December 10, 2020

Five Questions with Bruce Mau: Designer, Author, Educator

Ahead of INVT21, Speaker Bruce Mau talks with us about the power of growing up as a weirdo, dreaming up new futures, and solving the world’s problems.

World-renowned architect Frank Gehry was an important mentor to Bruce Mau. “He pushed me into doing things I had no idea how to do,” Bruce says. “And he kicked me out of the nest.”

Bruce took flight. With over 30 years of design innovation in his portfolio, he has collaborated with leading organizations, heads of state, esteemed artists, and fellow optimists. A designer, educator, and author of MC24: Bruce Mau’s 24 Principles for Designing Massive Change in Your Life and Work, he is CEO of Bruce Mau Studio, Co-Founder and CEO of Massive Change Network, and Chief Design Officer for Freeman.

An entrepreneur from a young age, Bruce likes figuring out how to do new things. These days he turns his creative problem-solving skills toward the challenges he feels are more urgent than at any other time in human history. We look forward to hearing more about what he’s working on when he joins us as a mainstage speaker on January 14.  

Here are some insights into Bruce’s creative life.

What did 2020 bring into focus for you that you want to Re:Make, Re:Think, Re:Imagine, or Re:Design for 2021?

Everything. Practically everything we do today is still done in the old way. We work as if waste is not a problem. We behave as if we are separate from and above nature, and not reliant on the ecological systems that support us. We party like there is no tomorrow and pass the check to future generations. We are stealing their life. We are stealing their energy, their ecology, their living systems. We are killing them. So, yeah, everything needs to change.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

My life is the creative process.

How or where do you find inspiration?

In the people taking on the challenges that we face and solving problems that, in some cases, have vexed us since the beginning of time. 

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

I was part of a project in Guatemala to design a social movement to recover the ability to dream of a positive future. After 36 years of civil war and a culture of death, the citizens of Guatemala had lost their ability to dream. They told me that when they asked their children what they wanted to be when they grew up, they didn’t have an answer. They didn’t imagine growing up. I so took for granted the idea of dreaming—all design starts with dreaming—that I couldn’t imagine not imagining. We launched a movement called ¡Guate Amala!—“the love of Guate”—and did a project to build the Culture of Life. Our strategy was to build the foundations of life that we don’t realize we are working on top of: The Culture of Justice, The Culture of Learning, The Culture of Respect, The Culture of Entrepreneurship. It was a life-changing experience. I fell in love.

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

I was a weirdo as a child. Growing up, I didn’t fit in. Now I make a living standing out.

Bonus Round: What’s your favorite digital or nondigital tool?

Paper and pen. No computer can keep pace with the mind.