Clarity First Newsletter,
May 21, 2021

“As you get up in the morning, as you make decisions, as you spend money, make friends, make commitments, you are creating a piece of art called your life.”  – Mary Catherine Bateson

Clarity First

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

This week I told at least three people that I love them. Debbie and I danced and played at a college graduation party for our grand-daughter-in-love, Annaleah, and we hugged neighbors and friends at a celebration of Greenfield Community College.

It is so nice to hold each other again. If you haven’t, will you vaccinate, please?

Happy Friday.

Community, Listening, Connecting the Dots

After his own experiences grappling with depression and anxiety, Lorenzo Lewis wanted to help Black men and boys with their mental health.

“As Lorenzo Lewis reflected on his life in his late 20s, he realized he had grappled with anxiety and depression for years. He suspected he was not alone. But finding help wasn’t easy and he wondered how he could use his own experiences to help others. That’s when inspiration struck: What if Lewis trained barbers to help patrons with their mental health?

“’We support boys, men of color and their families,’ Lewis, 32, told TODAY. ‘Barbers can be great listeners, a great advocate for themselves and their loved ones, which would be their clients in the community.'”

Article: How Barber Shops Around the Country Are Helping to Reduce Mental Health Stigma

Design Process

Most people who come up with creative solutions to problems rely on a relatively straightforward method: finding a solution inside the collective memory of the people working on the problem.

Pablo Picasso, 1909, Maisons à Horta (Houses on the Hill, Horta de Ebro), oil on canvas. Wikipedia

“Typical stories of creativity and invention focus on finding novel ways to solve problems. James Dyson found a way to adapt the industrial cyclone to eliminate the bag in a vacuum cleaner. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque developed cubism as a technique for including several views of a scene in the same painting. The desktop operating system developed at Xerox PARC replaced computer commands with a spatial user interface.

“These brief descriptions of these innovations all focus primarily on the novel solution. The problem they solve seems obvious.

“But framing innovations in this way makes creativity seem like a mystery. How could so many people have missed the solution to the problem for so long? And how in the world did the first person come up with that solution at all?

“In fact, most people who come up with creative solutions to problems rely on a relatively straightforward method: finding a solution inside the collective memory of the people working on the problem. That is, someone working to solve the problem knows something that will help them find a solution — they just haven’t realized yet that they know it.”

Article: How You Define the Problem Determines Whether You Solve It

Related Article: Post-It Notes Were Originally a Solution Without a Problem to Solve.

Advertising, Social Messaging

New study finds senior marketing and ad execs recognize LGBTQ inclusion as a force for positive social change, yet worry about authentic representation.

Procter & Gamble (P&G), which has been at the forefront of the inclusivity-in-media movement with its thought-provoking ads and socially impactful programming, has partnered with LGBTQ media advocacy giant GLAAD to launch The Visibility Project — a campaign to drive and sustain LGBTQ inclusion in ads and marketing, and to leverage the power of these media to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance.

“P&G’s Pantene brand, for example, has set the bar for queer and transgender inclusion and visibility: In 2018, Pantene Philippines gained worldwide attention with its #StrongerTogetherad campaign featuring transgender supermodel Kevin Balot. In 2019, the brand launched its “Power to Transform” campaign celebrating the broader spectrum of beauty within the LGBTQ community, partnered with GLAAD for a holiday ad featuring the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, and partnered with the Dresscode Project to help reduce the stress transgender people often experience when visiting a hair salon. In 2020, its “Family Is BeautifuLGBTQ” series of ads highlighted queer couples who have adopted children from different cultural backgrounds; and in March of this year, the company’s viral ad featured a lesbian couple and their transgender daughter.”

Article: P&G & GLAAD’s ‘Visibility Project’ to Advance LGBTQ Visibility in Advertising

Let Me Be Clear

The Art of Saying ‘No’

“Admittedly it’s thin, but there is definitely a silver lining to the pandemic: for the best part of a year we have all been granted a bulletproof excuse to turn down pretty much any invitation, and I, for one, am grateful. Before long, however, we will need to restart the excuse generator and begin declining things awkwardly again. For that reason I want to revisit a subject I’ve touched on before, and have gathered together a list of knock-backs pulled from the letters of others. Some are tactful and eloquent; others are entirely free of both. All are admirable.”

Thank you for your invitation to host a fundraising dinner in the private room of a top London restaurant. 

I would rather die.

Harold Pinter | Letter to Tom Stoppard, 2001

Thank you for your letter of 10th January. I would be useless at this debate primarily because I have been dead for 24 years now. Apart from that, I hate scientists and I hate artists. In fact, I hate everybody including you, do tell them that is why I’m not at the debate.

Spike Milligan | Letter to Cameron Robson, 1990 

Article:  I Hate Everybody, Including You

Persuasion, Social Messaging

Shame sucks as a communication strategy.

“When it comes to the mess of plastic in the oceans, human beings are often portrayed as parasitic consumers who thoughtlessly harm the Earth out of selfishness or ignorance. And people are quick to point fingers. But blaming individuals is not the way to tackle the plastics problem. Consumption is a result, not the root cause. People often consume to overcome unhappiness (and greenwashing capitalizes on this impulse).

