Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bruce Mau Lecture

I had the pleasure of listening to Bruce Mau speak last night at OSU's Mershon Auditorium. Mau has a great ability to facilitate collaboration among peers & students to create massive change. He currently heads up Institute Without Boundaries as well as the Bruce Mau Design firm.

Before I get into the details of the lecture, I just wanted to highlight the two takeaways that I received. First, that when we talk about physical objects we're really talking about energy--the energy need to produce, the energy needed to transform, etc. So that we have a system of inputs & outputs of energy. Mau sprinkled this idea throughout his lecture. He illustrated this when one participant asked about biomimicry. He described how we as humans must put a lot of energy into making glass. Yet, some animals can produce glass a room temperature. The second takeaway was that systems of information should be systems of design. He highlighted how the spirit of the Gautamalans has been depressed because they are not sharing the good works their fellow citizens are doing. Thus, overall, hope has been diminished. Mau has then helped Gautamala create a system which distributes information across the nation. Now, that could easily become propaganda. However, it demonstrates how information architecture including the architecture of the information channels are very important in a socio-political context.

Here are some of the quick notes that I took during the lecture.

  • Chicago's mayor has embraced design & design culture which has lead to the city adopting Mau's strategy to create a 21st century city that is both beautiful & sustainable
    • *Note: Mau reports the Chicago has a serious water shortage problem. They are not allowed to tap into the lakes per the Supreme Court, and they will run out of water if they continue to tap their aquifers in about 25-30 years.
  • Good design education is
    • Purpose Driven
      • Using real life challenges
    • Entrepreneurial
    • Experiential
    • Educative
  • Design challenges now cross all disciplines
  • Buckminster Fuller quote:
    • A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist
  • Today's designers can't be a true Renaissance artist because the challenges facing us are so complex
    • Thus, Mau wants to create Renaissance teams
  • Mau says todays designers must act if they are lost in a forrest (vs. going for a picnic)
    • Their entire environment becomes important in searching for tools of use
    • This brings the entrepreneurial spirit to the designer
  • Mau's not interested in critical or negative outcomes
    • Instead, he said that the work should be critical for positive outcomes (changes)
  • "Designers don't have the luxury of cynacism." Instead, they should be committed to accomplishment.
    • "We don't need to complain. We need an IDEA."
  • Arnold Toynbee quote
    • “The twentieth century will be chiefly remembered by future generations not as an era of political conflicts or technical inventions, but as an age in which human society dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective”
    • Mau's students said to broaden that perspective
    • Take out "human life" and replace it with "all life"
  • Mau believe we're in a period of innovation akin to the turn of the 20th century
    • Ex. India's electric car Riva
      • Indian designers & engineers synthesizing ideas from all over the world
  • Mau highlighted the work of Edward O. Wilson & Dean Kaman
  • Image Economy
    • 100 billion images are currently created every year
    • Look out VRLs!

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