Clarity First Newsletter,
October 16, 2020

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”

– Howard Zinn

Clarity First

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

Yes, the times are frightening. But to abandon hope, hope that we can learn, hope that we can live in harmony with our natural world, hope that we can do what’s best for the most, is to surrender. And the thought of surrendering the amazing potential we share is way, way worse than facing the fear.

We’ve got learning to do. Let’s do it. Happy Friday.

Design, Futures Thinking

Amid pandemics and environmental disasters, designers and architects have been forced to imagine a world in which the only way to move forward is to look back.

A bridge made from the roots of rubber trees, in the village of Mawlynnong, India. Indigenous and ancient architectural practices are having a revival as people reconsider the failures of Modern design.
Credit, “Lo-TEK, Design by Radical Indigenism,” by Julia Watson, published by Taschen © Amos Chapple

“In the months just before the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the world, various museums were beginning to think about what the future might hold for design, namely in the face of a different existential crisis, equally characterized by uncertainty: that if we do not move decisively to mitigate the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, we will experience catastrophic degrees of warming. David Wallace-Wells’s 2019 book “The Uninhabitable Earth” laid out the scenarios: acres of the earth denuded; coastlines and islands swallowed; mass extinctions of flora and fauna; mass human deaths. In other words, design in recent years has been unavoidably faced with a question many of us never thought we would have to ask: How do you design for the future when the future you are designing for will not exist?”

Article: Design for the Future When the Future Is Bleak

Futures Thinking

Conditions of modern life could be driving changes in the makeup of our genes. Our bodies and our brains may not be the same as those of our descendants.

“People commonly assume that our species has evolved very little since prehistoric times. Yet new studies using genetic information from populations around the globe suggest that the pace of human evolution increased with the advent of agriculture and cities.

“If we are still evolving, what might our species look like in a millennium should we survive whatever environmental and social surprises are in store for us? Speculation ranges from the hopeful to the dystopian.”

Article: What May Become of Homo sapiens

Personal Development

An active approach to managing uncertainty and creating positive outcomes in a fast-changing world

“In a fast-changing world, many of the strategies, tools, and mindsets that we grew used to ­do not work anymore. Our tendency to simply plan and map out the future does not do justice to the complexities and intricacies of many societal and environmental issues. It requires us to develop a mindset that leverages uncertainty and the unknown as a pathway to innovation, impact, and ‘smart luck.’

“How can we set ourselves up for this ‘smart luck,’ to be able to turn the unexpected into positive outcomes, in even the most challenging of contexts? These are some of the questions that The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck aims to answer.

“The following edited excerpt from Chapter 3: The Open Mind, highlights an example of this approach, and how reframing situations via bricolage (‘making the best out of what is at hand’) can foster hope and (social) innovation.”

Book Excerpt: The Serendipity Mindset

Personal Development, Communication

Step One. Choose if you even want to engage.

“Deepak Chopra, the wellness and meditation star who has served as a spiritual adviser to Lady Gaga and is friends with the Dalai Lama, defines a disagreement as ‘a clash of egos.’

“In order to appropriately engage in a disagreement, then, the point cannot be to win it or change another’s opinion — ‘otherwise, they devolve into stubborn, angry arguments,’ Mr. Chopra said. Instead, ‘disagreements exist as a place to start negotiating.’

“From his home in La Jolla, Calif., Mr. Chopra, 73, has been looking out at the anxious and angry state of the world and he’s not surprised. Some people may think this moment in time is the height of political and social division — with people baiting each other on social media, walking away from friendships, even splitting up with lovers over political polarization — but Mr. Chopra said our behavior is nothing new. ‘It’s been going on since the Stone Age,’ he said.”

Article: How to Have a Disagreement Like an Adult, According to Deepak Chopra

How We Live

To not only recover but emerge improved, cities must invest in a travel pattern long neglected: the neighborhood trip.

“This pandemic has caused widespread speculation on the future of cities. Will we all telework? Will everyone move to places where they have more space? PoliticoWall Street Journal, and other outlets have gone so far to announce that this could mark the death of cities, with commercial areas a dry husk of former commerce.

“What these perspectives overlook is that not everyone has the means to leave, and that the pandemic may force cities to adapt in positive, sustainable ways. In January 2020, weeks before Covid-19 hit, Mayor Anne Hidalgo unveiled her plan to transform Paris into a 15-minute city.‘ It would redistribute the city into a cluster of neighborhoods where Parisians have access to everything they need within 15-minutes of travel by bike or foot from their home. The plan calls for streets closed to cars, intersections into pedestrian plazas, gardens in parking spots, and more.

“Sound familiar? During quarantine, cities created ad hoc solutions intended to serve residents who needed to move—often in their neighborhood. We saw an iterative wave of quick changes including “slow streets,” “streateries,” and the prioritization of bike and pedestrian networks.”

