Clarity First Newsletter, April 13, 2018

Clarity First
A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

Last week I asked you to share with me what you liked about this letter, and what you thought that I could do better. It felt really good to turn this epistle into a two-way conversation. I was especially pleased that you value the broad mix of topics this letter covers, and that it is not limited to just my expertise in brand and communications strategy.

Some suggested that the content is worthy of repackaging as a book. One suggested that it should be repurposed as a podcast. This got me thinking: if I were to repackage this content, it would make sense to bundle the thinking into categories that would let the reader see how the thinking represents parts of a whole.

So, as a start toward this goal, this week I’ve started a new practice of placing each idea into a category. I’ve written a bit more about this discovery process on my blog.
Article: Finding Coherence in a Weekly Newsletter

Creative Process

Creativity is not elusive, esoteric, nor unique to an anointed few.

Creativity — in business, society, and personal life — is an essential element of success and satisfaction. And it is not limited to those who go to art school. Louis Chew has made a list of learnable skills that foster this essential quality.
Article: The Seven Habits of Highly Creative People

Design Process

Design thinking is learned.

“For design thinking to spread employees must be assured that they aren’t risking their reputations or careers by coming up with new ideas. Creating a culture of design requires companies to adopt four mindsets corporate-wide.”
Article: How to Create a Culture of Design Thinking

Visual Identity

Stewardship of an iconic global symbol

Originally conceived at the 1864 Geneva Convention, the logo for the Red Cross might be one of the most recognized marks in the world. So, when design firm Concrete was asked to review the Canadian Red Cross’ identity system, they recognized that their task was one of stewardship — not reinvention — nor a branding exercise. The organization was already clear about what they stand for and what their promise is to those they serve. Instead, the charge given to the firm was to improve the identity’s “general usability, public perception, and accessibility, all while representing the organization’s core values of humanitarianism, leadership, trust, expertise, safety, protection, hope, neutrality, and unity.” The result is a powerfully beautiful visual identity system that works on communications materials, digital applications, signage, and field applications.
Web portfolio: Canadian Red Cross


How our minds adapt to constant changes in trains of thought

“In terms of evolution, the mind has only very recently started to adapt to processing written language, but now we have sudden increases in non-linear, multi-threaded, graphical communications, in unpredictable amounts and timings. So, what does this mean in cognitive science?”
Article: Changing Minds. A Conceptual Framework for Relational Cognition

Group Process/Gender Dynamics

You may never completely erase gender bias from your critiques, but being more thoughtful, objective, and specific will help a lot.

The #metoo movement has opened the doors to a whole lot of related issues we haven’t been talking about. “In one study across 28 companies, 76 percent of critical feedback given to women included comments on her personality — e.g., a woman was “abrasive” — while only 2 percent of negative reviews for men included such comments.” Here are some clear and simple ways to give better and more useful feedback.
Article: 3 Steps to Avoid Giving Biased Feedback


Good design is as little design as possible.

Director Gary Hustwit is finishing the first feature-length documentary about the design legend Dieter Rams. It reminded me of the designer’s seminal manifesto about what constitutes good design.
Article: Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design

Personal Productivity

Use checklists to avoid mistakes, assess problems, and ensure consistency.

There’s a really good reason that surgeons and jet pilots use checklists. They work.
Article: This 1 Productivity Hack Can Bring Out an Employee’s Full Potential In Just 5 Minutes



Whether alone in your own room, or in the private space that headphones provide in a public room, music can enhance the work environment. So I was thrilled to stumble upon this new podcast series by artist Pia Pack. Once a week she talks with a female artist about the sonic environments that she makes in her studio and how music influences her work. Each podcast is accompanied by a sample playlist, in both iTunes and Spotify formats. This week I got deep into this playlist by Alison Saar (that’s her pictured above). I like how she mixes an old-time gospel artist like Sister Resetta Tharpe with a contemporary singer like Valerie June, with bridges between like Cannonball Adderley. This is a new series. You’ll be an early adopter.
Podcast: What Artists Listen To…a podcast that explores the stories and soundtracks of artist’s lives


Images of the Week

Revision by Shirin Abedinirad. The Tehran-based conceptual performance artist says, “this project invites audiences to watch nature in a new frame. Instead of watching TV news, which we do not know if it is true or not, we could break the waves that televisions create and watch reality and nature instead. This installation creates a live movie through the simple re?ection of everyone and everything around it. When there is no one on the beach, the ocean itself plays a major role and it is watching its beauty”. See more at her website and on her Instagram page.

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by Mitch Anthony, and Clarity, the consultancy that helps mission-driven companies use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as powerful tools for transformation. Learn more.

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