John Maeda is an extraordinary person, he is a graphic designer, computer scientist, author, graduate and a professor of MIT, and is the current President of the Rhode Island School of Design. In his talks, he explains his struggles to create a connection between technology and art. As a child he mentioned how he was exceptionally gifted at math and art, and that he was able to guide his talent at math into understanding technology and computers especially. Most of his experiments were done in an effort to try to effectively combine technology, design, art, and leadership.
Dr. Maeda tells a story about when pictures in computers had just started being implemented. In this story, he explains how he created a program which makes a box respond to different sound frequencies and amplitudes. He then let his kids play with the program. When they went to a computer store later, they asked why the computers didn’t respond to sound. His story produces an argument which claims that while technology will continually improve, innovation and design play huge roles in deciding which products succeed or fail. He further defends and justifies this claim by demonstrating his further experiments; such as one done by imposing different font types on the same word. This experiment illustrates how something as simple as different fonts can evoke complex feelings from people and ended with him showing everyone his creation of an interactive font type.
He wants to prove to the audience that art and design have a dramatic effect on people. In order to do so, he demonstrates the value of how different fonts can produce different connotative emotions while maintaining the same denotation of the word used. Dr. Maeda first showed an example of the word fear on a blank page in Helvetica type; he then continually altered the font and discussed how something as simple as changing the font can alter the mood and feelings behind the word. His demonstration showed how a word such as fear (generally a word somewhat disliked) could be made almost funny by some of the crazier fonts. This epitomizes the necessity for good design when it comes to marketing and innovation.
Dr. Maeda made a few simple arguments during his presentation, the main arguments were as follows: it does not matter what is newer or older, just what is better and more useful. Even something as simple as the font can alter our perception of certain signifiers. I believe that Dr. Maeda has some interesting points in that such small changes can create huge differences in meaning. However, I would argue that Dr. Maeda’s argument about what is newer or older is purely common sense. Still, his methods and experiments to try to create an effective blend of technology, design, art, and leadership is an outstanding idea and shows possibilities for great things in the future.