Richard Saul Wurman

Richard Saul Wurman

Described by Fortune Magazine as an ‘intellectual hedonist’ with a ‘hummingbird mind,’ author, designer and TED Conference creator Richard Saul Wurman has been shaped by an epiphany he had as a young man: spurred by the dance between his curiosity and ignorance, he has sought ways to make the complex clear.

A 1959 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors, B.Arch / M.Arch, Wurman’s career has included 13 years in an architectural partnership, serving as a Director of GEE! Group for Environmental Education, teaching at Cambridge University, CCNY, UCLA, USC, Washington University, St. Louis and Princeton University.

He published his first book – which featured models of 50 cities on a uniform scale that immediately helped readers understand each city better – when he was 26. He then created the ACCESS city guides, with graphics and logical editorial organization that made places such as New York, Tokyo and Rome understandable to visitors, and has now written, designed and published 82 books on topics ranging from football to healthcare to the Olympic Games. He likes to say that they all spring from the same place – his ignorance.

Wurman chaired the 1972 IDCA Conference, the first Federal Design assembly in 1973 and the AIA Conference and the Architecture of Information in 1976. In 1984 he created the now legendary TED Conference, which brought together many of America’s clearest thinkers in the fields of technology, entertainment and design. He chaired every TED Conference through 2002, created the eg Conference, and continues to co-chair the annual TEDMED meetings.

His latest book – 33, Understanding Change & the Change in Understanding – is a fable re-imagined three decades after its original telling as a keynote address. It chronicles the adventures and musings of an eccentric (yet oddly familiar) character: the Commissioner of Curiosity and Imagination. The bemused, amused, and roundish imp waddles through the city of What-If in the land of Could-Be, trying to make sense of the myriad changes that have transpired in the past 33 years.

His latest project – 19.20.21. – is an attempt to standardize a methodology to comparatively understand data on 19 cities that will have 20 million or more inhabitants in the 21st century. The project is currently gathering information on health, education, transport, demographics, energy consumption and distribution, growth patterns, water and waste, power, economics, infrastructure, crime, culture and art, among other areas.

Wurman has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Graham Fellowships and two Chandler Fellowships, was named a Fellow of the AIA in 1976, received the Chrysler Design Award in 1996, was named to the ADC Hall of Fame in 2003 and received the AIGA Gold Medal in 2004. In 1991, he received the Kevin Lynch Award from MIT and was honored by a retrospective exhibition of his work at the AXIS Design Gallery in Tokyo. He was awarded a Doctorate of Fine Arts by the University of Arts in Philadelphia, an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Art Center College of Design and received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Boston. Several of his books are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Richard Saul Wurman lives in Newport, Rhode Island with his wife, novelist Gloria Nagy and their three biblical yellow labs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

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