“Most importantly, though, blame often triggers shame, which makes people withdraw, writes Brené Brown, who researches shame and courage at the University of Houston. At a time when collective action on tackling plastics is critical, shame can disempower the very people who care most about the environment and their impact upon it. In her book Daring Greatly, Brown writes, ‘Shame can only rise so far in any system before people disengage to protect themselves. When we’re disengaged, we don’t show up, we don’t contribute, and we stop caring.’”

RLNN file photo

“Then there is the reality that cheap plastic is the only affordable option for things like clean drinking water, diapers, or other basic necessities. The choice about whether to use plastic or a healthier, eco-friendly alternative is often a privilege. Shaming people for what they can’t afford is unhelpful, especially when plastic production, use, and disposal disproportionately harm poor people in the first place.”

It’s complicated. That’s why we need to be sensitive and respectful as we unpack the challenge.

Article: Toward Eco-Social Justice


“What Font Does the Billie Eilish Album ‘Happier Than Ever’ Use?”

“Uncle Frank, a 2020 comedy-drama released on Amazon Prime, uses the font Windsor for the poster artwork. The film takes place during the 1970s, and Windsor perfectly encapsulates that era.”

This is the third installment of Jeremiah Shoaf’s  blog series on Typewolf, where he identifies the fonts used in popular things. “The focus here is on anything you might encounter in contemporary visual culture—movie posters, album covers, TV shows, book covers, etc.”

Blog Post: Fonts in Popular Culture Identified Vol. 3

Advertising, Funny

“You mean just say what the product does?!?  Well, no-one’s ever tried that!”

How Kermit got into the ad business.

Video: The Muppets Take Manhattan – Ocean Breeze Soap


Musk’s Bitcoin Fail Shows Trust is the Crucial Brand Metric

Are Designers Idealists, Path Makers, or Fortune Tellers?

Burnout: Modern Affliction or Human Condition?



Video: Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On / What’s Happening Brother”

Marvin Gaye’s, ‘What’s Going On’, turns 50 today. Here’s a deep bow to his memory, and this timeless work.

“Motown wasn’t really known for its politically conscious music. Then came ‘What’s Going On.’

“Released on May 21, 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War, Marvin Gaye’s album became a monster, spawning three hit singles on its way to becoming Motown’s best-selling album to date. The album also marked a turning point for Motown and for Marvin Gaye as an artist.”

Video: Marvin Gaye ~ Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) 1971 Soul Purrfection Version
…”I am struck by how many of the themes Gaye explores remain as relevant today as they were when he first wrote about them 50 years ago.”

“…The title track, with its timeless lyric ‘war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate,’ condemned the nation’s involvement in Vietnam. But the song provides an insight into the evolution of Gaye’s music to encompass overtly political themes.”

Video: Marvin Gaye Inner City Blues live at the Kennedy Center May 1st 1972

“Motown singers such as Mary Wells, The Supremes and The Temptations were to be, as the label liked to say, the “Sound of Young America,” not political activists. Gordy told Time magazine in 2020, ‘I never wanted Motown to be a mouthpiece for civil rights.’”

“…But the world had changed by 1971. The freedom struggle had taken a more radical turn with the emergence of the Black Power movement, the Chicano Movement, the Young Lords and the American Indian Movement. The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, focused attention on the emerging U.S. environmental movement. Meanwhile, anti-war activists protested the draft, escalating violence, and the sight of body bags returning from Vietnam.

The U.S. musical soundscape shifted alongside these political, social and economic transformations. Art and politics merged through 1969’s Woodstock festival. Meanwhile, Black Power-driven messages started to emanate from the soul and gospel music distributed by the Stax label in Memphis and a host of other musicians who offered searing critiques of U.S. imperialism such as Nina SimoneCurtis Mayfield and Gil Scott-Heron.

Article: Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ Is as Relevant Today as It Was in 1971


Image of the Week

The image of the week is a drone shot of two cheek-by-jowl neighborhoods in Hout Bay, Cape Town. They’re featured on a website named Unequal Scenes.

“Unequal Scenes is a photographic project, a platform for multimedia storytelling, and a home for creatives, activists, scientists and journalists to connect and strategize creative approaches to make the world a more healthy, fair, and equitable place.

“Unequal Scenes aligns itself with the UN SDGs, specifically in the fight against extreme inequality, climate change, and sustainable cities and communities. I believe that creating strong, accessible, and accurate narratives can drive mass action, which can drive positive social change.

“Unequal Scenes uses a drone to illustrate the inscribed history of our world in a new way. The scars within our urban fabric, so apparent from above, can provoke a sense of surprise…But also reveal our complicity in systematic disenfranchisement.

Inequality in Johannesburg, South Africa (2016). The 2018 version of this image was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. 

“We live within neighborhoods and participate in economies that reinforce inequality. We habituate ourselves with routines and take for granted the built environment of our cities. We’re shocked seeing tin shacks and dilapidated buildings hemmed into neat rows, bounded by the fences, roads, and parks of the wealthiest few.

“But it’s the very scale and unerring regularity across geographic regions which points to the systemic nature of inequality. This is not organic – this is planned and intentional disenfranchisement.”

Website/Photography Project: Unequal Scenes

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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