Clarity First Newsletter,
June 4, 2021

“‘Star Trek’ seems to be an appeal to our better nature, the side of ourselves that works toward peace and cooperation and understanding and knowledge and yearns to seek out knowledge rather than the side that wants to divide and control one another.” –  John Cho

Clarity First

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

Since the release of the first Star Trek, which does celebrate peace, cooperation, understanding and knowledge, I’ve been confused by its popularity relative to America’s apparent tendency to seek to divide and control one another. Don’t we all want to “live long and prosper?”

Happy Friday.


A new study suggests that simply imagining cooperating with people outside our social groups reduces bias.

“As human beings, we tend to favor people we think are like us or have something in common with us—and we’re often wary of people who are different.

“Evolution made us this way so that we could find allies against outside threats. The problem comes when this old instinct to prefer our “in-group” leads us to discriminate, dehumanize, or act violently toward others we perceive as “the other” or members of the “out-group.”

“Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much for us to create or expand in-groups. Studies have shown that even minimal similarities—like wearing the same-colored shirt—can prime us to prefer members of our in-group in relation to out-group members.

“What allows us to get past that tendency to be so easily biased for and against people? A new study suggests one step: focus on the need to cooperate.”

Article: Just Thinking About Cooperation Can Make You Less Prejudiced

Biomimicry, Organizational Health

Nature can show us the way to leading our businesses and organizations, too.

“Do we focus on bringing in new customers? Or better serving existing customers? Do we spend more money on marketing? Developing new products? Better products? What is the opportunity cost of focusing on one problem over another? Where do we focus next for the greatest returns?

“These are the questions most business owners struggle with on a daily basis. In fact, a lot of the stress of growing a business often arises from this basic conflict. Not knowing which problem is most worth solving, feeling like our attention is being pulled in multiple directions at once.

“Apart from inspiring innovation, few know that nature can also help us define our areas of focus. Outside of well-defined design challenges, the natural world can also help reveal the areas of leverage inside our businesses.

“When we look at some of the fundamental patterns that exist in nature, we can see that these also exist in other systems. A business, which shares the similar basic objective of growth, is one of these. By understanding how the areas of leverage in our businesses mimic those found in nature, we can avoid that feeling of being pulled in multiple directions at once.”

Article: The Natural Orders Hidden Inside your Business (And When It’s Time to Ask Nature for Help)

Visual Identity

“This year is about drama: comedy, tragedy and satire. A connection with the human experience.”

“Preparing for this year’s LogoLounge Logo Trend Report, I couldn’t help but land on the word drama. No, not the flippant kind that plays out as passive aggressive jabs between partners, but more like the ancient Greek kind: comedies, tragedies and satire that help us fully connect with the human experience.”

Article: 2021 Logo Trend Report


Marketers spend most of their time encouraging proactive behavior change, but it’s much more effective to remove the physical and psychological barriers that block it.

“Daniel Kahneman uses a simple analogy to describe behaviour change: you either press on the accelerator or you release the handbrake. Encourage motivating forces or remove restraining forces.

“Marketing, like a teenage boy in a souped-up Fiesta, likes to pump the accelerator. It fixates on changing motivation above all else.

“But is this the right priority? Evidence from Kurt Lewin – the psychologist Kahneman refers to as his ‘intellectual godfather’ – suggests not.”

Article: Marketers Should Think More About Handbrakes Than Accelerators

Packaging, Sustainability

Take two tablets before bed, then throw the container away in the morning.

“Given the unique specifications for prescription bottles, plastic has endured as the go-to material. It’s strong enough, lightweight, and can get molded to meet child-resistant requirements, in addition to being air and watertight, at a low cost. It may seem that plastic pill bottles have no sustainable alternative. But like so many innovations, inspiration from real-life would set studio Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness on a two-year path towards creating the Prescription Paper Pill Bottle, the 2021 Dieline Plastic-Free Award winner.”

Article: The Prescription Paper Pill Bottle Takes Aim at the Plastic Waste in Your Medicine Cabinet

Brand Expression

A perfect example of effective athletic sponsorship 

Jordyn Barratt competes in the Women’s Park Open qualifier during the 2021 Dew Tour on May 20 in Des Moines, Iowa.

This Cliff Bar logo looks so at home as a sticker on the bottom of a pro’s skateboard that at first I didn’t recognize it as a paid placement.

Article: Sports Photos of the Week

Creative Process

The sounds of film

“In filmmaking, Foley is the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to films, videos, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. These reproduced sounds, named after sound-effects artist Jack Foley, can be anything from the swishing of clothing and footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass. Foley sounds are used to enhance the auditory experience of the movie.” – Wikipedia

This is a fascinating short documentary about a group of Foley artists who call themselves Footsteps. They chose the name “because foot steps are the hardest sounds to mimic. Once you can create authentic footstep sounds you are a Foley artist.”

It’s well-shot and edited, and the sound, it goes without saying, is phenomenal. There’s interesting history. For example, in the early days of Foley work recording was done by a whole team of artists working in real time in one long cut. And there’s plenty of geek detail. I loved watching them build their studio from the ground up to be so soundproof “that there could be a hailstorm happening outside and we wouldn’t hear it.”

But mostly there’s a lot of passion. These artists love their work and they love working with each other. You will not hear the world the same again after being in the presence of their enthusiasm and expertise.

Video: Footsteps | Short Doc About a Trio of Foley Artists and How Movie Sounds are Made



Are Pandemics Followed by Eras of Festivities and Cultural Broadening?

5 Companies That Are Using Nature to Redefine Good Design

Well, this explains a lot: White Democrats and Black People are the Most Similar, and White Democrats and White Republicans are Least Similar.



Ghost-Note are a percussion-based funk, hip hop and jazz group from Dallas. My son Devan turned me on to them with the words “hanging so tight.” The band’s rotating membership is based around drummer Robert “Sput” Searight and percussionist, Nate Werth, two members of the jazz band Snarky Puppy. The group also includes bassist MonoNeon, a.k.a. Dywane Thomas Jr.. In difficult times I find that funk makes things feel better. It is assuring to watch and listen to very accomplished musicians work in such sync. Thanks, Dev.

Video: Ghost-Note – Full Set (Live Acoustic) | Sugarshack Sessions


Image of the Week

The image of the week is titled Uvena Novae Villiae. It was made by Anna Atkins, (British, 1799 – 1871), circa 1854. She employed a photographic technique called cyanotype, a technique developed in order to reproduce blue-prints of architectural drawings. She is credited with creating the first-ever book of photographic images.

“Trained as a botanist, Anna Atkins developed an interest in photography as a means of recording botanical specimens for a scientific reference book, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. This publication was one of the first uses of light-sensitive materials to illustrate a book. Instead of traditional letterpress printing, the book’s handwritten text and illustrations were created by the cyanotype method. Atkins printed and published Part I of British Algae in 1843 and in doing so established photography as an accurate medium for scientific illustration.

“Atkins learned directly about the invention of photography through her correspondence with its inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot. Although she owned a camera, she used only the cameraless photogenic drawing technique to produce all of her botanical images. With the assistance of Anne Dixon, Atkins created albums of cyanotype photogenic drawings of her botanical specimens. She learned the cyanotype printing method through its inventor, the astronomer and scientist Sir John Herschel, a family friend.”

Catalog Listing: Anna Atkins, The J. Paul Getty Museum

Article: Anna Atkins’s Cyanotypes: The First Book of Photographs


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