Richard Saul Wurman
Distinguished Professor of the Practice at the College of Arts, Media and Design
Described by Fortune magazine as an “intellectual hedonist” with a “hummingbird mind,” Richard Saul Wurman has always sought ways to make the complex clear. He has written, designed, and published 83 books on topics ranging from football to healthcare to city guides, as well as two books on Louis I Kahn, his mentor, though he likes to say that they all spring from the same place – his ignorance.
Wurman’s first book, published when he was 26, features models of 50 world cities on a uniform scale. His latest book is called 33: Understanding Change & the Change in Understanding.
Wurman created the ACCESS city guides, using graphics and logical editorial organization to make places such as New York, Tokyo, and Rome understandable to visitors. Other volumes he created focus on topics such as football and the 1984 Olympics. His road atlas employed similar techniques to elucidate U.S. geography and transportation networks. Several of his books are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Wurman chaired the IDCA Conference in 1972, the First Federal Design assembly in 1973, and the annual AIA Conference in 1976. He created and chaired the TED conference from 1984 thru 2002, bringing together many of America’s clearest thinkers in the fields of technology, entertainment, and design. He also created and chaired the TEDMED conference in 1995 and the eg conference in 2006.
Now in his late 70’s, Wurman continues to quell his restless intellect with a slough of new projects. Recently, he completed the first WWW Conference Intellectual Jazz, which consists of improvised conversations between pairs of some of the world’s greatest minds. His next endeavor will be the 555 conference, consisting of 5 experts, 5 predictions of future patterns, for the next 5 years, held in 5 cities circumnavigating the world over 5 consecutive weeks. FINDING THE FUTURE FIRST.
He continues to work with Esri® and @radical.media on his comparative cartographic initiative for mapping urban settings, 19.20.21. which will culminate in the creation of a network of live Urban Observatories™ around the world.
Wurman received both his M. Arch. & B. Arch. Degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, from where he graduated in 1959 with the highest honors, and was awarded the Arthur Spayed Brooks Gold Medal. He has been awarded several honorary doctorates, two Graham Fellowships, a Guggenheim, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as recently becoming a Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Design in the College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern University. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards. He has also been awarded the Annual Gold Medal from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and the James Joyce Award given by the Literary and Historical Society of University College, Dublin and most recently gave the commencement speech at Harvard Graduate School of Design. He has also been honored with the Gold Medal from AIGA, the Art Directors Hall of Fame and the Chrysler Award for Innovation and Design. He is also a Fellow of the AIA and is a board member of The Wolfsonian.
Wurman lives in Newport, RI with his wife, novelist Gloria Nagy, and their three yellow labs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.