Bruce Mau, designer, author, innovator (born 25 October 1959 in Greater Sudbury, ON). More than simply producing physical objects, Bruce Mau’s vision of design integrates traditionally disparate fields with the goal of creating positive change in the world. Mau is a leading proponent of the idea that design can and should be used as a tool to further prosperous and sustainable human development.
As a child, Mau dreamed of being a scientist and never heard the word design until college. He attended a special arts program at Sudbury Secondary School and went on to study communication design at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Mau’s first job in the field was with Toronto design firm Fifty Fingers, where he worked for two years before moving to London, England to work at the firm Pentagram under David Hillman. While in London, Mau was exposed for the first time to designers who were also fine artists, like Herman Lelie, and got his first taste of design as an interdisciplinary and political practice. He returned to Toronto after two years and founded Public Good Design with his former classmates Elisabeth Matheson and Steven Bock.
In 1985, Mau broke off from Public Good to found Bruce Mau Design, where he would remain at the helm for two decades. Always eager to expand the scope of his design practice, Mau pursued collaborations with leaders outside his field. Working closely with Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry, Mau designed the signage and typographic identity on the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In partnership with Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, Mau won the bid to redesign Toronto’s Downsview Park in 1990, a project titled Tree City that brought together design, landscape and architectural practices. By the mid-90s, Mau was recognized as a leader not only in design but in innovative thinking. The scope and scale of his projects continued to grow, with the Coca-Cola Company, MTV, and the Museum of Modern Art among his clients, along with countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Guatemala and Denmark. Mau has also explored more purely creative collaborations, with choreographer Meg Stuart, artist/composer Gordon Monahan, and filmmaker Michael Snow, among others.
In 1985, Mau designed Zone 1/2, an anthology of writings on the contemporary city, and went on to design the entire Zone Book series. This series was one of many forays Mau has taken into publishing, and was the first of what Mau would describe as “context projects”, which he says articulate “the changing context within which design is located.” Mau served as the creative director of I.D. Magazine from 1991 to 1993, and in 1995 teamed up with Koolhaas to produce S, M, X, XL, a 1376-page prospectus of the architect’s designs for the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. In 1998, Mau authored An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. The publication explains his personal philosophies for fostering creativity and ethical growth and has since been translated into 17 languages. In 2000, Mau produced his own monograph, Life Style, in which he contemplates the role of design in culture, politics and art.
In 2004, Mau debuted Massive Change: The Future of Global Design, a groundbreaking exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery that would go on to become a book and website. Mau was inspired by a Nobel prize-winning speech of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, to produce a project that would examine transformative creative practices outside the world of design. Ignoring traditional categories and professional boundaries, Mau created an exhibition that “is not about the world of design; it is about the design of the world.”
Collaborating on the project were students at the George Brown Toronto City College’s Institute without Boundaries, a post-graduate interdisciplinary studio-based design program that Mau developed with Massive Change in mind. In 2009, Mau sold Bruce Mau Design to MDC Partners so that he could found the Massive Change Network, a unique enterprise that acts as a design consultancy, publishing house and training centre. The Network is committed to disseminating Mau’s design principles in the pursuit of “purposeful innovation for sustainable growth.”