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Idea Generation

5 Manifestos for Art, Life & Business

Writing a manifesto can be a powerful catalyst for action. Get the creative juices flowing with visionary manifestos from Apple, Frank Lloyd Wright, Seth Godin, and more.


Manifestos are a powerful catalyst. By publicly stating your views and intentions, you create a pact for taking action. (Movements from the American Revolution to Dogme 95 film to the Firefox web browser were all launched by manifestos.) If you want to change the world, even in just a small way, creating a personal or business manifesto is a great place to start.

Before we launched Behance in 2006, drawing up a set of tenets and principles that would guide the company was our very first objective. Looking back five years on, our “manifesto” continues to prove extremely useful. Whether we’re planning the launch of a major product or making an important call about a new hire, our principles serve as a touchstone for decision-making.Needless to say, developing a set of principles that you believe in and constantly strive to stand by is an invaluable tool.

To spark your imagination, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite manifestos below.

1. The Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright

Via Gretchen Rubin, we discovered this manifesto from architect Frank Lloyd Wright, written as a series of “fellowship assets” meant to guide the apprentices who worked with him at his school, Taliesin. I particularly love number 10, the idea that working with others should come naturally.

1. An honest ego in a healthy body.

2. An eye to see nature.

3. A heart to feel nature.

4. Courage to follow nature.

5. The sense of proportion (humor).

6. Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work.

7. Fertility of imagination.

8. Capacity for faith and rebellion.

9. Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance.

10. Instinctive cooperation.

2. The Marketer: Seth Godin

The always insightful Seth Godin shared his “Unforgivable Manifesto” with artist Hugh MacLeod a few years ago. His observation about the short-run vs the long-run in point 5 is particularly incisive, as is the notion that we’re all marketers in point 7 – it’s just that some of us don’t own it.

1. The greatest innovations appear to come from those that are self-reliant. Individuals who go right to the edge and do something worth talking about. Not solo, of course, but as instigators of a team. In two words: don’t settle.

2. The greatest marketers do two things: they treat customers with respect and they measure.

3. The greatest salespeople understand that people resist change and that ‘no’ is the single easiest way to do that.

4. The greatest bloggers blog for their readers, not for themselves.

5. There really isn’t much a of ‘short run’. It quickly becomes yesterday. The long run, on the other hand, sticks around for quite a while.

6. The internet doesn’t forget. And sooner or later, the internet finds out.

7. Everyone is a marketer, even people and organizations that don’t market. They’re just marketers who are doing it poorly.

8. Amazing organizations and people receive rewards that more than make up for the effort required to be that good.

9. There is no number 9.

10. Mass taste is rarely good taste.

3. The Designer: John Maeda

RISD president John Maeda’s slim book, The Laws of Simplicity, is one of my all-time favorites, with broad-reaching insights that apply as easily to arranging your living room as to designing a visionary product. In 100 pages, Maeda elaborates on 10 laws for business, design, and life:

1. Reduce: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

2. Organize: Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.

3. Time: Savings in time feel like simplicity.

4. Learn. Knowledge makes everything simpler.

5. Differences: Simplicity and complexity need each other.

6. Context: What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.

7. Emotion: More emotions are better than less.

8. Trust: In simplicity we trust.

9. Failure: Some things can never be made simple.

10. The One: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

4. The Writer: Leo Tolstoy

While they betray a bit of the self-hating introvert, Tolstoy’s “rules for life,” originally written when he was 18 years old, do contain some useful gems. In particular, the notion of managing your energy and prioritizing based on goals (no. 5), and of managing your finances wisely by always keeping a low overhead (no. 9 & 10).

1. Get up early (five o’clock).

2. Go to bed early (nine to ten o’clock).

3. Eat little and avoid sweets.

4. Try to do everything by yourself.

5. Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for every minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater.

6. Keep away from women.

7. Kill desire by work.

8. Be good, but try to let no one know it.

9. Always live less expensively than you might.

10. Change nothing in your style of living even if you become ten times richer.

5. The Company: Apple

When Steve Jobs went on medical leave in 2009 and financial analysts were making dire predictions, Apple COO Tim Cook boiled the company’s culture down to what was essentially an 8-point manifesto. I love that saying no is one of the key points. It’s so hard!

1. We believe that we’re on the face of the earth to make great products.

2. We’re constantly focusing on innovating.

3. We believe in the simple, not the complex.

4. We believe we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.

5. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can focus on the few that are meaningful to us.

6.We believe in deep collaboration and cross pollination in order to innovate in a way others cannot.

7. We don’t settle for anything other than excellence in any group in the company.

8. We have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.

What’s Your Manifesto?

Do you have a personal manifesto that you’d like to share?

How about a manifesto that you’ve always admired?

Jocelyn K. Glei

A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. Her latest book is Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. Her previous works include the 99U’s own bestselling book series: Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.

Comments (109)
  • alafond

    Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto was the first one I read in my career, many years ago:

    http://www.brucemaudesign.com/

  • Patrick Robinson

    How can I most effectively contribute to positive social change?

