In 2004, while I was staying in Edinburgh, my friend Paul showed me an A4 photocopy of some advice for designers which I liked so much I copied extracts from it into my notebook.
I thought of it again just yesterday, while I was toiling over a cover version of a Tom Waits song, and decided to dig it out and have another look at it.
You might find some or all of these ideas interesting too:
1) ALLOW THINGS TO CHANGE YOU
Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it.
2) FORGET ABOUT GOOD
3) PROCESS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUTCOME
4) LOVE YOUR EXPERIMENTS (AS YOU WOULD AN UGLY CHILD)
Joy is the engine of growth. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
5) GO DEEP
The deeper you go, the more likely you are to discover something of value.
6) CAPTURE ACCIDENTS
The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question.
Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgement. Postpone criticism.
9) BEGIN ANYWHERE
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
10) EVERYONE IS A LEADER
Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
11) HARVEST IDEAS. EDIT APPLICATIONS
Ideas need a dynamic, fluid and generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigour. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
120 KEEP MOVING
The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
13) SLOW DOWN
Desynchronize from standard timeframes and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
14) DON'T BE COOL
Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
15) ASK STUPID QUESTIONS
Growth is fuelled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven't had yet, and for the ideas of others.
18) STAY UP LATE
Strange things happen when you've gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you're separated from the rest of the world.
19) WORK THE METAPHOR
Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
20) BE CAREFUL TO TAKE RISKS
Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
4) REPEAT YOURSELF
If you like it do it again. If you don't like it, do it again.
22) MAKE YOUR OWN TOOLS
Tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
23) STAND ON SOMEONE'S SHOULDERS
You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
24) AVOID SOFTWARE
Everyone has it.
25) DON'T CLEAN YOUR DESK
You might find something in the morning that you can't see tonight.
26) DON'T ENTER AWARD COMPETITIONS
Just don't. It's not good for you.
27) READ ONLY LEFT-HAND PAGES
Decrease the amount of information and leave room for your "noodle".
28) MAKE NEW WORDS
New conditions demand new ways of thinking, which demands new words, which generates new conditions.
29) THINK WITH YOUR MIND
Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
30) ORGANISATION = LIBERTY
The myth of a split between "creatives" and "suits" is what Leonard Cohen calls a "charming artifact of the past".
31) DON'T BORROW MONEY
By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control.
32) LISTEN CAREFULLY
Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires or ambitions, we fold their world into our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
33) TAKE FIELD TRIPS
The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV, or the internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic simulated environment.
34) MAKE MISTAKES FASTER
Don't be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You'll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable.
When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else... but not words.
37) BREAK IT, STRETCH IT, BEND IT, CRUSH IT, CRACK IT, FOLD IT
38) EXPLORE THE OTHER EDGE
Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the pack. We can't find the leading edge because it's trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
39) 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".
40) AVOID FIELDS. JUMP FENCES
Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. It's our job to jump the fence.
Use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing oruselves.
Without memory, innovation is merely novelty.
43) POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can't be free angents if we're not free.
Bruce Mau runs a Toronto and New York based design studio. The full manifesto is on his website here:
But I thought it was more fun to copy out the bits I'd written down in my own notebook eight years ago. It looks like I jotted down most of it in the end, but then, according to point number 35, copying might be a good thing to do anyway.