When Maeda was in grade school, he was talented in both art and math. His father, however, was quick to tell friends and family of Maeda's aptitude for mathematics—and he often left out Maeda's penchant for the arts. “At the time, it signaled something to me that he left out the art part; I just didn’t know what,” the President of Rhode Island School of Design notes. “In hindsight, it was my first experience of the prejudices that cling to accomplishments in the arts, and a catalyst for me to push for the power of interdisciplinary thinking.” Maeda would go on to become not only an example of the power that arts infused thinking holds, but also an advocate for incorporating this way of thinking into the broader school system.
Maeda recently launched the Congressional STEAM Caucus—a bipartisan legislative assembly designed to incorporate art and design concepts into what are known as the “STEM” courses (science, technology, engineering,and math). Why does he think that it's critical we turn young kids on to the idea of arts-infused learning and thinking? “I remain convinced,” he writes, “that artists and designers will be the innovators of this century, and that the problem-solving, the fearlessness and the critical thinking and making skills that I see every day are what is needed to keep our country competitive.” Further: “Designers and artists create objects, devices and services that are more engaging, more efficient, more desirable and ultimately, more human.” In his engaging presentations, Maeda draws on these ideas to present a unique approach to education, leadership, and the economic forces that will drive us into the future.