Clarity First Newsletter,
June 25, 2021

“In our researches on the likely economic apocalypse it’s become clear what is the prime survival tool for hard times: friends. Good friends. Lots of them.”

– Stewart Brand

Clarity First

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

In the summer of 1982 Debbie and I fell in love in Provincetown. This week, 39 years later, we rented a cottage in the heart of that sweet town with our daughter Mia (who turned 27 last Saturday), and her very cool boyfriend Brenden (whom I forgive for totally beating me up on a mountain bike in the dunes of Truro). Stewart Brand is so right: our easiest to use and most effective survival tool is friends and family. Add big pinches of deep relaxation, being in a community that embraces and celebrates diversity, and a few days unplugged from email and texts, and I’m good to go. I recommend the same recipe for you.

Happy Friday.

Cooperation, Cultural Evolution, Economic Development

Why Does the Capacity for Collective Action and Cooperative Behavior Vary So Much Across the World Today?

A Whale of a Mouthful by flythebirdpath  is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

“Where do ‘good’ or pro-social institutions come from? Why does the capacity for collective action and cooperative behaviour vary so much across the world today? How do some populations transcend tribalism to form a civil society? How have some societies gone beyond personal relations and customary rules to impersonal market exchange and anonymous institutions? In short, how do you “get to Denmark”? I first take a look at what the cultural evolution literature has to say about it. I then turn to the intersection of economics and differential psychology.”

Article: Where Do Pro-Social Institutions Come From?


Culture, Community, Communication

How to have conversations about politically sensitive subjects without inflaming the culture wars.

“We are living through a very dark period in American life. Diversity has become a sort of “rallying cry” whose champions espouse exclusively in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation. When it comes to opinions, values, and beliefs, tolerance for diversity of opinion is nowhere to be found. And yet, a pluralistic society demands that its citizens are granted the freedom to express themselves and their beliefs without fear or reprisal or condemnation. Those who seek to silence us therefore are not champions of liberty. They are tyrants masquerading as victims who seek to exercise power over the very people who they label as their oppressors.

“Today’s conversation should serve (hopefully) as an inspiration for the types of discussions and free exchanges of ideas that we should all strive to have and which we need to have if we want to make it through this difficult period in our history.”

Interview: Don’t Label Me: How to Do Diversity Without Inflaming the Culture Wars | Irshad Manji

Culture, Community

Solutions for Social Isolation

Socially Connected Communities: Solutions for Social Isolation highlights how social isolation is not a personal choice or individual problem, but one that is rooted in community design, social norms, and systemic injustices.

“The lessons and recommendations shared in this report are meant to inspire collective action to solve this complex problem. From architects to educators, faith leaders to health providers, local governments to grantmakers—we all can play a part in creating opportunities that build relationships between neighbors, improve trust, and foster an overall sense of community.”

New Report: Socially Connected Communities

Visual Identity, Social Messaging

This is a beautiful identity and messaging program for a podcast that tells an odyssey of addiction, sobriety and mental wellbeing.

“The visual identity uses repeated elements that somehow break or change to reflect the idea of ‘breaking out of the cycle of addiction.’ Elsewhere, the use of metaphorical imagery and understated tone of the art direction reflects the raw, unfiltered themes of the podcast, creating an aura for the brand that is neither happy or sad in an attempt to capture the often uncertain journey from addiction to sobriety.”

Article: Breaking the Habit

Listening, Branding, Messaging

“I really wanted to know who they were, where they were coming from, what their lives were like, and what were some of the challenges that they were facing with their skin.”

Oui the People founder Karen Young has been gathering intel about her company’s customers since it launched in 2015 as a direct-to-consumer shaving specialist, but it wasn’t until 2018 that she decided to delve deeper into their product needs and preferences with phone calls, emails and direct messages via social media.

“What Young discovered from the deep dive was different from what she expected. Her brand’s customer base wasn’t narrow in the least. Its customers are from a vast array of ethnic backgrounds and span the gender spectrum from non-binary individuals to cisgender women with a distaste for the usual order of the beauty business. “They felt like we weren’t shoving this feminine perspective down their throats,” says Young. “We were just talking about building the best brand that we possibly could and offering the most efficacious shaving experience.” With a trove of information at her disposal, she set out on a rebrand to speak to the customers she’d learned about.

