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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Your Life In 2020

Written in 2010 when asked by Forbes about what 2020 might be like …


The future of “ubiquitous computing” has been heralded for decades. It sounds grandiose–computing, everywhere!–but ironically, a future of ubiquitous computing is one where computers actually go unnoticed. That’s 2020. It is when Nicholas Negroponte’s assertion in 1995 of “being digital” switches to “been digital” because we will have been there and done that. Kids who have grown up stealing free views of recent movie releases online or regularly chatting with a friend in Bangalore or Atlanta will be working adults in a world where the notion of “work” has changed because of digital technology. But it’s no longer “technology” in 2020 anymore–it’s just how we get things done.

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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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