Book Review: Massive Change

Massive Change by Bruce Mau and the Institute without Boundaries
Phaidon, 2004
Hardcover, 240 pages

Massive Change is an ambitious project by graphic designer (among other potential titles) Bruce Mau and the Institute without Boundaries (a 12-month interdisciplinary postgraduate program) that aims to "evolve a global society that has the capacity to direct and control the emerging forces in order to achieve the most positive outcome." Found in book form here, Massive Change is also a traveling exhibition (coming to Chicago in September 2006), radio show, online forum, and line of products. As a book, the project successfully conveys the notion that design is all-encompassing, though that knowledge must be tempered by the foresight to know what should -- and should not -- be done with that power. This book takes an extremely positive view of design, seeing it as the way to solve many contemporary problems: poverty, energy shortage, and war, to name a few. While the uncritical way the book presents most of the ideas may be its biggest shortcoming, the extraordinary wealth of ideas and voices contained within its pages is its greatest, acting as a starting point into realms of science, technology, and other fields that offer a great deal of hope. Under the right circumstances, much of what's presented could realize its full potential. And that's the crux of Massive Change: for its ideas to have effect, the problems and solutions it proposes must reach the right people. After reading this book, you just might think that's possible.