Jason Mayden has lived many lives. He started as Nike’s first black industrial design intern, went on to become lead designer for the Jordan brand, launched his own children’s shoe brand Superheroic, served as interim president for the sportswear launch of Fear of God and landed as design CEO. Trillicon Valley collective.
On top of all that, he’s one of the proudest dads I’ve ever met, and our conversations over the years have been as much about his kids as he is about his career plans. So it’s no surprise that Mayden published her first children’s book: A children’s book about design.
The book is part of a larger series of “empowering children’s books” from the A Kids Company About imprint. The series tackles a wide range of topics, including gender, voting, autism, and money. When the team approached Mayden to write a design book, he saw the opportunity as a natural fit.
“The beautiful thing about kids is that it doesn’t take much for them to figure out how to function as a designer, because they’ve been able to tap into the imagination, which is basically the same tool as us. we use as designers to create boardroom vibes and customer journeys,” says Mayden. “Kids do this every time they pick up an inanimate object and bring it to life.”
Over the course of 62 pages, Mayden uses bright typography to tell his own story, beginning with his childhood as he battled a blood infection in the hospital. He took advantage of this terrible moment to dive into his own imagination. From there, the story slowly unfolds into a design explainer, breaking down tricky concepts like inclusive design, while providing insight into all the ways design impacts everything from education to politics. In this sense, the treatment of the children’s book works very well for describing the scope of the design while explaining the “like I’m five” concepts. It’s the perfect short read for adults, even though the story is written for children.
“We drove this word ‘innovation’ into the ground. I don’t think people understand the real definition of innovation, which is discovery,” says Mayden. “I hope to engender the spirit of discovery in the next generation.”
Mayden’s foray into children’s publishing is part of a larger goal to push him forward in the world of design. As a little South Chicagoan, he was inspired to become a designer while reading Batman issue 307, when he first saw Dr. Lucius Fox on the page. Fox is the black businessman and inventor who does everything from building the Batcave to supplying Batman’s various gadgets, all the while saving Bruce Wayne’s failing business. and convince him to invest in philanthropy.
“I realize there’s a kid out there who will see similarities in my story . . . and that might be the thing that will change their life. I take it seriously, because I didn’t have the image of technical and creative leadership that existed in the design world,” says Mayden. “I made it a point to become the real Lucius Fox, so it’s no longer a myth, you can come from where I come from and do what I did.”