Design Is … -isms

In preparation for the upcoming Design In Tech Report I’ve gone back to look at my Twitter feed over the last ten years to see what I thought design’s meant to me. Some of these “-isms” are more right or more wrong depending upon the era that they came from so it’s a little embarrassing to look back like this. But that’s how we all learn: by trying out all of our ideas in public to see what might stick! —JM

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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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Design in Tech: Evolving Challenges for Silicon Valley

From the Kleiner Perkins blog on January 11, 2016

As recently as just fifteen years ago, computers were primarily used by researchers and otherwise “nerdy” types. Software was difficult to use, a situation that was remedied by endless manuals. Hardware didn’t look like anything more than a box, preferably one that could be opened easily with a screwdriver. I was fortunate to live through that era and watch it unfold over a few decades at the MIT Media Lab.

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Foreword for Make It New, by Barry Katz

This is the draft and unedited foreword to Barry Katz’s book, Make It New.


At a recent MIT event, I had the opportunity to listen to a variety of stories as told by Professor Nicholas Negroponte on how the MIT Media Lab came to be. He shared many great ones – ranging from his chance dinner encounter with Buckminster Fuller on a cruise ship, to how he came to know William J. Mitchell just when he had arrived in the US, to his chauffeur-driven adventures with his mentor, MIT President Jerome Wiesner, in launching the Media Lab in the early 80s.

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Three Principles for Using Design Successfully

For the WSJ blog on February 21, 2014

Since arriving in Silicon Valley six weeks ago, I’ve spent time with designers at Flipboard, Chegg, Nest, AboutLife, FindTheBest, MyFitnessPal, Square, Codecademy, Gumroad (all Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers portfolio companies) and about 20 others. I often feel that there are as many startups as there were students at Rhode Island School of Design, the college I used to run. And just like each individual RISD student impressed me with their creativity, each company I meet fills me with creative inspiration and hope. Startups are not unlike art and design students — they both bring an uncanny work ethic to challenges and opportunities that would normally be viewed as impossible to tackle.

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