Salt Fat Acid Heat and Design

As a fan of eating delicious things, my eyes and brain perked up when I read about Chef Samin Nosrat and her new cookbook entitled “Salt Fat Acid Heat.” In her book she describes this phenomenon as the perfect storm of tastes as achieved by the simple grilled cheese sandwich:

“Learn to balance them perfectly and you’ll learn to create the perfect meal. Take the grilled cheese: if the pan is too hot, the bread will burn without the cheese melting; too cold, and the sandwich will turn soggy. The butter on the bread is the best fat to marry with the heat for this result. The cheese on the inside provides the necessary saltiness to cut through the butter, and the pickles on the side provide the acidity needed to balance a rich meal.”

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5 Books on Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life

Painting by Jane Mount


When I moved to Silicon Valley, I donated all of my books to Designer Fund in San Francisco. It’s freeing to let go of the past. I’ve found that it makes things a lot simpler for yourself — and it forces you to figure out what truly matters. As I wrote in a book on simplicity now over a decade ago:

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. 

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Design in Tech Report 2018

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Silicon Valley design guru John Maeda distinguishes between three categories: “classical” designers, who create physical objects or products; “commercial” designers who innovate by seeking deep insights into how customers interact with products and services; and “computational” designers, who use programming skills and data to satisfy millions or even billions of users instantaneously.

Clay Chandler on the Design in Tech Report
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Startups are great, but we can learn a lot from “end-ups,” too

End-ups have resources; start-ups have commitment.

by John Maeda / February 3, 2013 

for GigaOm

At last week’s DLD Conference in Munich, I had the opportunity to sit onstage with the co-founder and CPO of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia. We started by discussing the unique creative culture at Rhode Island School of Design, where Joe went to college, and where I currently serve as president. Joe shared some of his secrets of being a successful designer-founder, and then turned the tables and asked me what it’s like to run a 136-year-old institution like RISD.

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Why Business Leaders Should Act More like Artists

Perhaps the reason why artists collaborate and socialize so well is that they learn in the studio model

by John Maeda / December 1, 2009 

for HBS

Stereotypes abound about artists: they range from the mild (“they have fuschia-colored hair”), to the absurd (“they starve,”), to the disturbed (“they do things like uncontrollably peeing in the fireplace as depicted in the popular movie Pollock.”). Granted I know artists with wild-colored hair and others who are certainly struggling to make ends meet, but they all choose to use the restroom. I’ve also met artists who are quite plain-looking and plain-acting CEOs, lawyers, stockbrokers, and scientists.

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The South Face of the Mountain

Powerful and inspired computer art requires a melding of the aesthetic and engineering sensibilities in the same person

by John Maeda /  July 1, 1998 

for Technology Review

In Japan, a miyadaiku (a carpenter trained in the ancient art of Japanese temple carpentry) attains special status from the Emperor if the temple he builds stands for more than a thousand years. “Such temples,” said one of the last miyadaiku, the late Tsunekazu Nishioka, “stand not because of the magnificence of their design, but because the miyadaiku goes to the mountain, and selects trees from the south face of the mountain to be used for the south face of the temple, trees from the west face of the mountain for the west face of the temple, and so on for the other two sides.” Because the building materials are carefully selected in order to respect the laws of nature, the temple can coexist in harmony with nature. Both the extrinsic and intrinsic qualities of the temple radiate its overall strength and beauty.

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