Why celebrity designer Bruce Mau is betting on a new kind of renaissance

In 1418, the city of Florence held a competition to build a dome over its cathedral. Filippo Brunelleschi’s octagonal dome made history as the first to be built without a temporary supporting frame. It remains the largest brick-and-mortar dome in the world today.

However, Brunelleschi was trained not as an architect or a builder but as a goldsmith. He also wrote poetry, designed settings for theatrical performances, and pioneered unprecedented optical and geometric experiments that led to the development of linear perspective. At the age of 39, he also opened his own school where he taught mathematics, geometry and art.

[Image: courtesy Massive Change Network]

The Renaissance was a period of rapid crisscrossing during which artists such as Brunelleschi worked as engineers and vice versa. Others known as “Renaissance Men” like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Leon Battista Alberti, who effortlessly bridged painting, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, astronomy, and more, Which resulted in a dynamic flow of intellectual, artistic and literary. action.

Now a new book argues that a similar mindset may be promoted today, except that it is not about a Renaissance man but a “Renaissance team.” bond He argues that the complex problems of our generation can be solved only when art, technology and science came together during the Renaissance.

bond It was written by Julio Mario Otino, a scientific researcher and artist, and Bruce Maui, a renowned graphic designer whose vast portfolio includes redesigning the Holy City of Mecca, redesigning Guatemala, and starting the Massive Change Network. is a design consultancy he founded in 2010. His wife, BC Williams. Mau likes to think big, and in this book he wants you to forget the right versus left brain myth and embrace whole-brain thinking.

I recently sat down with Mau, who joined me from his book-filled office in Chicago, to talk about how to consider bond was born, how modern-day companies and organizations can foster whole-brain thinking, and how important design is to that process.

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Bruce Maui [Photo: courtesy Massive Change Network]

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

My first observation is regarding the title of the book and the fact that it is missing the word Design, I wonder if it is because design itself is at the crossroads of art, technology and science?

yeah the project for me really started when i found this cute little magazine [trans | formation], It was edited in the 1950s by this man named Harry Holtzman, and he says, “Change confirms that art, science, and technology are components of the total human enterprise. But they are often treated as such today.” treated as if they were culturally isolated and conflicting.”

I read it and I thought, oh my god that’s exactly what i’m thinking, So it started a conversation and we realized that design is really just the everyday practice that brings those worlds back together.

word done Design Or what does it mean even present in the Renaissance? Or was it born precisely because we needed a method to bring them together when we parted?

In the Renaissance, it was the practice of being multiracial, partly because the domain itself was marginally extended. You could master everything you knew about anatomy, because we didn’t know very much. Whereas today mastering more than one area is unlikely. Even mastering one area is extremely challenging, and it is growing rapidly. For almost all of history, we didn’t know of a single other planet in the universe, and now we know of thousands of them.

But very quickly, especially with the Industrial Revolution, these [domains] tend to be isolated in their own culture and have an increasingly distinct and distinct language, and this has the effect of banishing the outsider. You have to be proficient and trained in language and knowledge, and now we have a situation where knowledge in one domain is often not accessible to others.

The problems we have are not technical problems, and they are not science problems, they are [problems like] Climate change. And climate change is not going to be solved by technology and science. We will need art, we will need emotions to understand how to reach people and inspire them to change, talk to them about new possibilities and show them another world. And he’s about to come on the nexus; It’s going to come from people who are really able to work at that intersection—and that intersection is design.

Correct. We went centuries solving other problems, but perhaps we have reached a critical mass, a moment when working together with these individual practices is not enough?

Yes, we now have a new set of what I call success problems. If we failed more often, we would have less problems. There would only be one billion people on the planet. We got smallpox off the face of the earth, saving millions of lives. But all those people are living now, they need food, they need shelter.

Now we are facing problems like climate change. We have acquired a new class of problems that are of a higher order of complexity and do not fit into the classical categories. And you have to bring in a team of people. We developed a method that we call the Renaissance Team: Now that you can’t have a Renaissance person, the idea that I can find someone who can do it is really impossible. But you can have a reconnaissance team.

