A Design for Life

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"A Design for Life"
Single by Manic Street Preachers
from the album Everything Must Go
Released 15 April 1996
Format CD, cassette
Genre Alternative rock, Britpop
Length 4:16
Label Epic
Manic Street Preachers singles chronology
"She Is Suffering"
"A Design for Life"
"Everything Must Go"

"A Design for Life" is a single released by Welsh band Manic Street Preachers in 1996 and the first to be taken from the Everything Must Go album of May that same year. It peaked and debuted at number #2 in the UK Singles Chart.


The title was inspired by the debut Joy Division EP record An Ideal for Living. The opening line of the song 'Libraries gave us power' was inspired by the legend above the entrance to the former library in Pillgwenlly, Newport, some 15 miles from the band's home town of Blackwood in Wales: 'Knowledge is Power'.[1] The next line, 'then work came and made us free', refers to the German slogan Arbeit macht frei that featured above the gates of Nazi concentration camps and which had been used previously by the band in their song "The Intense Humming of Evil" on the album The Holy Bible.

The song explores themes of class conflict and working class identity and solidarity, inspired by the band's strong socialist convictions. Its video included scenes of fox hunting and Royal Ascot to represent what the band saw as class privilege.

The CD single also included the songs "Mr Carbohydrate", "Dead Passive" and "Dead Trees and Traffic Islands", while the cassette included a live version of "Bright Eyes".

The song was the first to be written and released by the band following the mysterious disappearance of figurehead Richey Edwards the previous year and was used as the opening track on Forever Delayed, the band's greatest hits album released in November 2002.


The single reached number #2 in the UK Singles Charts on 27 April 1996 and was the first in a run of five consecutive releases to be top ten hits.[2] The single spent 7 weeks in the Top 40 in the UK, being the best perfoming single by the band in the Top 40, alongside with Your Love Alone Is Not Enough. It has achieved Silver status in the UK (200.000 copies).

With A Design for Life the band also began an amazing run of 11 years where they managed to chart all their singles within the Top 20 in the UK, it would end in 2007, with the single "Indian Summer" from their eighth studio album Send Away the Tigers.


The song is referred to in the song "Slide Show" (alongside Beck's "Devils Haircut" and Oasis' "Wonderwall") on Travis' 1999 album, The Man Who: "'Cause there is no design for life, There's no devil's haircut in my mind, There is not a wonderwall to climb to climb or step around".

In May 2007, NME magazine placed "A Design for Life" at number 30 in its list of the 50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever. In October 2011, NME placed it at number 75 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[3]

Popular culture[edit]

The song featured in adverts for the supermarket Sainsbury's during the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

Sleeve quote[edit]

"The creation continues incessantly through the media of man. But man does not create... he discovers. Those who look to the laws of nature for support for their new works collaborate with the creator. Copiers do not collaborate. Because of this, originality consists in returning to the origin."

Track listing[edit]

All music by James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore and all lyrics by Nicky Wire, except where noted:


  1. "A Design for Life" – 4:19
  2. "Mr Carbohydrate" – 4:13
  3. "Dead Passive" – 3:19
  4. "Dead Trees and Traffic Islands" – 3:43 (Music and lyrics James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore, Nicky Wire)


  1. "A Design for Life" – 4:21
  2. "A Design for Life" (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Version) – 4:48
  3. "A Design for Life" (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Instrumental Version) – 4:35
  4. "Faster" (Vocal Mix) – 5:46 (music: James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore; lyrics: Nicky Wire, Richey Edwards)


  1. "A Design for Life"
  2. "Bright Eyes" (live) (Mike Batt)


Chart (1996) Peak
UK Singles Chart[2] 2
Irish Singles Chart[4] 17
New Zealand Singles Chart[5] 48
ARIA Charts 50

UK Chart Performance[edit]

UK Top 40
Week 01 02 03 04 05 06 07


  1. ^ "Manics' 'humble' library opening". bbc.co.uk. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Manic Street Preachers - Official Single Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  3. ^ 150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years | NME.COM
  4. ^ "irishcharts.ie search results for Manic Street Preachers". Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  5. ^ "charts.org.nz". Retrieved 9 December 2008.