“Young began with messaging. She changed her brand’s name from Oui Shave to Oui the People to lean into its gender neutrality. Young views the updated name as a ‘super powerful statement.’ She says, ‘Beauty is so personal and intimate, especially starting off with a razor. It just feels like, when you reach for something, it shouldn’t shun you or make you feel less than. It shouldn’t make you feel like it wasn’t built for you. It should feel like a very welcoming and open experience.’”

Article: Why Oui Shave Has Become Oui The People

Personal Productivity, Networking

Your Undiscerning Generosity May be Self-Defeating

“We’re all time-deprived; it can be daunting to have to manage work, family, and the “spare” time we spend on the necessary evil we call networking. But networking doesn’t have to be so time-consuming. If you’re like most people, you have built your network haphazardly, connecting with anyone who will communicate with you. You probably have a hard time saying no to people. And as a result, people you barely know are probably making demands on your time and, like a true mensch, you may be accommodating them. But your undiscerning generosity may be self-defeating: by giving your time to fifty people rather than, say, five, you are making far less of an impact in the world than the sheer volume of your network would have you think.”

Article: Why Your Inner Circle Should Stay Small, and How to Shrink It


“Form ever follows function”. – Louis Sullivan

This thoughtful article had me when the author, Adrian Roselli, referred to the Guggenheim “as an example of ‘curators adapting to the otherwise hostile display of art‘.  I’m a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. But when I visit the Guggenheim I’m always struck by how much more attracted I am to the building than the incredible art it was ostensibly designed to display. Good design respects the natural constraints that function provides.

Article: Embracing Design Constraints

Visual Ident

The New York Times has created a logo based on endless permutations of one typeface.

“The Research & Development (R&D) team at The New York Times has rebranded with a new generative logo, crafting a new identity for the department that stays true to The Times whilst reflecting its own new dynamic energy. The logo responds in real-time to data generated by the R&D team, and is based on their standard institutional mark which uses the font Karnak Black. By developing an algorithm that removes the curves from the Karnak letterforms, the R&D team have been able to create a dense set of points to be interfered with and distorted – creating an exciting way of controlling how the parameters of the letterforms interact with each other.”

Article: The New York Times Has Rebranded Its R&D Department, with a Generative Logo Reflecting Its Experimental Nature


Article: Only 4.8% of Designers Are Black. Herman Miller, Adobe, and Gap Unveil a Plan to Change That

Article: What It Means for Oxford University Press to Shutter Their Printing House

Article: 7 Productivity Hacks for Getting Stuff Done in a Hybrid Office

Article: What Introverts and Extroverts Can Learn From Each Other



YouTube Audio Track: William DeVaughn ~ Be Thankful For What You Got 1973 Disco Purrfection Version

“Be Thankful for What Yo’ve Got was written by William DeVaughn as ‘A Cadillac Don’t Come Easy’. He rewrote it as “Be Thankful for What You Got” in 1972.

The record sold nearly two million copies on its release in spring of 1974, reaching #1 on the U.S. R&B charts and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. With a sound and content influenced by Curtis Mayfield (and often erroneously attributed to him), its simple and encouraging lyrics hit home, to the extent that it became featured on gospel radio stations.”

Wiki Post: Be Thankful for What You Got

And then, some really great artists covered the amazing song.

Video: Massive Attack – Be Thankful For What You’ve Got (Tonight With Jonathan Ross 21/02/92)

YouTube Audio Track: Winston Curtis – Be Thankful For What You Got ( Awesome William de Vaughn Reggae remake )

You TubeAudio Track: Donovan Carless ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’ from 7?

Video: Org?ne – Be Thankful for What You Got [William DeVaughn Cover]

Yes. Be thankful for what you got.


Image of the Week

“As the fear of a second wave of COVID-19 swept through Germany in the fall of 2020, photographer and artist Jo?rg Gla?scher decided to channel his own worry into a project that felt similarly vast and domineering. ‘I was working (with the idea of) the pure power of nature, the all-destroying force, which brings one of the richest countries in the world to a completely still stand,’ he tells Colossal. ‘A wave is a periodic oscillation or a unique disturbance the state of a system.’

“Between November 2020 and March 2021, Gla?scher spent his days in a secluded location near Hamburg, where he gathered deadwood and constructed nine massive crests—the largest of which spans four meters high and nine meters wide—that overwhelm the forest floor in undulating layers of branches and twigs. Each iteration, which he photographed and then promptly destroyed in order to reuse the materials, overwhelms the existing landscape with pools of the formerly thriving matter.”

Article: Nine Massive Waves of Deadwood Surge Across a Forest Floor Near Hamburg

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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