As the President of the Rhode Island School of Design, Maeda's artistic merits were recognized from a young age. He candidly recounts a parent-teacher conference in his talk, where his teach told his father that John was skilled in both math and art. The part that Maeda remembers the most though, he says, is that his father later relayed that praise to a customer without mentioning that his son was a talented artist—only that he was good at math.
“That stuck with me my entire life,” Maeda said. The question of why his father “didn't say art, why was that not ok?” became a central question for him from that point on. While he started his post-graduate studies at MIT (much to his father's delight), Maeda would later study at art school, as well. Much of his career since has focused on the intersection of art with math, science and technology—and the idea that the subjects intertwine and are both of equal merit. The author of several books, including, most recently, The Laws of Simplicity, as well as being a candid and entertaining speaker, Maeda often shares his insights on how design can influence leadership. While he agrees that math, science and technology are vitally important, the inclusion of art in education helps spur creative thinking and makes people more inherently capable of collaborating and interacting effectively with others.