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In the summer of 2001, Bruce Mau Design ran an interesting help wanted campaign via their web site looking to hire a Print Production Coordinator, Designer(s), Program Developer, and a Project Manager to work in their “upbeat, fast-paced, and intellectually demanding studio.”

The application process called for an essay explaining why building the “best design studio in the world” is of interest to you and participation in their “latest skill-testing quiz” which asked questions such as, “In QuarkXPress, to increase kerning 1/20 em, which of the following keyboard commands would you use?” and “Which of the following was not a follower of theosophy?”

Of course I applied. Who didn’t? In November of 2001, I received the following email from the studio’s manager, Mr. Jim Shedden:

“Owing to the economic climate, we have put the search and interview process on hold for a month or so while we consolidate new business. Hope to be back in touch with you soon.”

That is the last I heard of Mr. Shedden or any information about the hiring plans of Bruce Mau Design.

Until now.

Of course it is legit and of course I plan on applying but I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps it is a very clever idea to obtain a free and highly qualified design labor force for Bruce Mau Design in this troubled economy.

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PUBLISHED ON Sep.28.2002 BY Kiran Max Weber
Armin’s comment is:

In my opinion when things like these happen everybody wins. Bruce Mau can spend little or no money at all in the effort and the people who sign up get to be part of a great project and have a great experience. I'm not saying if it's right or wrong, but it seems like everybody gets what they want, and nobody gets hurt in the process. Well... maybe Kiran, because now he won't get paid by Bruce Mau.

This project is not for students only right? anybody can participate? and there's no pay either right? as you can see I haven't gone through all the site.

On Sep.28.2002 at 12:05 PM
Kiran’s comment is:

Everybody does win. Actually, I'd rather participate in this than be a paid employee of Bruce Mau Design. We all know what money does to any creative endeavor. I was merley trying to point out what a very ingenious and innovative idea this is. Whether the participants will work on studio projects or on their own projects is yet to be seen, but I haven't seen other firms do this. They still use interns.

It's actually a one year program, not just one project and it is for anyone. I don't think it costs anything. They will start accepting applications in October after they post the necessary application information.

Will anyone apply? What does everyone think of Bruce Mau Design?

On Sep.28.2002 at 03:20 PM
Christopher May’s comment is:

I kinda know a couple people at his studio. One doesn't get paid, the other, from what i heard, gets paid below average. As cool of a place (and what place wouldn't - being situated in the heart of china town working on projects with Rem Koolhaus and Frank Gary), but to me, commercial/applied art is just that - commercial. I would rather get a pay cheque doing good work without too many egos, than not get get a pay cheque doing good work in a shop where everybody there thinks more about themselves than their work.

... and that quiz just epitomizes the shops self righteousness.

On Sep.30.2002 at 09:23 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I stay away from any company that makes you take a quiz to get in. When I was finishing college Procter & Gamble came looking for designers and we had to take a test, I kindly said "screw you".

On Sep.30.2002 at 09:31 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>What does everyone think of Bruce Mau Design?

I can't speak of any personal experience, but it seems like it would be a great place for students straight out of college, they are probably not going to get paid well anywhere they go anyway, so they might as well build up their resume.

On Sep.30.2002 at 02:58 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

July 2003 issue of Metropolis, page 130:

But it undoubtedly achieves its greatest fervor among the seven full-time students of Bruce Mau Design's aptly named in-house school, the Institute Without Boundaries, who have been hard at work on the bulk of the project's research.

I love it when I'm right.

On Jun.12.2003 at 08:16 AM
Ginny ’s comment is:

Bruce Mau's little design school seems pretty sketchy to me. (no pun intended). YOU pay 20,000. to work for him. YOU cannot get any financial aide. YOU cannot work a part-time job because you will basically be working for Bruce Mau design 40+ hours a week. And on top of that, YOU have to pay for your own living expenses, are expected to lease a $1,600 computer and find your own way out there.

Yes, you can collaborate with some pretty cool people, work with Bruce Mau, do some really good work, maybe learn a thing or two. But you don't get a "degree" out of it. Maybe I'm just practical. It just seems like a lot of money to do work for a designer who is getting paid for the project in the first place. I mean, he's not doing it for free. And you're basically paying to work on this project. I'd rather go get my master's and create my own agenda.

On Jun.12.2003 at 02:24 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

I think Frank Lloyd Wright did a similar thing, getting students to pay to work for him. I guess the key is whether the guy is sincere or not. I'm guessing that Wright never thought of those kids as suckers; he probably thought of them as loyal followers, willing to sacrifice everything for his goal in the same way he would.

