Brilliant as always. Interesting. Full of optimism. Refreshing.
This does the rounds every few months. Usually sparks a debate about Uber being or not being the new buses. Or something. Everyone gets very angry.
I get angry every time I see it.
I get angry because it’s such a bad piece of communication.
This version from the 60s is a London Underground ad that makes exactly the same point more effectively and more efficiently.
The modern one is so complicated. It adds two modes of transport that you don’t need to make the point.
The 60s one uses 14 words and takes a few seconds to read. The current one uses 33 words and takes 15 seconds before it’s finished playing. I bet most people need to watch it twice to understand it.
Abrams Games used to describe his design philosophy as a combination of image and text that communicates an idea with ‘maximum meaning' using 'minimum means’. The designer of the 60s poster is unattributed, but it does maximum meaning, minimum means really well.
In the era of twitter and dwindling dwell times I’m constantly surprised people don’t focus more energy on making communication simpler and shorter. We’ve had to wait until 2017 for someone to launch a 6 second ad format.
Maximum meaning, minimum means. More relevant today than ever.
But I’m not going to talk much about design tonight. So lower your expectations accordingly. I’m going to talk about teams and diversity instead.
Everyone who gets an award thanks their colleagues and mentors. Or their coaches and the left back and the goalkeeper. That’s not just being polite. It’s accurate. Individuals collect awards - but teams win them.
I mostly design for the internet and on the internet there are no lone genius designers.
The romance of the lone artisan in their garret coming up with the Big Idea is over.
And I think that’s a good thing. The design industry used to work like this. Back in the 50s and 60s it was more common for designers to work in multidisciplinary teams. They didn’t call it that of course - just worked with whoever they needed to achieve the end product. Names like Margaret Calvert of Kenneth Grange worked with a variety of different skills to achieve great things. This is even more important today. And our job is to make the organisations we work with better at doing that. Better at collaboration.
The toughest design problems in the world today require co-operation at a large scale. They need people with different talents and experiences working together to find answers that work. Design today needs teams that have lots of different perspectives.
That means we need to make it easier for people to become designers.
How I got into design is a really boring story. I studied art and design at school and graphic design at university. I’m sure lots of you did that too. But that’s much harder to do today.
This year is the 180th anniversary of design education in the UK but today it’s possible for schools to get an outstanding grade from Ofsted without teaching any art or design subjects, so 15% of schools have withdrawn arts subjects. And we’re seeing that kids aren’t studying art and design. Entries for GCSE Art & Design down 8% and A-Level 12%. I’m a Governor at University for the Arts London and we’re seeing a drop at Undergraduate Level too. (Stats from NSEAD.)
And Brexit means we’re getting fewer and fewer EU students applying. All at a time when we need designers who reflect who they’re designing for.
You can help by volunteering in an organisation like the Sorrell Foundation’s National Art and Design Saturday Club.
Advocate a career in design to your friends. And your friends’ kids. And then to people who look and sound nothing like you.
(This is picture of the current UAL Students Union Arts SU. They are a talented, diverse group.)
Encourage and promote diverse, multi-disciplinary teams.
A hard problem, but a useful one to solve - because that’s what designers do best. If it's easy, make it look easy. If it isn't actually easy, then make it easy. Thank you, enjoy the rest of your evening.
(Huge thanks to Ella who helped write the speech. She is available to help you too.)
This is not a political post and so I'm publishing after the election.
Sam Blackledge, a reporter from the Plymouth Herald got to interview Theresa May a few days ago.
He asked four specific questions about the local area. Every answer started with “I’m very clear” and then went on to give a vague answer.He got bland answers without any substance. His write up of the encounter is scathing, he described it as, “Three minutes of nothing”.
Here’s one example:
Plymouth is feeling the effects of military cuts. Will you guarantee to protect the city from further pain?
"I'm very clear that Plymouth has a proud record of connection with the armed forces."
You can read the full article and watch a video of the interview here on the Plymouth Herald.
Theresa May is saying "I'm very clear" and then not being clear at all. (See Russell's advice on how to be clear.)
But this isn’t about Theresa May or politicians. This is how leaders speak in public these days. Grandiose sounding statements that contain no substance, no facts or distinct opinions. Statements that give away nothing but sound decisive. It’s a style that’s been honed over decades and is evident in almost all forms of media. Footballers speaking after a football game is another example.
There is one alternative, here is Mick McCarthy literally saying nothing when asked about Roy Keane.
There is a more up to date example from Sam here.