Going back in history, you write that Florence was the embodiment of the nexus of the time. What is it that has made Florence the perfect place for all these minds to converge?

In part, it was a culture of leadership and competition. You had very intense competition between cities. At that time, if you were a glassmaker in Murano, if you tried to leave, they would cut off your hands. They didn’t want you to show anyone how to do it, so it was a great crime to leave with the knowledge.

The day’s patronage was all designed to excel and create competition and win against other cities. That’s why you wanted your city’s best scientists, best artists, best engineers to beat other cities. And in the case of Florence, you have Medici . was [family], He had an unbelievable commitment to the arts, to culture, to the sciences – he financed everything.

So you get this incredible culture, where if you take Galileo out of Florence, he probably doesn’t. This creates a culture of nexus. It’s like, if you want to be in technology and you go to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, there’s going to be the best technologists from everywhere in the world. You don’t get it out of Poughkeepsie.

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[Image: courtesy Massive Change Network]

But there’s a huge flip side to that coin when it comes to Silicon Valley, so how can we recreate Florence without another Silicon Valley?

If you look around, you’ll see in America that cities are competing that way, building culture, art museums, galleries, art biennials. They are creating a place where people want to live. It is a battle of talents and cities are competing on that basis.

So you’re saying that’s not the case in Silicon Valley? Was it too dependent on technology and not enough on art and culture?

It’s not there, I’d argue.

The book explains the benefits of “alliances” in detail, but what’s your approach to how we get there?

I think education is important. Naming it and really helping people understand that is an important step. And giving people a road map and showing them what happens.

I worked with Julio to help launch whole brain engineering on the North West. It’s a very different way of thinking about engineering. When I moved to Chicago, Julio made me a fellow at Northwestern, and I said, “Julio, I know nothing about engineering. Shouldn’t I get an engineering degree first?” And he said, “No, no, you don’t have to be like us. We need to be like you. ,

It took me a while to understand what he was talking about, but eventually I remembered he was explaining it to her. He said, “If I asked a traditional engineer to build a bridge, he would question, how thin can I make it? Efficiency, that’s exactly what the classical engineer is oriented towards. If I ask you to build a bridge So the question you would ask is, why do you want a bridge? Maybe a boat is good, maybe we don’t have a bridge.”

We need a “why” question in our practice. Let’s take a step back and say, why are we doing this? And once you start thinking like that, it’s really a balance between analysis and creativity. And now to be great, you need both of those things, you need a left brain and a right brain, you need a nexus brain.

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[Image: courtesy Massive Change Network]

So obviously academia can be a good platform for this kind of thinking, but I wonder if companies and organizations can play a similar role?

I think they have an opportunity to really bring these worlds together. If you take Apple, and you take beauty out of Apple, you’re left with a really cool tech company that you’ve never heard of and won’t affect anyone. You put art, science and technology together and you have Apple, and it changes the world. The fact that their products say, “Designed in California,” is a clichĂ© to say. It is not the creation that matters, it is the creative practice that brought it into existence.

So how would you define the situation today? Are we heading towards Renaissance 2.0?

More people are involved in alliances than ever before. More people have access to this possibility than at any other time in human history. And it allows us to do things that would have been unimaginable for most of history. If you think about when COVID happened, there were over 100 teams from all over the world in just a few weeks [working on vaccines], Scientists, technologists, designers, communicators, brands, investors, all faced the challenge and accepted it and tried to solve it, and many succeeded.

That’s the new world, and I find it really awful that we don’t know about [the potential of the nexus] And we don’t love it and understand how important it is. When we started Large Scale Transformation Networks, we spent years researching to really understand what we are capable of doing now, and how our design capability has expanded. Through that process we met the people who removed smallpox from the face of the earth; One of the key leaders was a man named Larry Brilliant.

He vaccinated billions of people to get that result. We know almost nothing about Larry Brilliant and everything we know about Lady Gaga. And Lady Gaga is fabulous but Larry Brilliant is far more spectacular. So I’m doing everything I can to help people see how amazing we really are, and that’s what we’re capable of.

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