February 22, 2010 1

The Design Philosopher

By Ian in Design

He had said,“Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not good for you”, and “Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms; real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces – what Dr. Seuss calls ‘the waiting place’.” I’m talking about Bruce Mau. If you are a designer, read about him. You’ll look at design and creativity in a whole new way. To Bruce Mau, design didn’t just provide a form of expression, but a philosophy on growing as human beings.

Like so many other talented designers, Bruce Mau attended the Ontario College of Art & Design. This school has spawned so much talent, and so many rivals. We used to hear about the OCAD students at Humber College, about how they’re twice as threatening because they are taught both design and copywriting excessively well. With an impressive education in check, Bruce Mau founded Bruce Mau Design in 1985. Over the years his studio has flourished, and Bruce has won many prestigious awards for his creative achievements.

The reason for all this recognition is that Bruce is the example of what a designer can accomplish. He breaks down common conceptions of “designers” as trendy tech-y people, sitting at their computers all day and fiddling around with corporate logos. He shows how every designer can add to the collective culture of design through their contribution. He shows us how we all have the ability to pour our ideas into the mix and impact the world. He points to our infinite potential for innovation and creativity, no matter how much you believe that “it’s all been done” (which teachers will tell you. A LOT).

Bruce’s talent shines through in many of his designs, like the visual signature and environmental graphics for the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This building is one of L.A’s most popular landmarks, and it bears the original font designed by Bruce Mau Design.

But more importantly, much of Bruce’s work makes us think about what social impacts we are having on the world. Bruce Mau Design has been behind many projects that speak to environmental sustainability and promote active global efforts. One example of this is Coca-Cola’s Live Positively program. These projects bring a certain awareness to the public about our individual and collective responsibilities.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Bruce Mau is his Incomplete Manifesto; this is a collection of statements that speak to Bruce’s beliefs about design and creativity. Bruce’s Manifesto and other accomplishments can be found at www.brucemaudesign.com. These are more than guidelines for making original designs; they are guidelines that can be used by any aspiring artist, no matter what their specialty is.

My favourite quote from Bruce is, “Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black.” As an artist who is unfortunately too self conscious for my own good, this Bruce Mau quote made me rethink this constant need for approval through my ads and copywriting. Once I freed myself from the limitations of wanting to be cool, I came up with some really original stuff. I say thank you to Mr. Mau. In my opinion, his philosophy towards art has become his greatest work of art.

About Ian:
Hi, I'm Ian T. I'm a York grad and a copywriter for Eden Advertising. I'm the master of procrastinating. I like to use parentheses (sometimes). I love the LCBO because wine makes me happy. I don't blog, I capture moments in time.

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One Response to “The Design Philosopher”

  1. Ross says:

    My favourite Bruce Mau design is the renovated Royal Ontario Museum. It looks like a giant crystal!