5 Best Design (and life) Manifestos

I am a fan of advice condensed in a form that I can print out and tape to my wall. Good work is 99% percent hard work and 1% inspiration and so here’s  the best 1% I’ve come across.


Picture 5

Lets start with the ultimate and perhaps the best there is: The Incomplete Manifesto for Growth by Bruce Mau. Although it was written more than a decade ago, and passed down generation to generation, every word in these 43 truisms is still as applicable and relevant as it was in 1998. These three in particular resonated most strongly with me – perhaps a good reflection of where this blog in its maturity cycle.

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

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.

This gorgeous typographic treatment of the Manifesto is done by Kate Andrews. You can also download a simpler PDF version of the Manifesto here.


Picture 6This is brevity at its best. Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design has been responsible for some of the industry’s greatest design talent across all fields. These 80-words are the most profound language I have come across that do an incredible job of not only inspiring young designers but also elevating their role in society. And again, this manifesto, when applied in a broader context, rings true for other disciplines as well.


Picture 7

Allan Chochinov, Founder of the remarkable Core77 blog and someone I deeply admire, wrote this sometime ago. This manifesto makes a strong case for why sustainability and design should not be two separate conversations. Allan makes ten key points:

1. Hippocratic before Socratic: Designers are not in the artifact business, but in the consequence business.

2. Stop making Crap: (We like it when someone calls a spade, a spade!) Desginers are feeding this cycle – helping to turn everyone or everything either into a consumer or a consumable. This has gotta stop.

3. Systems before Artifacts: Before designing anything new, examine how we can use what already exists.

4. Teach Sustainability Early:  (Cannot agree more!)

5. Screws Better than Glues: Build and design in a way that people can understand the workings of their built artifacts and environments, and more importantly understand the role and impact of those built artifacts and environments.

6. Design For Impermanence: Paradoxical idea – but designers should be designing for an eco-system in which everything is recycled into everything else, not for permanence.

7. Balance for talents; Metrics before Magic and Climates before Primates

10. Context before absolutely everything.


Manuel Lima, author of the Visual Complexity blog, penned this simple manifesto on Information Visualization last year. The surplus of data in a digital age has created a strong need to make sense of it and understand the relationships in data to throw light and insight into world problems. Statistics and Stories, now belong in the same sentence. It’s no wonder then that Data Visualization and Info-graphics have emerged as dynamic new problem-solving tools. And that is exactly why, it is more important than ever for an accepted book of rules and guidelines to help those that are experimenting with data and information.

Among the ten points Lima makes, the one that speaks most strongly to me is:

The Power of Narrative: We have a deep and profound need to make sense of the world around us via stories. Whether these stories are told in form of words, language, pictures or information – it is important for the message to be crystal clear and the narrative to be compelling enough to touch the audiences.

Visualizations for the sake of visualizations, or stories for the sake of stories – no matter how aesthetically pretty, adds no value and impacts no change.

and lastly,


Picture 9I  love what Rashid says about poetic design.  Yes, it is a departure from the hard-hitting design with a meaning manifesto’s I’ve shared. Rashid’s belief that” Every business should be completely concerned with beauty – it is after all a collective human need,” can come across as shallow and less perceptive. But we live in a world where it is exactly this kind of pluralist thought economy that is driving the collective mind-meld on topics of more profound implications. It is important to value and offer due credit to points of view that fall across the spectrum.

Because ultimately as Rashid puts it, “Design is about the betterment of our lives poetically, aesthetically, experientially, sensorially, and emotionally.” And we need a multidisciplinary leadership of thought and ideas to achieve this.

Other Resources and Compilations on Manifestos:

100+ Years of Design Manifestos A fantastic resource of all kinds of (didactic, poetic, brief, book-like!) forms of manifesto’s on design published over a century.

If you enjoyed this article, please like it, tweet it and tell your friends about it 🙂


  1. Julia Wu November 10, 2010

    Great entry Jinal. I especially love Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. “#25: Dont Clean Your Desk”? ok!

  2. […] 5 Best Design and Life Manifestos […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *