My New Favourite Quote

By Michael Beiruit (in conversation with Peter Merholz):

It’s a dirty secret that much of what we admire in the design world is a byproduct not of “strategy” but of common sense, taste and luck. Some clients are too unnerved by ambiguity to accept this, and create garganuan superstructures of bullshit to provide a sense of security.

I’d never considered of PowerPoint as being a tool used by the architects and builders of ‘superstructures of bullshit’ before.

All hail common sense, taste and luck!

Quote ripped from the excellent book: Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy With Human Behaviour, recommended to me by the equally excellent Knotty.

11 thoughts on “My New Favourite Quote”

  1. client: your reel is great. how did you get to the work? and how do we know the work you do for us will be as good in the future?

    answer1: someone had the idea in the car, then, someone else changed it slightly to what you saw on the reel. the next time – can’t say for sure – we have good people, we all get on, we’re smart guys? will that do?

    answer2: we have a giant 3 stage onion which when we apply in the same way to every campaign. there was no other possible creative that could have arisen from this process. same applies for the future. sarah conner?

    its like religion – onions/BS superstructures are alright and promote good thinking , but lying about them or over-egging their importance is bad for everyone.

    onions inspiring thinking=good
    using onions without thinking = bad
    thinking onions=woah

  2. This is great, Iain, thanks – and I couldn’t agree more.

    What I would add to it though is that common sense, taste and luck (if you believe in it) can all be impacted from experience and gut feeling. Gut feeling itself built from experience.

    I’m a planner and find it difficult to explani what I do when I’m asked. Of course I research things, of course I look in the right places for that reasearch and I know what research to dismiss and what research to build on. But how do I do it? I sort of don’t know – it’s about emotion and not science as such. I just sort of know the right route to do things most of the time. Of course no-one is right all the time, and that’s besides the by, as what’s right isn’t always what the client wants. I’m babbling and I’ll stop.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I find nothing wrong with following instincts and standing up and saying that. It’s better to have a point of view and put your balls on the table than simply saying something anodine and reversing a strategy into it with TGI research as I see lots of other planners/ agencies do.

    Think, think, think. Get your balls on the table and go for it.

  3. Nice. The best I heard was in creative review, Paul Cohen was talking about the lack of art direction in this country and how it’s the clients fault he then went on to say that a friend of his once presented a piece of work to a client who claimed the look was ‘too risky’ his friend then replied “it’s even riskier to put out work that looks like your competitors”

  4. “I’d never considered of PowerPoint as being a tool used by the architects and builders of ’superstructures of bullshit’ before.”

    Really? I mean, *really*?

  5. Igor, I’m serious. I’d always thought of it more as a tool for building mud-huts of mild fabrication.

  6. …”not of “strategy” but of common sense”
    if it really was common sense, you’d think it would be more common, but it aint, thus we have the mountains of mediocrity.

    People simply aren’t actually SOLVING problems, they’re largely creating novelty or features that don’t satisfy. The things that I cherish, actually solve problems and/or make real, tangable, needed improvements.

    So I think it can be – should be – strategic, just not in the way ‘strategy’ is proposed in many companies today.

  7. From Wikipedia:

    In social sciences, superstructure is the set of socio-psychological feedback loops that maintain a coherent and meaningful structure in a given society, or part thereof. It can include the culture, institutions, power structures, roles, and rituals of the society. It is that which, through conditioned behaviors (both interpersonal and situational), enforces a set of constraints and guidelines on human activity in a stable and effective fashion, such that it engenders a society’s characteristic organization, and it is that characteristic organization itself.

    By most sociological schema, superstructure does not refer to the specific materials of an organization, such as a school or a store, but rather to the set of psychological or semantic configurations whereby that structure is rationalized and reproduced in human experience. That is, it is the “invisible force” behind or within the structure, or perhaps, it is the anthropocentric “reason” for the structure.

    which contributes little but i found very interesting.

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