Clarity First Newsletter,
May 28, 2021

“If I may throw out a word of counsel to beginners, it is: Treasure your exceptions! When there are none, the work gets so dull that no one cares to carry it further. Keep them always uncovered and in sight. Exceptions are like the rough brickwork of a growing building which tells that there is more to come and shows where the next construction is to be.”

– William Bateson

Clarity First

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

Reading William Batson’s counsel got me thinking about my own exceptions. One is an eagerness to see the whole. Another is a practiced ability to draw disparate perspectives of the whole to the center, to a common understanding. The center is where we agree on collective purpose, vision and mission.

I believe in world peace, and this is my life’s purpose.


Happy Friday.

Social Messaging

Images of polar bears portray climate change as a distant challenge. Here’s seven other ways to use photography to communicate the immediate risks more effectively.

Towering 450 feet above the California desert, the Ivanpah solar power facility is the largest of its kind. Mirrors are used to concentrate sunlight and create steam, which is then converted into electricity. (Photo by DENNIS SCHROEDER / NREL)
“In the 1980s, activists made a decision to associate climate change with the polar bear to provide a simple visual shorthand for the issue, but it’s also reinforced the impression that climate change is a distant problem that’s remote from most people’s day-to-day lives.

“We at Climate Visuals — the world’s only evidence-based and impact-focused climate photography resource — have taken the first steps towards helping people tell a better visual story about climate change by creating a library of images that are illustrative and effective. Based on discussion groups and thousands of online surveys, we compiled seven key principles to help organizations, individuals and photographers create powerful images that communicate the seriousness, scale, scope and humanity of the climate crisis.”
“…Unsurprisingly, people’s levels of concern or skepticism about climate change determined how they reacted to the images we tested. But other interesting differences emerged as well. Images of geographically distant climate impacts produced much flatter emotional responses among those on the political right. Images depicting solutions to climate change generated mostly positive emotions for people across the political spectrum.” (Emphasis mine – MA)

Article: Gallery: Climate Change is About More Than Polar Bears — 7 Ways We Can Use Photography to Communicate More Deeply

Economy 2.0

“The future is different. We have to get comfortable with different kinds of growth.”

“Venture capitalists are built to target 10x returns — that is, 10 times what they originally invested in a company — while private equity firms often seek 3x to 6x paybacks on their investments. Companies have high hurdle rates for using their balance sheet capital for corporate investment. Investors who get returns like that often make incredibly efficient use of their capital but aren’t always making the same efficient use of their resources.

“In the last year and a half of the pandemic, as the world stopped, global greenhouse gas emissions predictably fell by 7 percent. And the debate resurfaced. Is it really possible to be sustainable without reducing growth?

“‘All growth isn’t created equally,’ said Jeffrey Hollender, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council. ‘It’s just the incentives that we have do not necessarily align with the imperative to be more sustainable.’

“‘Sustainable growth’ might look quite different. For decades, sustainability professionals and economists have debated whether that’s possible and what that might look like. Some say it is an idyllic goal and others worry it’s an oxymoron or a conundrum.

“The reality is, it’s just not what we are used to. But there are more and more examples of how it might be possible.”

Article: Why Needless Growth Isn’t Needed

Social Messaging, Philanthropy

David Shrigley, Shepard Fairey and Jeremy Deller are among over 30 artists who have turned rare test pressings and vinyl into artworks for a fundraiser.

The Clash x Shephard Fairey

“Leading musicians, labels and managers have donated a selection of rare test pressings, vinyl and acetates to the charity auction Pressing Matters.

“From the Rolling Stones and the Prodigy right through to newer names like Slowthai and Charli XCX, records have come from some of music’s biggest acts.

“Their records have been reimagined by a range of contemporary visual artists, many of whom will be familiar to CR readers, including artist Jeremy Deller, illustrators David Shrigley and Jean Jullien, satirical collage artist Cold War Steve and sign painter Alex May Hughes. The results are wonderfully varied, from Banksy-affiliated artist James Joyce’s deconstructed smiley for Fatboy Slim to the Underworld record featuring Joy Yamusangie’s distinctive touch.”

Article: Artists Reimagine Vinyl Records for Charity


An elegantly simple return-to work policy

“GM conducted a number of surveys regarding how and where employees would prefer to work in the future. Input, as you would expect, varied greatly.

“Some wanted to permanently work from home. Others to return to the office. Others a hybrid schedule. Different employees, different departments, different outputs and team structures–one size didn’t fit all.

