• Mat Smith
  • , Jul 2020
  • - Phaidon

Why Bruce Mau’s new book is exactly what we need right now

The designer is out to change the world – and he’s just given us the tools to help him do it

If the title of Bruce Mau’s new book MC24 sounds a little bit like a secret formula that’s because it is.

In fact, it’s a formula for success – delivered in the form of a highly-readable manifesto packed with generous advice, tips and galvanizing principles to overhaul the way we think and inspire massive and sustainable change in our lives.

And if you think that sounds like exactly the right kind of book we need right now then we totally agree with you.

As Bruce says in the introduction: “Practically everything we do today needs to change. We are still doing most things as if we own nature and have unlimited resources. We work as if waste is not a problem; we treat our oceans like a pantry and a toilet; we think short term, party like there’s no tomorrow, and pass the check to the future; we dump problems that we can’t solve into places that we can’t see. And many of our solutions create more problems than they correct.”

Who does Bruce Mau think he is to be telling us all this? Well he’s supremely qualified, for one thing. Mau is chief design officer of Freeman, one of the world’s largest brand-experience companies, and co-founder/CEO of Massive Change Network (MCN), a Chicago-based global design consultancy. He has long applied the power of design to transforming the world. He’s been a visiting scholar at institutions globally, and lectures widely.

So yes, pretty smart guy. But, he developed his MC24 principles when he couldn’t answer one very simple question.

“In 2010 I was invited by the Royal Society of Arts in London to be an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry,” he says. “They sent a group of young British design leaders to meet with me in Chicago. I showed them my work. They were baffled. They asked, “What kind of designer are you?” “I’m a designer,” I replied.

“We’ve never seen a designer that does books and cities, carpets and social programs, global brands and cultural institutions. How do you do it?” “I showed you how I do it (irritated). You should have been paying attention.” “No, you showed us what you did, not how you did it. What is your process?” I was stumped. They were right to ask.”

Mau realised that he had organically developed a unique design method over a thirty-year period that had slowly evolved and expanded to being able to solve practically any problem. But he had never written it down. Until now, that is.

“We obviously had a process, not unlike most designers, that starts at a beginning and ends with deliverable results. But that didn’t explain the qualitative differences and the diversity in our work. I realised that there must be principles that informed our work. If I could articulate those principles and provide a way for people to understand and apply them, I could help anyone learn to design in this new way.”

Developed over the past three decades, Mau’s remarkable new book is organized by 24 values that are at the core of his philosophy. Bruce Mau: MC24 features essays, observations, project documentation, and design work by Mau and other high-profile architects, designers, artists, scientists, environmentalists, and thinkers of our time.

It’s designed to give you a new way of thinking— a new approach to creative, social, and environmental impact; a new way of solving problems in your life, your work, or your community.

“Now,” Bruce says, “we can offer this mind-set and tool kit to anyone willing to open their mind and make the effort to apply a new way of thinking and working.”