A View from John Maeda

BGI = Before Google Images

Wading through the mind of the Google Images database.

  • April 20, 2008

In my recent tour of the RISD Library, I was startled to find a room with cabinets upon cabinets of labeled clusters of clippings from magazines. For any given term, there is a corresponding file of laminated individual pages from publications that span over 30 years. This is a room of visual inspiration that RISD students have been coming to for years in order to see source material connected to specific ideas and keywords.

Naturally, my first thought was, “With Google Image Search, wouldn’t such a resource’s popularity be waning?” The maintainer of the room explained this indeed to be the case–especially on cold or rainy days, when a visual inspiration can be only a few clicks away instead of a long walk to the library away. But the advantages of this physically based approach are quite clear: 1) the quality of images is better, as they’ve been hand-curated, and 2) there is the element of serendipity that comes from the messiness of it all that leads to happenstance encounters of new inspiration.

As I now approach the presidency of RISD in only a few weeks (I start June 2), I continue to be in wonderment of the many wonderful aspects of an art and design school that will certainly benefit the world of technology by providing new surprises like these.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.