profession December 5, 2020

Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth: how to apply it daily

Written 22 years ago Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth is still relevant and applicable to this day. So much so that it could have been written yesterday.
We are getting close to the end of 2020, and I don’t feel like writing a post with present recommendations. However, I think it’s time to reflect, and use the manifesto for growth as a personal analysis and advice to other fellow designers.

Manifesto for Growth step by step

Allow events to change you 

If this year taught me something is that we cannot control everything. Even the most improbable events happen, and we have to be willing to live and grow with them.

Forget about good

This is a tricky step for every designer and especially those that are perfectionist (guilty). We’re always thinking about doing good work, having good clients, and achieving a good life balance. But as Bruce Mau’s puts it in the Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, good is what everyone wants. Good doesn’t make our growth, and as long as we get stuck on that thought, we will be too scared to try anything else.

Process is more important than outcome 

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of starting a project with a clear vision of the outcome you want to achieve. And did you get frustrated in the middle of the process because it went in a different direction? Me, too.
I think that especially in the begging when we don’t have a lot of experience, we want to take full control, and we forget to enjoy the ride. Let’s aim for being more of a passenger instead of the main driver.

Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child) 

Experimenting is key in all professions. When we reach adulthood we strive to be perfect and are ashamed of experimenting because it will lead us to admit something we load: we don’t know everything.

Go deep

Developing an idea takes time and understanding the subject fully. According to the Manifesto for Growth, the deeper you go the more value you will get. 

Capture Accidents 

I don’t know about you but sometimes when I’m in the process of designing a logo, happy accidents happen. Concepts that aren’t connected to the project but that had to happen due to the exploration process. 
Most designers disregard those accidents and they shouldn’t. It might not respond to that problem but can help to solve a future one.


The more we know the more we realize we don’t know a lot. Don’t fall under the impression that you know everything. 
Yes, it’s scary to feel ignorant, but it’s also exciting to realize that you can learn so much still.


Going with the flow can be a good thing. Letting the mind wander can produce unexpected and wonderful results, especially when designing.

Begin Anywhere

Not knowing what to do or how to do it can make you go postpone anything from small tasks to big life changes. However, postponing won’t make it go away or get it done any faster. Start somewhere, and just do it.

Everyone is a leader

Given the opportunity, anyone can become a leader. Newby or senior, it doesn’t matter. Believe in yourself and your team.

Harvest ideas 

Ideas flow constantly, even when you wish they would just shut down. But instead of letting them flow without care, put them to paper. Save them somewhere you can revise it later and mature later on.

Keep moving

Regardless if you just getting started on your career or you’re already a hit (spill the secret sauce), keep moving forward. Stagnation is the worst thing a human being can face.

Slow down

Take breaks. It’s great to be always on top of your game, but it’s also very exhausting. In the long run, you will run out of fumes. Let yourself be surprised by new ideas with a clearer mind. 

Don’t be cool

Do you know the latest trends and you want to follow them badly to be on the hip club? Fight that urge. Be you. Different or square it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t play by someone else’s book.

Ask stupid questions

Children aren’t afraid of asking questions. The more they ask, the greater the chance of learning. Why do we get inhibition and lose the willingness of asking silly questions? The more you ask, the greater the Growth opportunity.


People working together generate all sorts of wonderful and disastrous results. Try to collaborate with other professionals and see what wonders result from that partnership.

Allow space

Space is where ideas are formed. Let them come, encourage them and those of others.

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.  

Work the metaphor 

An object can be more than what it seems to be. Change the perspective and bring in a new idea.

Be careful to take risks

Who doesn’t love risk-takers, right? But more than ever before, reality changes in a blink of an eye, and our work can quickly become outdated.

Repeat yourself

There’s no way I could say it better than want Mau’s said. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

Make your own tools  

Tools aren’t everything when it comes to working in design. However, differentiated tools can produce unique results. Self-made tools are even better since they aren’t easily copied. 

Stand on someone’s shoulders 

Learning from what has been explored and paved by older generations is such a great privilege. 
You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better. 

Don’t enter awards competitions

Clients love it and egos, too. That’s why it’s dangerous to enter them. But more than that, most of the time those competitions are paid for. They aren’t based on customer responsibility, unique brief response, or innovative choice of process. They’re just shallow awards paid by contestants.

Read only left-handed pages 

Focus on the most important information and discard the rest. Your brain needs space to nurture new ideas and connections.

Make new words, expand the lexicon 

If you are exploring something different and want to make it new, create new ways of thinking. Invent new words if that helps to think differently.

Think with your mind

Don’t get stuck on using devices for everything. To think you just need your mind and some headspace.

Organization = liberty

Being organized is the key not only to prioritize tasks but also to make your life easier. Once you incorporate organization into your life, you will enjoy the liberty to do everything you set your mind on.

Don’t borrow money

Borrowing money should be the last resource. Avoid it at all costs if you want to keep your sanity and your pocket safe.

Listen carefully 

Designers are problem-solvers. So if you don’t identify the problem, how are you going to solve it? Listening actively is the first most important step. The second one is to ask stupid questions (go back and read again).

Take field trips 

Even though this is not possible right now, going for a safe walk outside your home can stimulate your brain and make wonders for your creativity.

Make mistakes

Every time you can. It’s the best way to learn and grow as a professional and a human being.


Imitating the ones you admire will make you reflect on the process and value their journey. Also, the closer you try to get it right, the most likely you will end up with your unique result.

Break it/ Bend it/ Stretch it/ Crush it/Crack it/Fold it 

Explore the other edge 

Using the same methods, the same technology, and the same techniques you will get the same results. Try using older equipment and see where that gets you.

Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms

For me, it’s in the showers. I get relaxed, and my mind starts to process information in a different light. So, I get new ideas on what I’ve been working on outside of the work context.

Avoid fields, jump fences

Crossing professional boundaries and understanding more than what is expected can seem scary but will bring you so much value. By jumping the fence, let’s say to another area, you will discover new things.


Laugh at yourself even when you’re angry or sad. Create an angle where you can joke about the situation and alleviate your emotions. Laughing always fight stress and makes you leave longer. 


Where you started, the path you chose, and where you want to end up. Growth is only possible by paving and learning along the way.


This post ended up being as much for you as it is for myself. This Manifesto for Growth is a reminder to practice more than what I preach. 
I hope these topics made sense to you and that you can also incorporate them into your life.

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