Clarity First Newsletter, September 28, 2018

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

This week, in online dyads from a Greek isle to Sarasota, FL, from LA to SF, I found myself talking about human potential, the artificial polarity we find so attractive, and trauma informed healing. Then, last night I overheard my wife talking in the kitchen with her cousin. “We were all born into a story that is already in progress,” she said. “We didn’t have a choice.”

Exactly. We didn’t choose the story we were cast in. But we can certainly choose how we play our role. We are a learning species. We learn from our ancestors. Our kids are smarter than us. Let’s keep going.


Advertising, Social Responsibility, Brand Activism

Raising awareness about sexism as brand promotion

This past winter and spring, coinciding with International Women’s Day on March 8, India’s largest airline, IndiGo, conducted a refreshingly direct and clear campaign about sexism, its insidiousness and it’s deleterious effects on everyone. The work, by Wieden+Kennedy Delhi, included posters at airports, social media and a series of zines bound as a special edition of IndiGo’s in-flight magazine. Nicely done.
Article: IndiGo Collaborates With Wieden+Kennedy Delhi To Unveil Its March On Campaign For Gender Equality



Customers decide what the brand is.

Marty Neumeier is on my short list of inspiring brand design teachers. I cite him often in my own workshops. His mission is “to bring the principles and process of design to business”. I’m in.

BrandKnew mag has a great short interview with the wise one. It’s like reading the Cliff Notes of one of his books.

MN: “Brands have narratives that play out over time. But the important narrative is not the one told by the company, but by its customers. Customers decide what the brand is. It’s the company’s job to offer the raw materials with which to create the narrative—the products, experiences, and behaviors that customers interpret for themselves.”
Interview: Closing the Gap Between Design and Branding


Research, UX, Learning

Focus groups are ridiculous, so try an “unfocus” group instead.

Nikki Anderson is a UX experience researcher. If you need to convince anyone not to invest in, nor rely on, conventional focus groups, she’s written the argument.

Better, she’s got an alternative. “The goal of the unfocus group is to get a broader range of opinions and feedback about a product. During this time, the participants are told they will be having an open-ended conversation about a very loose objective, such as the intersection between communication, medical information and technology (or whatever your company is trying to understand). You bring in participants who are on the tails of the normal distribution curve, in order to gather more diverse feedback.
“The combination of this more “unusual” group and the ability to have a real, open-ended conversation with little agenda, there is a higher potential for more creativity and true insights to emerge.”
Article: I’ll Say It: Focus Groups Suck.


Personal Productivity

It is the process of working itself that gives rise to new ideas.

“There is a popular notion that artists work from inspiration—that there is some strike or bolt or bubbling up of creative mojo from who knows where, and artists channel this energy, or tap into it, or become the conduit for it…but waiting for inspiration to strike is a terrible, terrible plan. In fact, perhaps the single best piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to do creative work is to ignore inspiration.”
Article: Great Artists Don’t Wait for Inspiration; They Work, Work, Work.


Personal Productivity, Group Productivity

Workflows dictate what you work on and how this work is executed.

“Workflows are arguably more important than your high-level habits when it comes to impacting how effectively you produce valuable things…, but they’re a topic that’s often ignored.”
Article: Habits vs. Workflows


New Economy

A game’s ability to educate on the highlights and pitfalls of capitalism

NYC-based art and activism collective Chinatown Soup is responding to gentrification by creating a local version of the classic board game Monopoly.  But this game doesn’t award the player with the most monetary capital at the end of the game. Instead, it prizes the player that purposefully develops an area while keeping its residents in mind. Soup founder Michelle Marie Esteva says: “Money helps you move around New York, but the Monopoly men don’t define New York. No matter how expensive rent gets, there’s a reason people want to struggle in this city. Our Monopoly asks why.”
Article: An Artist-Designed Monopoly Edition Highlights the Game’s Anti-Gentrification Roots




If you need a little reminding that the American dream is worth fighting for, be sure to see Michael Moore’s latest, Fahrenheit 11/9. I laughed. I cried. I was inspired to recommit to the still very new, and still unprecedented, American quest for democracy.

If you need a little reminding of why the American dream is worth fighting for, watch 7-year-old Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja sing our national anthem. While she has lived less than 1/4 of a generation, she manages to channel both our collective hope and our shared trauma in a song that is recognizable to us all.  It’s a two minute opera.

Let’s help Malea Emma make the American promise real.
Video: 7 Year-Old Crushes National Anthem, Zlatan Approves



Image of the Week

The image of the week was shot last week by Debbie Kates, my wife of 36 years. This is the Deerfield River, just a mile from where it joins the Connecticut River. The rocks at the focal point are called the Red Rocks. They turn the river sharply to the right, creating roiling water that churns to rapids when the river is high.

Debbie swims these waters every day she can. She comes home with a “I just dropped acid” grin, telling stories of eagles soaring, beavers slapping, herons going invisible, and of currents that remind her that “this whole planet is liquid.”

Debbie, I’m sorry that the river is getting too cold to swim. Soon we can go to the mountain and ski.


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