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from "A Cultural Conversation with John Maeda," by Dominique Browning,, 2 September 2008 (Non-subscribers can access this article through 9 September 2008 here)

A RISD education is classical and rigorous; first-year students are required to practice the fundamentals of drawing and sculpture. Foundation Studies are taught in rooms filled to the ceilings with thousands of skeletons, taxidermy, minerals, reptiles, birds. (A sign warns “The doves are out so please close the door.”) Other departments cover everything from photography to ceramics. The curriculum is so conservative as to be radical.

Some of RISD’s studios probably haven’t changed in a hundred years. The stuff of art and design is everywhere, in the charcoal dust, the heaps of wet clay, the scraps of wood. A RISD education focuses on what you can do with your hands; an architecture student is expected to be able to draw, a print-maker to use a press. . . .

“A designer is someone who constructs while he thinks, someone for whom planning and making go together,” says Mr. Maeda, cocking his head, widening his eyes, moving his hands as if he were shaping a pot. Mr. Maeda considers himself post-digital; he has outgrown his fascination with hardware and is driven by ideas. “I want to reform technology. All the tools are the same; people make the same things with them. Everyone asks me, ‘Are you bringing technology to RISD?’ I tell them, no, I’m bringing RISD to technology.” He describes a visit to the campus by an executive from Yahoo. Mr. Maeda took him to see the visual resources center in the new library. Hundreds of thousands of drawings, photographs and news clippings, and images of art, architecture and decorative arts—on slides—are cataloged and stored in old-fashioned metal and wood file cabinets. The Yahoo executive was stunned. “This is a real live Google!” Better, says Mr. Maeda.