At the Chicago Humanities Festival lecture series JOURNEYS, sponsored and underwritten by IIDA Industry Member, Herman Miller, the co-founder of the Massive Change Network, Bruce Mau, was invited to lecture on the power of design to bring positive, holistic change on a global scale.

Growing up in “Gutenberg type times,” Mau iterated how it’s now much easier to connect with others than it was 30-35 years ago when connecting and finding people was infinitely more difficult. However, Mau said that today’s challenge is how we pursue people and information, especially with American society built around increasingly small moments – “millisecond moments,” he deemed them – that align with our short-term focused economy. As an alternative, Mau suggested, we need long-term thinking.

The Massive Change designer also delved into our accessible, transparent world where we can always “see behind the image,” making everything visible; therefore making it necessary for everything to be designed. Mau elaborated that enterprises, both small and large, should respect this transparency by focusing their efforts on how people wish to live. The key to this, Mau said, is the designer –  the ones who can tell the story and connect the dots. This ability makes designers very valuable and necessary for them “to be in the board room.”

Mau finished the lecture by focusing on America, a country “built on freedom and dreams.” Mau observed that Americans always have dreams or something they always want to do, and noted that this is not the case in other countries where violence, poverty, and destruction are at the fore-front. Mau urged the audience to embrace their American right to freedom, and to reinsert it in our society by not looking left or right, but instead “look forward or backward.”

Since his Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition Massive Change, Mau has pushed the boundaries of design. Expanding on his early work focused on branding, Mau charted his own path within environment-based design, and how design can make the world a better place. Bruce Mau is the author and designer of several award-winning books, including Massive ChangeLife Style; and S, M, L, XL (in collaboration with Rem Koolhaas), as well as the widely shared Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University.

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