August 9, 2022

But it’s not…

How often do you find yourself having to explain that the thing you’re trying to create ‘isn’t’? As in ‘it’s not a timeshare, it’s a not-hotel’ (which is a real thing, or a not real thing. Possibly. I’m not sure.)

The criteria for ’not-ness’ is an important part of the design process; it could hardly be otherwise. How else can we build the mental scaffolding necessary to help others cross from then to here? But it worries me. Denying the thing is hardly helping the case other’s should consider moving to it; that the ’is not’ thing runs the danger of turning the tables against you – that by trying to link by dis-similarity you’re implying ‘not this’; don’t buy into this idea.

Science has an interesting way of thinking about this ‘not-ness’ in another way. Where the behaviour of things that are novel or new or hard to explain – when they know the outcome and want to convince of the validity of it without directly observable proof – they say the thing looks ‘as if’.

‘As if’ makes the case for a thing that might exist if the conditions were right. Those conditions – which could be social, economic, cultural, whichever – can be used to frame this new thing. And you use the context for it needing to be – rather than (not) comparing it to what already does.

Which leads me to make an admission. This is not a strategy I’ve tried. I just thought it up (but like all my ideas, likely it already exists and you’ll be thinking ‘not him again, catching up with the rest of us’) but it did strike me that taking the negative out (or as a tutor once reminded me ‘Richard, you need to accentuate the positive’) might be a better place to begin?

So next time I’m going to try and not reach for not-comparison mood board, and start with why what I’m presenting fits a bunch of situations. Not by non-comparison, because it already had a shape; it just needed the background to help us see what was missing.

If that fails, it’ll not be for want of trying to say what it is. Isn’t. Ain’t anymore.

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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