“As with most aspects of leadership, one size shouldn’t fit all.”

Article: GM’s 2-Word Plan for Returning to Work Is Vague, Ambiguous, Unclear, and Simply Brilliant


The role that advertising played in turning kids into consumers

“It was in the wake of the 20th-century consumer boom that playtime entered its heyday. Up until then, children’s toys were the source of little attention, and the market was dominated by European manufacturers, with Germany, in particular, funnelling toys into America.

“As society surfaced from the First World War, change was in the air, bolstered by American ingenuity, and a burgeoning consumer culture supported by the media empires of newspapers, radio and television. American toys became ubiquitous in the consumer world, and with them came advertising and all its graphic sensationalism.

“These themes are explored in a new chronological book, Toys: 100 Hundred Years of All-American Toy Ads, published by Taschen. It takes readers down both memory lane, and the aisles of American history’s vast toy store.

“The new market for toys was built on desire, and as the emphasis shifted from ‘need’ to ‘want’, compelling visual advertising was at the heart of the drive. Children, and parents, were targeted with verve, first through magazines and comic books and later through television.”

Book Review: A Century of All-American Toy Advertising in Pictures

Graphic Design, Self-Promotion

How a self-taught designer uses his own insight and honesty to attract followers and clients

Elliot Ulm is a Sydney-based graphic designer. He taught himself design while in high school by watching You-Tube videos, and did his first client work before graduating. On his Instagram page he claims to be “the funniest graphic designer ever.”

He just might be. What makes his work so hilarious is that it is insightful and true. One post reads: “I’m a graphic designer by day. But mostly I’m a graphic designer by night”.

“Alongside the work that focuses on the more difficult aspects of life as a creative, Elliot’s output also serves as friendly motivation to his fellow designers. ‘If your computer gets really hot it’s because it can’t handle how good your designs are’ reads another recent post on his page, and it’s this kind of solidarity that keeps people coming back for more. With many of us still figuring out the harder parts of working in the creative industries, it’s encouraging to know that there are designers like Elliot out there who have got your back.”

Instagram page: #elliotisacoolguy

Article: Elliot Ulm’s Graphic Design Memes Will Make You Laugh and Then Make You Think

Funny, Self-Promotion

How to use a simple promotional tool to share your company’s personality

“Back in 2005, an auto repair shop in Seattle, WA, was converted into a gas station and convenience store called ExtraMile. A sign was erected outside that the new owners initially used to advertise promotions and special deals. However, they eventually came up with something better. They started using it to share hilarious puns, and people loved it. The sign eventually got a name – the Wallingford Sign – and now has over 50k followers on social media that wait for and read the latest weekly pun.”

Article: 20 Times This Local Gas Station Made The Whole Town Laugh With Their Hilarious Signs


Why do people still get print newspapers? Well, partly to start up the grill (seriously)

Biodegradable glitter for post-lockdown glam

Want to build someone’s confidence? Ask for their advice



Video: Rene del Cid Don’t Think Twice

Bob Dylan turned 80 on Monday. In his honor there were scores of tributes and re-prints released. I particularly liked Alex Ross’ 1999 New Yorker essay titled, The Wanderer: Decades of Dylanology Have Missed the Point—the Music is the Message.

As you know, I am a huge fan of good covers. So, in honor of his birthday I want to share a couple of great Dylan covers, each a very different reading of the same song. The first is a bluesy interpretation by Rene del Cid, one of my very favorite groups that covers a lot of genres soulfully. The second, a more note-by-note rendering, is by one of my other favorite cover groups (though they do a lot of original material, too) and regular collaborators with Rene del Cid, the Other Favorites.

Video: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Bob Dylan (The Other Favorites Cover)

Thank you, Bob. We wouldn’t be the same without you. Happy birthday.


Image of the Week

The image of the week is by photographer Tine Poppe.

“To envision how an ant might see its world, the Norwegian photographer Tine Poppe places her camera in the dirt of a meadow, lens pointing up. Poppe can never see what the photo will look like; even while she’s lying in the grass, her eyes are still too far from the earth. But she can imagine it: green-stemmed flowers erupting toward the clouds, a weed whorling like a spiral staircase, blades of grass bending like the Gateway Arch. Sometimes there are even unexpected visitors that escape Poppe’s notice until she returns to Oslo and discovers, in the corner of the image, an orblike snail nestled in a leaf.”

Article: A Bug’s Life. A Walk in the Park on a Miniature Scale.

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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