Richard Saul Wurman is an American architect and graphic designer. Wurman has written and designed over 83 books, and created the TED conference, as well as the EG conference, TEDMED and the WWW suite of gatherings, now in development.
Wurman chaired the IDCA Conference in 1972, the First Federal Design assembly in 1973, and the annual AIA Conference in 1976. He is perhaps best known for having created and chaired the TED conference from 1984 thru 2002, bringing together various thinkers in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design. He also created the TEDMED conference (1995-2010) and the e.g. conference in 2006.
In 1976, Wurman coined the phrase "information architect" in response to the large amount of information generated in contemporary society, which is often presented with little care or order. Wurman said, "I thought the explosion of data needed an architecture, needed a series of systems, needed systemic design, a series of performance criteria to measure it."
In 1978, he served as the Dean for the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design.
Wurman created the Access series of travel guidebooks, which incorporated idiosyncratic efforts to dissect mapping content and present it in fragmentary form, arranged by neighborhood (along with other, more arbitrary, "systemic" criteria). The Access series was especially distinguished by its use of colored text and other intrusive graphic devices to reflect editorial judgments regarding restaurants, museums, parks, and other categorical destinations, and generally to interpret the urban fabric for visitors presumably unable to do so for themselves.
Wurman was made an AIA Fellow in 1976 and entered the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 2003. He was a 2004 Gold Medalist of the AIGA – formerly the American Institute of Graphic Arts – which honored him as a design conference impresario. He is a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. A current project known as 19.20.21. is an attempt to create and standardize measurement tools as a means of understanding cities.
Wurman was named the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt's National Design
Wurman continues to organize conferences, including the WWW Conference, “Intellectual Jazz”, which consists of improvised conversations between pairs of some of the world’s greatest minds, and the 555 Conference, consisting of five exceptional global experts (total 25), five predictions of future patterns, held in five cities circumnavigating the world on five consecutive Mondays.
He continues to work with ESRI and @radical.media on his comparative cartographic initiative for mapping urban settings, 19.20.21.
Education and awards
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 and is a member of FAIA. 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. 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.
Wurman lives in Newport, Rhode Island with his wife, novelist Gloria Nagy, and their three pet dogs. They have four children, including Joshua Wurman, a noted atmospheric scientist, and six grandchildren.