Liu Lecture: Maira Kalman

Tonight was the first in this year's series of Liu Lectures, a series of design speakers invited to Stanford to both give a lecture open to all Stanford students and community members, and to a private dinner for JPD students. They are held in memory of David H. Liu, who passed away while a student in the JPD. Each year a new student has the honor of being in charge of coordinating the speaker visits, a TA position that is generously funded by the Liu family. Can you imagine a better job than getting to invite your idols to come talk? This year's chair, David Goligorsky, has done a fabulous job with the fall lineup, beginning with tonight's speaker, Maira Kalman. Even if you don't recognize her name, you should be familiar with her work if you read the New York Times or The New Yorker on a regular basis. One of her most famous covers is shown below. newyorkistan

Maira was a fantastic speaker - very engaging and funny, with a dry sense of humor. My favorite tidbit from tonight came over our dinner discussion. For her work, Maira finds inspiration in the pictures she takes. To catalogue her thousands of photos, she uses an organization system different from any I have encountered before; instead of folders like "Bermuda 2009" or "Johnny's Birthday," she uses names like "Women Wearing Green Skirts Looking Sad" or "Men in Hats Looking Thoughtful." Great minds really do think differently.


This slide is an excerpt from Maira's illustrated version of The Elements of Style. She explained how thrilled she had been that the authors had had such a great sense of humor, and had thought to include objects like egg beaters in their examples - one of her favorite things to draw. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more in high school if my version had been illustrated.