Clarity First Newsletter,
February 21, 2020

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” – Virginia Woolf

Clarity First

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

This Wednesday eve I couldn’t watch. I am depressed and frightened that in the face of the most dangerous threat to our democratic principles and rules of law that anyone living today has ever seen, the Democratic Party is still fighting about issues.

As the lede story in this letter articulates, specific issues tend to overshadow the intended message by dividing people into categories of either for or against.  By contrast, utilizing shared values encourages audiences to see themselves in the issue, like ‘we don’t lock children in cages’, and ‘we don’t exonerate people who tried to sell a seat in the Senate’ are framed as common sense solutions that reflect American values.

Ronald Regan figured out how to do this for the conservative promise. The progressive (read: inclusive) promise has been more difficult to parse, as we don’t tend toward easy answers and we embrace diversity. We’re on a tough journey, and so far our constitution is the best map. And, we’ve got science on our side. The world’s best constitution and good science should be a slam dunk, right?

Failure is not an option. Happy Friday.

Social Messaging

The business of creating civil society and producing social change.

“CBOs, (community-based organizations) are 501(c)(3) organizations that work in collaboration with government and philanthropic funders to build the human services ecosystem that ensures the health and well-being of all Americans. Most people know more familiar terms, like ‘nonprofit’ or ‘charity’.”

“However, when people think about ‘charity,’ or about the work of human services organizations, does it bring to mind negative associations? Do they find themselves thinking about ‘handouts’ for the poor, or imagine that nonprofits don’t operate as effectively as ‘real’ businesses do? Perhaps, when people think about organizations that provide human services, they don’t think of them as being in the business of creating civil society and producing social change at all.”

“To more effectively tell the story of human services, framing science encourages us to begin by identifying a shared value. Negative frames like ‘poverty’ and ‘charity’ can overshadow the intended message by dividing people into categories of either ‘givers’ or “’takers.’ By contrast, utilizing shared values encourages audiences to see themselves in the issue, as when human services are framed as ‘common sense solutions,’ that reflect American pragmatism.”

Article: Reframing Human Services for Greater Impact


Learning from the upheaval of the nineteen-thirties.

In the thirties, community leaders across the country ignited debate on the meaning and the future of democracy, inviting Americans to assemble in the same room and argue with one another—to stretch their civic muscles.Courtesy Library of Congress
“In the nineteen-thirties, you could count on the Yankees winning the World Series, dust storms plaguing the prairies, evangelicals preaching on the radio, Franklin Delano Roosevelt residing in the White House, people lining up for blocks to get scraps of food, and democracies dying, from the Andes to the Urals and the Alps.”

“American democracy, too, staggered, weakened by corruption, monopoly, apathy, inequality, political violence, hucksterism, racial injustice, unemployment, even starvation. ‘We do not distrust the future of essential democracy,’ F.D.R. said in his first Inaugural Address, telling Americans that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. But there was more to be afraid of, including Americans’ own declining faith in self-government. … Some Americans turned to Communism. Some turned to Fascism. And a lot of people, worried about whether American democracy could survive past the end of the decade, strove to save it.

“’It’s not too late,’ Jimmy Stewart pleaded with Congress, rasping, exhausted, inMr. Smith Goes to Washington,‘ in 1939. ‘Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light.’ It wasn’t too late. It’s still not too late.”

Article: The Last Time Democracy Almost Died

Organizational Health

New research makes it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.

“We know intuitively that diversity matters. It’s also increasingly clear that it makes sense in purely business terms. Our latest research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.”

Article: Why Diversity Matters

Design Management

Designers have a seat at the table, but now what?

Research shows that design-led companies have 32% more revenue than other companies. But, oops. “According to a massive new study conducted by McKinsey, just about nobody knows what a chief design officer is actually supposed to do. McKinsey analyzed 1,700 companies and conducted interviews with 200 senior design leaders and 100 CEOs. The key discovery? A few companies have empowered design leaders in the C-suite, but at most companies, heads of design are ineffectively, and confusingly, integrated into executive teams.

Article: McKinsey Study of 1,700 Companies Reveals CEOs Don’t Understand Design Leadership at All


The U.S. Postal Service is the most trusted brand in America. But holy moly, that’s not a lot of trust.

