By Christine Donnelly

There is nothing I enjoy more than rich people talking about the need for equality. On Monday night during a MASS LBP event, I got t to hear Bruce Mau, celebrated Canadian designer and author, director of Bruce Mau Design and OCAD drop-out, discuss exactly that.

Seated beside a flat screen display of a crackling hearth, this ‘fireside chat’ was held in Mau’s new design studio digs at King and Spadina. In conversation with Uffe Elbaek, the founder of KaosPilot School of Business Design, Mau discussed the future of design, sustainability and the reasons why he would never take the bus.

“Currently we design (public transit) as a big fat loser, and everybody knows it. We design our public transit to be a loser and we put a slogan on the side that says ‘the better way’. But that doesn’t make it the better way,” Mau said, “…there’s a great opportunity to redesign it. Its an experience design, in the same way the car is an experience design. “

You need only to envision your winter self huddled against the cold in the glass box that is a TTC ‘shelter’ to find yourself nodding, ‘It’s true!’ How can the public transport system beat the comfort of a heated-seat ride to work in February?

Design, explained Mau, needs to make sustainable options ‘sexy’. “Design is the method by which we reinvent the experience… one that is more compelling than the old fashioned one that damages the environment.”

Held in the studio library, with only a few chairs available for the large crowd, I ended up perching (ass half-on, half-off) on a bookshelf. No small feat if you’re trying to look – if not cool, then at least coordinated – in a room full of style-conscious and beautifully symmetrical designers. I found myself sandwiched between a copy of Huckleberry Finn and a book about the Online Revolution; an appropriate place considering the discussion turned to topics like the need for change in our ‘manufacturing model’ of public education. “Think about the change we are experiencing,” said Mau, “We are doubling our technological capacity every year. So that means… people graduating with a four-year technical degree have learned 50% of the wrong stuff. 50% of the stuff that they learned is outmoded by the time they graduate.”

Part of a monthly series about trends and ideas that are shaping public life and public policy, this event was hosted by MASS LBP. Pundits for democratic change, MASS LBP have previously hosted talks on topics ranging from: Greening the Gardiner ( to Journalism and Democracy.

Learn more about their work and sign up for monthly standing-room only events here: