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Synopsis: Bruce Mau describes his studio as a multi-disciplinary think tank where designers, artists and architects, curators, filmmakers and writers collaborate ... In interviews and in his own writings, Mau rarely alludes overtly to nuts-and-bolts design issues such as typography, page design, color, and proportion. Instead, his work critically engages what he calls the global image economy: a new world order characterized by the impact of sophisticated reproduction technology, the proliferation of logos and printed advertisements, digitally manipulated imagery, celebrity culture, and electronic commerce, among other late-twentieth-century phenomena.This book begins with a one-page text titled Styling Life: Declaration, which succinctly defines the firm's approach and includes the statement, Here we accept the accidents, the encounters, the interruptions and the failures of design practice along with its successes and elations.

Review: Each day, the average Western citizen sees, assimilates, and recognizes 16,000 logos. Chances are that Bruce Mau has been involved in the creation, evolution, and/or devolution of many of them. But calling Bruce Mau a graphic designer would be akin to calling Mae West a playwright--technically correct, but oh-so-limiting.

This mammoth catalogue raisonné of Mau's graphic work (which only Phaidon Press has the resources, and the patience, to produce) is the much-anticipated follow-up to the 1995 sensation S, M, L, XL that Mau coauthored with renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Nearly as big, but much more colorful, Life Style offers a compendium of thoughts on the conflicts and conundrums that so perplex concerned aesthetes in Western civilization, including suburban sprawl, ecological threats, the implications of identity creation, and the role of the graphic arts in architecture and design.

Trying to pin down this huge undertaking to only a few highlights would be a disservice to a man who counts such luminaries as Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, John Cage, Michael Snow, Meg Stuart, and Chris Marker as friends and colleagues. The center section alone, which recounts and reprints the celebrated spreads from his publishing venture Zone Books, would be worth the price: "The times were extraordinary--the middle 1980s, the height of American yuppie culture gorging itself on wealth. The Macintosh computer had only just been introduced and was making itself felt in the world of typography by virtue of its capacity to distort fonts. It would eventually transform the field of design, disseminating expertise and clustering capacities vertically. Faxes and FedEx were making possible a new level of international collaboration that would soon put a Toronto designer at the center of a transatlantic project. That project was Zone."

The collaboration at Zone Books enabled some of the most provocative book projects ever seen, and they are reproduced faithfully in Life Style (although one might need a magnifying glass to get the most out of them). Zone was the first and most satisfying of Mau's team projects, and the pleasure of its success is apparent in the book. But readers will find much more of interest documented here, including his revolutionary stint at I.D. Magazine; his brilliant realization of a book version of the underground, classic sci-fi thriller "La Jetée"; and his ideas for information interchange at several major architectural projects, including right here in Seattle, working with his friend Koolhaas in building the controversial new Seattle Public Library.

All things considered, this major book will leave some readers furious at Bruce Mau's audacity and others aghast at his cross-disciplinary influences. I doubt that there's anyone working in design today who has had quite his impact. This book is a beautifully realized celebration of that impact, and very much worth the wait.

By the way, Phaidon has produced this book with eight different and gorgeous fabric covers. Yours might differ from our rather inadequate representation on the site. As with S, M, L, XL, I predict that some day all of them will be (ahem) "coollectors'" items. --Charles Decker

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