Corey Templeton

“The tactile is personal and marketing that feels personal is more likely to be trusted — so USPS being the No. 1 brand Americans trust isn’t a huge surprise. But the fact that only 42% of those surveyed believed they could rely “a lot” on the U.S. Postal Service “to do what is right” is most telling about the overall state of trust in society.

“Morning Consult’s survey ‘The 25 Most Trusted Brands in America,’ says that USPS beat tech giants Amazon (38.8%) and Google (37.9%) by 4%, and No. 25 brand Walmart (32.5%) by 10%. But that win is on-par with political pluralities, instead of glowing public support.

“Americans trust the news media (8%) more than they trust the government (7%), but they trust brands the least, says Morning Consult data. But when you add in specific names, the story changes. Americans have more trust for a specific brand — USPS — than “corporate America,” which only 6% of U.S. residents trust “a lot.” (If you add the 16% of survey-takers who expressed no opinion into the ones who rated corporate America worthy of little or no trust, that’s 70% of Americans who don’t trust brands.) Only Wall Street (5% report a lot of trust) and Hollywood (4%) fared worse.” Ouch.

Article: USPS Is the Most Trusted Brand in the U.S., But All Brands Still Have a Lot of Work to Do

Design, Industry, Culture

Merging traditional Japanese craftwork with bicycle-making

“The Tokyo College of Cycle Design, (is) the first bicycle design school in all of Asia. The school offers 2 and 3-year programs that teach everything from basic product design and frame building to maintenance techniques with the objective of inspiring a new generation of ‘Bicycle Creators.'”

“As a student studying bicycle design, Hiroto built his bicycle from scratch and it’s part of his graduating senior thesis exhibition. A detachable wooden window frame serves as a visual anchor, whose geometric form remains consistent throughout the entire bike. A lush, metallic frame, reminiscent of lacquerware, balances the wood nicely.”

Article: Custom-Made Bicycle Inspired by Japanese Lattice Woodwork

Typography, Social Messaging

Inspired by her time at Pentagram and A Practice For Everyday Life, designer explores the power of femininity in a male-dominated graphic design industry.

“Within her loud-mouthed and exaggerated typeface, Good Girl Type, Marion Bisserier designs what she describes as a ‘reaction to the lack of female representation in the type design industry.’ Purposefully engulfing negative space, the typeface is designed in protest of the “immaculate macho-modernist design” she felt was ‘portrayed in western design education.’”

Article: Unapologetically Surprising, Marion Bisserier’s Typeface Tackles Female Representation in Type


Celebrate Black History Month with NPR’s Wade in the Water.
“In 1994, NPR and the Smithsonian produced Wade In The Water, a 26-part documentary radio series that celebrates the history and legacy of the African-American sacred music tradition. Last year, NPR Music made the shows available online to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this award-winning project.

“The Rev. Wyatt T. Walker summed up the subject’s magnitude in the first episode: “There is no music born in America that does not have the influence or imprimatur of [the] Negro spiritual as we know it.” The documentary itself was groundbreaking in its own right; its senior leadership team — helmed by the series’ creator and host Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon — was almost entirely African-American women, a rarity these days, let alone in the early 1990s. Thanks to that diverse and talented team, African Americans across the nation heard stories about the culture and history of our music on public radio — in our own words.

“We invite you to celebrate and learn more about African-American sacred music and traditions, and how they shaped soul, jazz and R&B. We don’t expect you to listen to all 26 Wade In The Water episodes during Black History Month — but it’s a great time to start. Listen now on” — Suraya Mohamed, NPR Music

Image of the week

The image of the week is a photograph of a bee honeycomb. Its  “what happens if you leave it to the bees and do not put frames in the box.

“This particular heart-shaped honeycomb was constructed by bees at Bodiam Castle in Robertsbridge, United Kingdom.

“And these shapes are certainly not random! They are specifically built that way to regulate airflow inside the colony to maintain an ideal temperature.

“According to Arnia Remote Hive Monitoring: “Brood nest temperature is of extreme importance to the colony and is controlled with utmost precision. Honey bees maintain the temperature of the brood nest between 32°C and optimally 35°C so that the brood develops normally.”

“If the temperature of the hive is too high or too low, the bees make adjustments.

“‘When the temperature in the nest is too high the bees ventilate by fanning the hot air out of the nest or use evaporative cooling mechanisms’, ARHM says. ‘When the temperature is too low bees generate metabolic heat by contracting and relaxing their flight muscles.'”

Article: The Artwork of Bees Can Be Absolutely Stunning

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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