Snapshot: April 14, 2019


The tall spire of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland



The amateur has a long list of fears. Near the top are two: Solitude and silence. The amateur fears solitude and silence because she needs to avoid, at all costs, the voice inside her head that would point her toward her calling and her destiny. So she seeks distraction.
— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art


  • Michael Lewis’s book, The Fifth Risk, is a mind-blowing chronicle of just how utterly unprepared and unprofessional Trump and his team were (are?) in taking on the responsibility of running the American Federal Government. Included is some interesting background on how transitioning government administrations has changed over the years. (Thanks to Richard Pootmans for lending the book to me!)

  • Inspired by the stories and talents of all the makers and designers that Janine Vangool has profiled in the Uppercase Encyclopedia of Inspiration.

Seeing & Listening


  • Public policy that successfully drives a nation’s innovation needs to first establish strategic coherence and purpose between the various agencies and policies — and between public and private sector stakeholders. In a post-financial collapse analysis of Ireland’s innovation policy, we learn that patents are not typically an indicator of innovation (i.e. commercializing ideas) and that the myriad of state agencies “supporting entrepreneurship” causes confusion, duplication, and hampers the ability to really measure impact of these overlapping initiatives (despite many ad hoc claims of success!).

  • The ability for suppliers to contribute directly to creating new products or making product improvements is an important element in the helpful PwC Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) Maturity Model.



The Creativity Loves Constraints Rule: I had another conversation recently with a young creative who thought that brand identity/logo systems were too restrictive, unnecessary and cramped their style. I’ve heard this at least a hundred times in my career. Over the years, I’ve learned to ask two questions in response:

  • Question #1 “How many colours are there in your brand guidelines?” - Their answer allows me to quickly understand if the organization has created a control system that focuses mostly on RULES about how to use the logo and corporate colours, like this Toyota identity RULES system (i.e. there will be very few colours that are acceptable for designers to use). Or if they have extended the system to include both RULES AND A FULL TOOLKIT of coordinated colours, words, images, styles, examples, graphic elements, etc. that provide a playground of limited, but rich, elements for designers to leverage in creative ways to express the brand personality to different audiences, like this Adobe brand system TOOLKIT. It’s virtually impossible to fully express the brand with only RULES about how to use corporate colours and logos. Ensure you also have an extended and highly coordinated brand TOOLKIT for designers to use.

  • Question #2 “Why do you think someone created a brand system?” - In response to this, I most often hear complaints like “so they can police the logo” or “so they can catch someone doing something wrong with the brand.” Believe me, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be policed by a senior colleague who thinks it’s their job to find minuscule logo use deviations and Pantone errors. This usually happens when only the RULES system (above) is in place and someone feels they can tightly inspect and control everything. However, when the full TOOLKIT is provided, and creative designs and communications that are “on brand” but feel fresh and surprising start to delight customers … the brand police officer usually retires and instead is replaced by an art director or creative director who is there to inspire designers with new ways to use the BRAND TOOLKIT while also RESPECTING THE BRAND RULES.

In fact, a brand system is there for a few different reasons:First, it creates a consistent voice and look that helps the customer find the brand, understand what makes the brand offering unique, and make an emotional connection with the brand. Designers get bored with “brand consistency” far before brand fans ever do. :-) • Second, the brand system makes things more efficient from a design, production, and quality control perspective. You can decentralize marketing and design functions when everyone has the same identity RULES and creative TOOLKIT. • Third, it provides creatives like designers, photographers, and writers with CREATIVE CONSTRAINTS that actually make their work better. Great creatives love to solve problems and work within reasonable limitations. A brief that says, “Do anything you want!” is a nightmare to most great creatives. Give them a brief with a juicy problem to solve and a TOOLKIT of colours, words and image styles to play with … and they will often do their best work. Here’s a Fast Company article that gives some useful examples: Proof That Constraints Can Actually Make You More Creative.