the historic Illustration Studies Building, which houses RISD’s largest and most interdisciplinary department, are now underway.

At RISD Maeda championed the belief that artists and designers will transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century. In recent years, RISD helped spur a national movement to turn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into STEAM, urging legislators to integrate the Arts into a national education agenda focused on STEM. These advocacy efforts, along with funding from new partners like the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Maharam, helped RISD advance longtime connections between art, science and innovation.

Led by alumni such as Airbnb cofounders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, RISD students and graduates have been at the forefront of the growing connection between art, design and entrepreneurship. RISD was among the first schools to partner with organizations like Upstart, Etsy, Quirky, Behance and Square, and now offers increased Career Center programming to support entrepreneurship. In addition to the successful Mindshare conference, programming to support career planning has grown exponentially, and job placement rates are extremely strong, with more than 95% of RISD students employed within nine months of graduating. To date RISD students and alumni have raised more than $2.5M on Kickstarter to fund their creative pursuits.

“Maeda was transformative in allowing the Providence business community to look at the city and our assets through a different lens, and see the great potential that is here at the nexus of advanced manufacturing, design and creativity,” notes Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. “Losing John is a great loss to the Providence community, but we look forward to continued partnership with RISD on efforts to grow Rhode Island’s creative economy.”

RISD has also undergone a period of operational renewal in recent years. During a time of great financial instability in the world, Maeda brought a commitment to prudent fiscal management, along with the lowest tuition increases in decades. Moreover, faculty and staff experienced increased access to training and development, recognition and diversity programs. Communications channels like the award-winning alumni magazine RISD XYZ were reinvigorated, and RISD became an early adopter of new technologies like Google Apps for Education and Steelcase’s advanced media:scape collaboration tools.

“President Maeda has been an inspirational role model for many of the faculty on campus, leading by example to show how artists and designers can make a big impact in the world across all sectors,” says Professor Nancy Skolos, head of the Graphic Design department. “At the same time, he has stewarded our institution to a position of continued strength, with some of the most accomplished students entering RISD in the past few years.”

Maeda has long bridged the worlds of technology, design and business, serving as a professor and associate director of research at the MIT Media Lab before coming to RISD. In 2008 he earned the distinction of being named by Esquire as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century. His books include The Laws of Simplicity  (published in 14 languages) and most recently Redesigning Leadership with Becky Bermont, which expands on his Twitter feed @johnmaeda – named one of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds by TIME magazine. Maeda serves on several boards, including as a board member at Sonos, Quirky, Wieden + Kennedy and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. His early work – combining advanced computation with traditional visual art – is represented in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Watch President Maeda’s video message to campus here: 

About Rhode Island School of Design

 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned an international reputation as the leading college of art and design in the United States. Recently ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools, approximately 2,400 students from around the world study at RISD, pursuing full-time bachelor's or master's degree programs in a choice of 19 studio majors. RISD is known for its phenomenal faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on, studio-based approach to learning – one in which critical thinking informs making works by hand. Required courses in the liberal arts provide an essential complement to studio work, enabling graduates to become critical and informed individuals eager to engage with the world. Through the accomplishments of its 26,000 alumni, the college champions the vital role artists and designers play in satisfying the global demand for innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum of Art help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit or

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