Article: Covid-19 Is Not The ‘Death Of The City’ – It’s The Rise Of The Neighborhood Center

Customer Experience

How brands can learn from the pandemic to build on their customer experience

“It may not seem like it while in the middle of the maelstrom but, eventually, crises abate and the world returns to something resembling normality. While the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging, it has thrown up some real opportunities for brands to engage better with their customers. It has also created a unique set of conditions that has allowed companies to find new areas of innovation or develop new product streams and propositions.”

Article: What the Pandemic Has Taught Brands About Customer Experience

Advertising, Social Messaging

Berlin’s tourism authority has come under fire for its direct approach in sending a reminder to people to obey coronavirus rules.

“The German capital’s tourism authority has withdrawn a controversial advertisement in which an elderly lady gives the middle finger to individuals who do not wear masks.

“Visit Berlin and the Berlin Senate on Tuesday launched the advert, entitled ‘We obey the corona rules,’ aiming to prevent further spread of the coronavirus and to highlight the importance of safeguarding the health of the elderly.

“Above the image of the woman wearing a floral-patterned mask and giving onlookers the finger. The poster reads: ‘A finger-wag for all those without a mask.'”

Article: Coronavirus: Berlin Withdraws Ad Giving the Finger to Anti-Maskers

Design, Corporate Responsibility

Design can reveal or conceal a product’s ecological impact. Designers, use your influence.

“’Images are literally consumed as a form of nutrition,’ wrote architect Mark Wigley in his 1999 essay Recycling Recycling. In revisiting ecological architecture theory of the 1970s, Wigley makes the case that the image of the house can have far greater cultural and ecological implications than the physicality of the thing itself. This can also apply to the image of a product: Take the universal recycling symbol, an icon so ubiquitous and familiar it’s practically inextricable from the good-for-the-planet practice that it communicates. In truth, the American recycling system is ineffectual; it has for half a century been used to justify ecosystem-collapsing mass production. The symbol, in this case, is far more powerful than the system it represents.

“Like the recycling label, good faith certifications and ‘ethical branding’ enable producers to define standards for ecological production and fair labor practices, leaving consumers with little information with which to discern between vastly different products. Designers could make a difference in this respect: they could hold their clients accountable to transparent and ethical communication standards that empower consumers, not producers.”

Article: Packaging Designers Have A Responsibility to Push Clients Toward Ethical Transparency


From The Folks Who Brought You Boring Meetings: CEOs Want To Ditch Sterile Zoom Calls

Lack of Cruise Ships Gives Researchers the Perfect Chance to Study Humpback Whales

The World is Getting Hotter, and the Divide Between Rich and Poor is Getting Bigger



“It’s rare these days for Saturday Night Live to book a musical guest with a taste for guitar heroics, but if there was ever a week to have someone strutting and windmilling around Studio 8H it was this one, which saw the death of guitar genius (and occasional inventor) Eddie Van Halen. Jack White fit the bill admirably, turning in a blistering three-song medley and a performance of “Lazaretto” that included a nod to Van Halen’s trademark tapping style. Naturally, both performances featured plenty of guitar solos.

“White was a last-minute replacement for country singer Morgan Wallen, who was uninvited after photographs surfaced on social media showing him ignoring social distancing and partying without a mask. Wallen apologized on Instagram, but honestly, people should be thanking him: his biggest hit, “7 Summers,” doesn’t really have a solo, and Jack White’s repertoire, uh, does not have that problem. White opened with a three-song medley featuring “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” his collaboration with Beyoncé from Lemonade, as well as The White Stripes’ classic “Ball and Biscuit” from Elephant. The third song, though, was a surprise; it’s Blind Willie Johnson’s “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” a blues song about the 1918 flu pandemic from which White lifted the following topical couplets:”

The whole thing began on Instagram. Jack posted this appreciation for, and bow to, Eddie Van Halen:

Then he played live on a nationally televised stage, with a bassist and a drummer, with just two days notice. Here’s the medley:

And then he did this:

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. I love rock and roll. And rock and roll will never die.

Article: Jack White Was the Perfect Musical Guest for This Week’s Saturday Night Live


Image of the Week

“The French Museum of Fashion and Lace, Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, was opened in a restored 19th-century factory building to honor the lace-making tradition in the city of Calais. Recently, one of the walls of the museum was graced by the hands of the Warsaw-based artist NeSpoon, who spray-painted it with an intricate lace design.”

“The artist describes all her works as being ‘somewhere in between street art, pottery, painting, sculpture, and jewelry.’ Most of NeSpoon’s works consist of prints of traditional laces made in clay or painted on walls.

“‘Why laces? Because in laces there is an aesthetic code, which is deeply embedded in every culture. In every lace we find symmetry, some kind of order and harmony, isn’t that what we all seek for instinctively?’ reads the artist’s Behance profile.”

Article: Warsaw-Based Artist Spray-Paints A Beautiful Lace Mural On The Side Of A French Lace Museum

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.

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.You can also read Clarity-First on the web.

Leave a Comment