    A. 1. Incubate or play a role in communities surrounding people who are already changing the world
    2. Influence the agenda of influencers
    (Individuals and Associations)
    3. Encourage others to action their intent
    (ideally give them tools to do so)
    4. Enlist others – collaborate
    5. Make it an increasing part of my ‘day job’.
    6. Continue to learn
    7. Consult on education curricula

  • Brian Sooy | Sooy+Co

    http://www.winwithoutpitching….

    has transformed my business and practice

  • Susan

    I love the Incomplete Manifesto too!

  • Susan

    Another good one. I love Platform 21…too bad that they have closed down…

  • Andymooredesign

    Inspiring! It’s also now my favorite!

    -andymoore

  • Ehsan jahani (architect)

    Design is a sleepless child in a corner of brain

  • Roy Murphy

    For creatives, dreamers and in-betweenness…
    http://www.slideshare.net/mobi

  • Francesca Arce

    we are here to be happy. So, enjoy life.

  • Hazel B.

    My Manifesto:

    1) Find the right people to trust
    2) Everyone is entitled to their revenge
    3) Everyone is entitled to defend themselves (and their work/concept)
    4) Always have good intentions
    5) Investigate, test + research first before coming to any conclusion
    6) Have a goal
    7) Have a plan B or back up
    8) Know and master the Laws of Probability
    9) Know when to ask for help/feedback
    10) Maintain focus

  • Tessa Zeng

    Love this. Godin is spot on as always…

    I’m working on a manifesto on a much grander scale for creative work + marketing called “Changing the World = Changing The Way We Create” (which if anyone is interested, my site elaborates.) But on a personal level, I wrote what I call the “I & Y Manifesto,” a la existentialism and Sesame Street 🙂

    The I: To always do what I love.
    The Y: To always love what I do. (Or stop. Or do it differently.)

    The I: To hold unwavering belief in my own truth, as well as potential to seek out that truth.
    The Y: To never stop asking ‘Why,’ even when the answer is hard, elusive, or seemingly impossible to find.

    The I: Individualism.
    The Y: It’s universal.

  • Kyle Larkin

    Common Sense
    Respect
    Responsibility

  • Gaurav Mishra

    The (most imp) Manifesto for me matches with the last one
    > “8. We have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.”
    > and keeping *AWAKE* the common sense… because after long stretch work hours.. and if you don’t take break. the senses.. loses there grip. And don’t stay that common :- D
    So taking breaks and refueling is also important one for me.

  • Lorenzo Dominguez

    My manifesto is called “25 Lessons I’ve Learned about Photography…Life” and it is the #1 best selling photo essay on amazon.com for 2010 and 2011.

    http://www.amazon.com/Lessons-

    In 25 Lessons I describe how the deceptively simple rules of photography can also be applied to the art of living. Inspirational and poetic, this book will not only spark your creative energies, but will also reawaken your passion for life.

    In 2005, as a husband, father, and corporate employee — my life revolved around home, work, and his daily commute from the suburbs to the city.

    Then, one day, I found himself staying at the Little Church in midtown Manhattan in the wake of a marital separation. Living in virtual isolation for three months, I had a rare chance to re-examine my life.

    Quite unexpectedly, I found himself wandering around the city to take photographs, a passion I had let slide in the years of pursuing a career and starting a family. During his nightly sojourns through the streets of New York City, I was reminded of some important life lessons—lessons too easily forgotten in the blur of everyday existence.

    For More Information:
    http://www.25lessons.com/

  • SheriffShooter

    @andy, this one was the best. wow.

  • Blá Blá Bá

    This a very recent manifesto that I very much admire:
    http://www.solversmanifesto.co

    I consider myself a solver. ^_^

  • Barbara Soalheiro

    The Manifesto Project by a few italian artists (they have just launched a book with some great ones) is worth having a look: http://www.manifestoproject.it

  • Laura Calandrella

    I think that is why blogs are so powerful. In part it is about the creation of idea. But more so it is a commitment to action publicly stated.

  • Ainslie

    I wrote a Manifesto when I started my business about online education. I wanted to put up front why teaching is so important. You can find it here http://coursesthatmatter.com/2

  • Ecogirlveghead

    1) I’m okay not being confident. I’m okay not being a smooth talker.
    2) I don’t need to be fixed.
    3) I just want to be happy. I don’t need to prove it to anyone else.
    4) I don’t want to influence anyone. I don’t want to lead anyone. Let them lead their own f-ing selves.
    5) The more I mind my own business, the happier I am.
    6) From now on, when something is crappy, I say bye-bye and walk away.

  • Kirill Veydash

    In respect to simplicity in design I also dare to recommend 37 signals old Manifesto at http://37signals.com/manifesto

  • Gary R Boodhoo

    as if you read my current state of mind. word.

  • philiphorvath

    I seem to be here right now, a multi-solipsistic manifesto: http://philiphorvath.com/s/201

  • Rogério Nuno Costa

    Mine, inspired by Dogme ’95, but for performing arts: http://www.dogma05english.blogspot.co...

  • Stubhill

    Frank Lloyd Wright was famously difficult to work with.

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