"A Design for Life" was released by Manic Street Preachers in 1996 and was the first single release from the Everything Must Go album of May that same year.
The title was inspired by the Joy Division EP record "An Ideal for Living". The opening line 'Libraries gave us power' was inspired by the legend above the entrance to a public library in Newport, near the band's home town of Blackwood in Wales: 'Knowledge is Power', whilst the phrase 'then work came and made us free' references the slogan 'Arbeit macht Frei' that featured above the gates of most of the Nazi concentration camps and which was earlier referenced by the band on "The Intense Humming of Evil" from The Holy Bible. It reached number two in the UK charts on 27 April 1996 and was the first in a run of five consecutive releases to be top ten hits.
The song also 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 included "Mr. Carbohydrate", "Dead Passive" and "Dead Trees and Traffic Islands", while the cassette included a live version of "Bright Eyes".
It was the first song written and released by the band following the mysterious disappearance of figurehead Richey James the previous year.
The song also made an appearance as the opening track on Forever Delayed, the band's greatest hits album released in November 2002.
The song is referenced in the song Slide Show (alongside Beck's Devils Haircut and Oasis' Wonderwall) on Travis's 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.