Active culture?

Is culture a screen through which we orient ourselves, how we see and experience reality? Do we surrender ourselves to the complacency of someone (lifestyle gurus?) telling us what to value on the other side of that filter?

There is a lot of discussion around culture, the first article that made me sit up was the recent How "Rock Star" Became a Business Buzzword by Carina Chocano.

And that reminded me of Natasha Singer's article about the lie that is the sharing economy. In an attempt to make our consumer society more palatable, are we co-opting the language of culture?

How we talk about business now, is that an appropriation of our cultural values? Blurring the line between work and life?

Culture is how we pass the time between hypocrisies

That's from Joshua Cohen's review of Llosa's new book on the 'Death of Culture,'  which offers many examples of the issues at stake when we begin to pass judgement on culture.

To me, what's striking about this essay on culture's decline is that Mr. Cohen, clearly scornful of an editor who demands that his reference to Eliot have a descriptor, propagates an incorrect and inflammatory accusation that, among other things, Llosa announced his new marriage on Twitter.

How should we react to a critic who laments that we don't respect audiences enough AND also has the temerity not to check sources? Has the unreliable narrator gone from a literary (or cinematic) device and become an everyday tool of communication? Why?

With all the information out there we need to renounce laziness and engage in our world. We have to use critical thinking and question not only what we do, but what we buy and why we take the actions we do and, well, you get the idea. (But if research is correct, you probably haven't read this far—)


The Ascendancy of Collaboration

Successful design is the crowning achievement of collaboration. Not because it's slick and looks good, but because it creates a relationship between a brand and its audience.

Ted Hope said, "the change from analogue culture to a digital one reminds us that nothing is ever finished . . . we can produce numerous iterations, customized for different audiences, platforms and preferences."(1) The best design today is taken from us and used, transformed and built upon by others. 

Collaboration extends the traditional borders of design. The customer experience is so fluid that today we create tools with the idea that someone else, many someone elses, will manipulate them and transform them into a campaign, into a movement. And that's true customer engagement: loving them enough to let go. It's wild—a complex process of becoming. (2)


1) see

2) Wild, the poet Gary Snyder's definition.

Why Search is Not Smart

Let's start with a cliché, an update on a supposedly old chinese proverb (1): What You Value Shows.

If you're in finance, then co-opting the faddish alure of algorithms (2) or preying on people's fear of retiring (3) can be a successful marketing strategies. in both these instances clearly the companies value sales, not helping individual people achieve their investment goals.

In the Sunday, April 19 version of the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor, discusses how they are transitioning to using keywords in headlines because their current "lyrical — or even just elegantly spare"(4) qualities are not ranking high enough in search results. She also presents a series of platform-specific headlines for the same article.

While Ms. Sullivan, and by extension the New York Times, values information and inspiring thought, search values selling — especially collecting data about you to sell. That's why search does not have to learn how to decipher a linguistically beautiful headline, because it doesn't value your question, it's purpose is to inspire you to purchase things or search for things so it can track you and trace your desires. 

This is an illustration that how you present your company, from your strategy to your marketing materials to the language you choose, reveals what it's like to do business with you & what you value.

Maybe it's time to take stock and see if your business design is aligned with who you are now and where you want to go?


1) The proverb is "The soul has no secrets that conduct does not reveal"

2) Charles Schwab is (our second cliche) 'Changing Investing Forever.' The Fort Conkrite tunnel in murky blue hues means that 50s sci-fi remains the visual trope of forever-type changes

3) Fisher Investments scare tactics to alert you to the dangers of annuities


Compounding TPG's Image Problem (Not Interest)

Recently we looked at TPG's "image problem" and today from the New York Times Dealbook section comes a great column about financial firms, the importance of image and celebrity 'advisors'.

The best quote happens to be about TPG:

Bono may do better this time around, but one wonders what value he brings to TPG other than that 1980s-era hipness.

The article goes on to say how a firm's profile is key to getting deals and that celebrity stardust can help create an patina of import. 

The second best quote is: 

Celebrity investing may really be about the thing that drives Silicon Valley—networking.

But wait, there's more—and it's good. Read it. 


Chasing Trends & The Long View


OK. We're here: Google's new search algorithms are giving additional weight to a site's mobile-friendliness in its rankings.

They've also included a tool so anyone can see how Google now analyzes your site. We ran a test of our site and found that we're "Awesome!" 

We've seen a lot of companies chase that deadline, optimizing their site for mobile and sacrificing the user experience and their brand equity. If you're not an e-commerce site, a planned approach that may miss the deadline is much more powerful than a knee-jerk just-get-it-done.

So take the time, do the analysis and planning necessary to be great before you execute a new site—your business deserves a long-term view.

The Fiction of Problem Solving

Can we please stop saying that designers are problem solvers? 

Apple doesn't solve people's problems—they give people things to love. It's time we all acknowledge that design isn't a resolution.


Design takes a product and creates the experience.

That's why the most successful companies build design thinking into every facet of their brand. 

End of rant.