• w sw s, 8 years ago (edited 8 years ago )

    What would be your advice to ambitious 20 year olds? And, do you think college is necessary for aspiring product designers?

    4 points
    • John MaedaJohn Maeda, 8 years ago

      Thanks for your question, William.

      First of all, part of being younger is to have unusual ambition and optimism. So try not to lose this. And never lose your sense of wonder, and your sense of kindness for people around you.

      Regarding the importance of college, I think that it was the default path for most of us. I'm the product of the American public education system and the private and public higher-education system. I've earned a few degrees. When I went to MIT, my parents sacrificed a lot to send me there -- I believe that tuition plus room and board was $18K. That was a lot of money back then. When I fast forward to what a top college costs right now -- which is around 60K; and when I look into the future where in just ten years we will see top colleges passing the 6-figure mark per year, that's a big challenge.

      Back to your question, in 2014 I see college as still a worthwhile investment. In the case of product design for the way that product design was practiced in the past -- I think that there's no better place to learn that craft than in colleges and universities. For knowing how it is practiced today in the information age, the best places to learn are in the large corporations out there like the Googles and Facebooks.

      There was a time pre-2000 that colleges and universities had more computers than industry. It was a golden age. I remember it well -- we had way more computers than any company out there on campus at MIT. Then in 2001-sh, I noticed that freshmen were bringing better computers and displays than we had in the labs; and industry had way better computers than we did too. We live in an age when computing is changing what we get to do and at what scale -- so if your interests are doing product design in the digital domain, you can learn the most in industry. I recommend a combination of college and great summer internships. And if you don't want to get a summer internship at a large company, check out the KPCB Design Fellows program (just google it as I don't know how to embed links here ...).

      7 points