The Game Behind the Game: Mastering The Art Of Bullshit

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Time to think, time to make mistakes, time to explore. The opportunity to work in teams t built for the purpose.

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The opportunity was enough and frequently jobs were over budget due to passion. Then came the bean counters.

Design needed to be rationalised. The money needed to be justified. The idea that someone who spent all day thinking and drawing might actually be able to talk about it was belittled and the suited and booted account handlers moved in bringing process and accountability. Not a bad thing in some ways but out of the door went common sense and the passion and in walked the silver tongued.

For me, the strategy was always part of the process, design thinking a direct connection to the drawings. Justification created through a pure interaction between a few knowledgable passionate people. Rarely informed by research and rarely criticised. Design wages have in real terms gone down.

None of us do it for the money. It is a passion and as such should be valued.

113 Comments

Not derided into the last chapter of the process. In the end, the armies of talkers cannot do we what do. We draw the talk and honestly, the less talking they do the more time we have to draw and express business improvements and brand innovations through design.


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After all, what is design if not a means to express something with out talking. And I for one am excited about that. Oh no! I think bullshit must be contagious! Great piece. Yes, I wore big shoulder pads! At first I was in awe of the jargon.

Then I quickly learnt that only insecure people rely on it. I set up my own agency 26 years ago and one of our founding principles still stands — no jargon, ever. Design jargon became a dangerous sh here in my country due to some old book that set strict words to address logo design. Kindred spirit John. No disrespect, but I too am a little long in the tooth and increasingly bewildered by the shroud of mystique our industry has immersed itself in. Fair play John.

Well said. Flush the tank, let the revolution begin brother! Some time ago I was at a small design agency where they prided themselves on being straightforward, plain speaking, friendly people — all in all a nice place to work. I had enough and handed in my notice. The point of this is that the ethos and attitude comes from the individuals at the top of the company, and this can easily infect the whole business. The design business is all about simple visual ideas, and if we complicate the way we talk to each other and clients, we stand no chance.

On Bullshit

Jargon is designed to simplify communication between those who understand the concepts well enough to shorten them. Attacking words and phrases as the culprit is downright silly. As far as I know, these ideas are taught pretty strictly in most schools. As a mature student going in to my second year of Graphic Design I feel I should understand the jargon and flow with it as it is part of the industry Iam in. If students are inducted what hope have we?

But will they listen? I had to pack it up and go home, I take a few clients a year. Sanity is worth more than trying to make sense of Jabberwocky all day. Glad that this has reached the forefront of thinking, Glad that you took the time to write it, and Glad that strong opinions are still out there and we are not all turned into processized halfwits believing our own spin. I am of the old school too, and we have a policy of any new designer does not get a mac for a few months, they have to demonstrate their ideas through drawing, sketches, annotations and being able to speak them with authority and conviction.

Good on you sir for shouting about this nonsense which damages our industry. It took me 3 years of architecture school to figure this out. The BS is ingrained in the system.

John, this is what we have been at for the past year or so. I have consumed a lot of books in the branding, content, and positioning space by some really talented people. Slangbusters is the studio and slangbusters. I would be grateful to receive your thoughts and notes on it. Oh God!

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John, this is exactly what I have been working on for the past year. In the process, I have consumed a lot of books and other content from talented people in the branding, content, and strategy space. I would be much grateful to know your thoughts on this idea. A design industry standard Clear communication should to be a design industry standard.

Hide Comments 36 Show Comments Simon Dry September 14, at pm. Marty Neumeier September 15, at pm. Lukas September 16, at am. Gloria Baldwyn September 16, at pm. Mark Olson September 16, at pm. Shaun Boateng September 17, at am. Jan Atkins September 17, at am. Dave September 17, at am. Andy September 17, at am. Ezri Carlebach September 17, at am. Karan Bhardwaj September 17, at am. Melissa Hay September 17, at am. Neil Littman September 17, at am. Jonathan Davis September 17, at pm. The result of change. Not derided into the last chapter of the process In the end, the armies of talkers cannot do we what do.

Great article. No bull. So refreshing. Thank you.

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Mark North September 17, at pm. Ruth Shearn September 17, at pm. Romario Eichlig September 18, at pm.

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Steve Gill September 18, at pm. Harrison Reed September 19, at am. Design jargon is a very dangerous thing indeed… Some time ago I was at a small design agency where they prided themselves on being straightforward, plain speaking, friendly people — all in all a nice place to work.

Wyn September 19, at pm. It helps get team members on the same pages or hopefully at least in the same book. It helps validate what we do for a living to non-designers, especially when most of us have problems articulating what we do to the lay person. It helps the clients, who often really don't understand the importance of what we do, feel good about spending the money on that design-thingy-thing. It is damn hard to bullshit well if you don't have a concept.

We've all been there when forced to justify something in front of a client. Hopefully current and up-and-coming designers can be more informed and erudite when it comes to explaining the intrinsic importance of emotion and aesthetics within the design process. Resorting to speaking in a 'foreign language' to instruct or 'BS' a client doesn't do anyone any favours. There is a growing body of research and writing in this field which should be used by designers to inform their work and their clients.

Sole reliance on 'designer's intuition' in todays information-drenched and globally-connected world seems so, er, twentieth century.