The Mojo Principles
For the New Year, let us resolve to get our personal and collective mojo working.
Mojo – the flow of positive energy, creativity and purposeful action – can’t be conjured up by a talisman or voodoo. It depends on the application of principles of good design, which are evident in well-functioning social and ecological systems, art, architecture and more. Much of what one reads in thousands of self-help books on how to lead a more productive, happy and successful life can be inferred from these principles.
This is one list of ten general design principles that promote mojo. They can be applied by individuals, communities, organizations and even states like Arizona that need to juice it up. Add to, subtract or otherwise modify them to create your own list. Get your mojo working.
- Mojo emerges from hierarchy. It requires a strong center – a purpose, a vision. Priorities that complement the center and add contextual emphasis and variety are established to promote positive and appealing space throughout the design. If you want to get your mojo working, you need to pursue a purpose-driven life.
- Mojo emerges from balance and contrast – the gravitational axis around which revolve both symmetrical and asymmetrical forms. This creates the tension between light and dark, open and closed, heavy and light that fuels the energy in good design. You may yearn for a life of calm and light, but mojo can’t thrive there for very long. Heaven and hell only work together.
- Mojo emerges from artful exaggeration and isolation. Purposeful action requires the careful exaggeration of form to draw attention and focus, as well as the isolation of the value-laden form – the signal we wish to promote – from the perceptual noise around it. The key here is ‘artful:’ when the entire view scape is cluttered with exaggerated and isolated images (much of modern media, political caricature, etc.), everything devolves into noise.
- Mojo emerges from connection. Good design in both people and buildings is connected and complementary, not egocentric and isolated. A strong ego is healthy, but narcissism is not. Isolation of oneself or community with no understanding of how they are connected in a web of social and physical reciprocity makes purposeful action impossible. If you want to get your mojo working, get connected.
- Mojo emerges from boundaries. The “unbound” community, like unbound individual freedom, has no positive moral, practical or aesthetic consequence. Carefully drawn boundaries are vital to the development of all form, if only to be modified or broken by the imagination in the creation of new forms and boundaries.
- Mojo emerges from rhythm. Rhythm is produced by alternating beats, patterns and forms. It is enhanced by echoes – similarities that repeat themselves whether in good design, good communities or good human character. To sustain mojo, you need to spice up your life (community, state) with a variety of rhythms. Knowing which rhythm to apply at any given moment requires developing an exquisite sense of timing.
- Mojo emerges from scale. All life plays out along a gradient of size and proportion. The “inside-out” small scale of going about one’s daily life can be obscured by preoccupation with the much larger “outside-in” scale of macro-economic and political issues chronicled by modern media. To thrive, mojo requires the harmonious juxtaposition of different scales, which brings us back to balance and contrast.
- Mojo emerges from the hidden. A scary movie works when the monster or villain is lurking in the background and reveals itself at just the right moment. The mind is most actively stimulated when it is provoked or otherwise engaged by what is hidden or only partially revealed, whether it’s a problem to be solved or a relationship to be pursued. Too much information and constant exposure will kill mojo and the imagination. Mojo thrives on surprise and discovery. Be suggestive, not literal.
- Mojo emerges from movement. The pursuit of power to realize one’s purpose or desire involves movement, and movement creates energy, the sine qua non of mojo in all its dimensions – physical, intellectual, social, aesthetic and otherwise. Keep moving, but take time to rest and replenish your mojo.
- Mojo emerges from unity. The pursuit of unity with another/others – one definition of love – stimulates the heart, mind, body and spirit, and so involves movement and power as well. A life, a building or a work of art where all the pieces “fit together” in some harmonious whole is another way of thinking about unity. The cultivation of mojo involves the pursuit of unity, but it also involves the pursuit of difference. Neither is sufficient unto itself.
These principles work together, not in isolation. Habits of the heart, mind and body trip individual triggers differently, but they all arise from pursuing positive purpose and design. This isn’t a recipe – it’s an attitude, a way of being in the world.
Live life artfully. Get your mojo working.
Feedback? Send it my way: Roger.Hughes@slhi.org.
*The Drift reflects the views of the author, and does not represent the official view of SLHI’s Board of Trustees and staff.