While there is a lot to be said for having personal contact with a great man/woman (and it is actually necessary for growth), something of the authenticity of that experience is lost if you become objectified. Or maybe the great message you will absorb is how to use people to your greatest advantage, even to the point of absurdity.

On Jan.13.2004 at 04:40 PM
scott’s comment is:

I'm glad this page was revived as I missed it the first time around. I have a great deal of respect for Bruce Mau and the work produced by his studio, but this Institute Without Boundaries business, as far as I'm concerned, is not cool.

I also run a design studio (although a much smaller one), and we also try to do a variety of smart, interesting work for a variety of smart, interesting clients as a way to make the world a better place.

We also have people that come in for a limited time to do research and production and design and to just generally learn about what we do and how we do it. At the same time, those people help us by getting the work done.

I like to call these people "employees." By providing valuable services to the studio, they receive substantial compensation, both financial and educational, as a function of being part of the team.

Some of these "employees" are called "interns." These "interns" are full- or part-time students in design school. They also receive compensation, although they are paid less and learn more.

So from the perspective of a small-business owner who has bills to pay, I salute BMD for getting lots of people to not only work for free (customary for many internships), but to actually pay to do so!

Perhaps someone can enlighten me about how this Institute works. Tell me that the students are doing their own work and reap the benefits of the studio, just as students who pay to go to design school do.

There is a long tradition of learning a trade through work: apprenticeships, medical school rotations and so on. But when your learning consists of putting labor into projects from which someone else will profit, that's not okay.

On Jan.13.2004 at 06:56 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> But when your learning consists of putting labor into projects from which someone else will profit, that's not okay.

I think that may have been the line that BMD crossed -- to financially benefit from both ends, the student as well as the project.

When I was a senior in design school, our professor gave us a chance to create a branding campaign for a large photography show and film festival. Yes, it was nonprofit, but wasn't completely pro-bono for his office. Somehow, I didn't see anything unethical about that practice -- and was glad to get the opportunity to pay to work on it. Seemed like a fair trade.

So maybe we're making rash assumptions on the type of projects Mau gives to his slaves. Cause that would make a difference on whether or not the cheese stinks, know what I mean?

I'm trying to think of other instances where an apprentice pays to work on a project that financially benefits his teacher.......still thinking......thinking......

Ah! got one: Culinary schools.

Students often pay obscene sums of cash for the chance to wash lettuce and skin fish in restaurants run by the school or notable area restaurants.

That's kinda the same thing -- and is a very common practice.

Still...Mau's deal smells funny.

On Jan.13.2004 at 07:45 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

I think the tuition for the Bauhaus was about 150 marks, and I don't know what that equals in todays money. I believe it was a largely state-funded school? But eventually the school had to fund itself, as I understand it, and the students were working on projects to raise money for it. It became something of a business propelled by paying "students". So that is another historical example, BUT there was no evil mastermind profiting from it, I don't think.

On Jan.13.2004 at 09:54 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Yes, Mau smells funny. Yet, he's an enterprising man and I appreciate that. There are plenty of positives and negatives of working in BMD while coughing up some dough. "It's all about how many votes you get," my mentor once told me. If working with BMD gets you a wonderful education, sharp portfolio, and resume recognition, then what's so evil about that?

And as far as the quiz, I've heard about many agencies and corporations doing the same. Microsoft has an infamous line of questions they ask entrants. It's no cake walk. It's maddening.

Lastly, didn't most of today's design greats work with mentors? Didn't Bierut work in Vignelli's office? Didn't Helfand have Rand as a Professor? And even Greiman went to Basel and worked with Hofmann. You've got to pay something for these experiences. Whether time, independence, or even money.

On Jan.14.2004 at 09:28 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

An interesting book called The Sociology of Philosophies by Randall Collins might be relevant here, since what Jason is talking about is the sociology of the design profession.

The book shows how the great men or women in history are linked to each other. It talks about systematic laws of how many great creative people can exist at a time (or more precisely, how many greats can be recognized without diluting their greatness), things like that. It shows how networks of great teachers and their great students work. One of the most interesting points, though, is that personal face-to-face contact with these individuals, in emotionally charged settings like seminars or schools, is absolutely necessary for a student to become a real part of this network in any important way, even in this world of e-mail and blogs.

There are other neat observations in the book, but I'll leave it at this as a recommended reading. It's very long but some chapters are more worthwhile to our interests than others.

I'd like to say one more thing though. Many great teachers have taught thousands of students. Just because you go to a Glaser workshop or study with Hofmann doesn't make you a great. In fact it's tempting to do such things because "it will look great on my resume!" That is really a misuse of the situation; you can namedrop if you're great but don't namedrop thinking it will make you great.

On Jan.14.2004 at 09:51 PM