Clarity First Newsletter, July 13, 2018

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

Songbirds greet and close the long days. Dragonflies, butterflies and moths dance amongst the flowers. This week my Zoom rooms were full of discussions about love, life and the pursuit of togetherness. Happy summer, dear reader. Turn from the gloom of a hate state. Turn towards the light that is cast when we support each other. “Don’t let it bring you down. It’s only castles burning. Find someone who’s turning. And you will come around.” – Neil Young

Helen Molesworth, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture Commencement Address, Saturday, June 16, 2018 (image courtesy UCLA Arts)

New Economy/Group Process

The crit will save us.

Last month Helen Molesworth, recent chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, gave a passionate commencement address to the School of the Arts and Architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

“But even though I am hopeful, it would be foolish not to mention how spectacularly messed up the world is at the moment,” she said. She pointed to “authoritarianism and nationalism” as threats to democracy around the world, as well as a new American oligarchy that “has inserted its values of profit and their inherent belief in money and wealth as the ultimate metrics of success into democracy’s most fundamental institutions: the press, scientific research, concert halls, the universities, museums.”

”The worlds of culture and art, the worlds you are poised to enter are striated with the pressure of these moneyed forces in ways we have never before encountered.”

And then she spoke of the crit. Molesworth suggested that art students are uniquely prepared to fight against these reactionary threats because of their experience with ‘the crit,’ where creatives critique, defend, and discuss their work with their peers and teachers. “The crit is so important during these fractured times, not because it teaches us how to speak about our work, but because it teaches us how to listen. Listening is the basis of empathy and empathy is the only way to think our way out of the stranglehold of the debilitating and outmoded forms of thought we have inherited from our colonial past,” she opined.
Article: Curator Helen Molesworth Welcomes the “Death Rattle of Our Colonial Past” in Commencement Address


Personal Development

Six ideas to help you relax and recharge this summer

“Realize the passion. Over time it is the love of one’s work that drives the effort, discipline, and perseverance that is required for productive achievement.” This article was written for teachers. It is essential for any leader, creative, mentor, or maker.
Article: Thank You, Teachers!


A case-study in brilliant marketing.

This week the English succumbed to Croatia in the World Cup. But last week the English beat Sweden 2-0. That win prompted some enthusiastic fans to march to the IKEA store in Stratford, where they were filmed jumping on its beds and acting like sugar-riddled kids at a sleepover.

IKEA’s response is one to learn from: they congratulated the winners and put fish and chips on sale in their cafe.
Article: IKEA’s Gentlemanly Responses To Store Being Trashed After England World Cup Win


User Experience

How to make you, your staff, and your customers feel happier.

Infographics are a mixed bag. Too many repeat homilies that we already know. The good ones remind of things we should remember but too often forget. This is a good one. Thing 1: “You’re not selling products or services. You’re selling satisfaction.”
Infographic: 13 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Awesome Customer Service.


Organizational Culture

Design-driven? A quick gut-check for companies, and potential employees

In recent years companies have started to tout that they are “design-driven”. The problem is that it rarely ends up being true. But there are a few simple questions you can use as a barometer to indicate how much an organization truly, really values design.
Article: Five Ways to Tell if a Company is Really Design-Driven



Covers from 1899, 1932, 1968, and 2016.

Visual Identity

The Pentagram partner who has redesigned MIT’s century-old Technology Review weighs in with some tips.

“This month, the the 118-year old MIT Technology Review launches the first issue of its redesign, featuring a new visual identity and editorial look. The strategic overhaul of the print bimonthly, led by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, offers important lessons in how to revamp a legacy brand at a time of rampant disruption.”
Article: Michael Bierut on How to Reinvent a Legacy Brand

Brand Identity/AI/Machine Learning

Technology that understands the best practices of logo design, copywriting and social media strategy.

Tailor Brands, a startup that automates parts of the branding and marketing process for small businesses, recently announced that it has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding. “CEO Yali Saar has said the company sits at the intersection of design and machine learning. The idea is to create technology that understands the best practices of logo design, copywriting and social media strategy.”

As a strategist who has hired and referred a lot of great designers, designers who delivered a lot of really brilliant brand thinking, I am conflicted. Machine learning does kill skilled jobs. But as an advocate for the client I am excited too. At the very least this algorithm can reduce the number of design cycles needed to get to yes. Try this. Tell me of your experience.
Article: Tailor Brands Raises $15.5M for AI-Driven Logo Creation and More




“Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings and Food is a concept album about late capitalism that speaks with disarming directness to the current political moment. Celebrating its 40th birthday this month, the album has always riveted, but if anything the political and social predicaments that inform these songs have only become more dysfunctional over time. The fetishization of work and the increasingly long work week, self-help individualism and the power of positive thinking, the inspirational entrepreneurial success story, the nightmarish system that underlies and exacerbates these horrors — More Songs About Buildings and Food predicted it all.”
Article: A Talking Heads Album, Forty Years Later



Images of the Week

“To see something spectacular and recognize it as a photographic possibility is not making a very big leap. But to see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognize it as a photographic possibility—that’s what I’m interested in.”
Article: Stephen Shore Explores The Power Of The Ordinary

What’s Clarity First?

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

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