August 24, 2022

I have a question…

I spend a lot of time wadding through information. Expect you do too, but in the world of guideline design, – especially the sort of guidelines that helps people build actual buildings rather than just (just?) brands – there’s often huge dumps of detailed specifications, all of which needs unpicking as part of the story.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how having to deal with so much information sometimes makes it easy to overlook what’s actually needed. For example, I send out an email that has a very specific question (in this case, about some pagination. And yes, email. We don’t use your cool tools like Slack or Notion here…) and after an interesting round of replies, not one of the several recipients answered it.

What I got back was all kinds of amusing but not useful bantz about the content but no direction. No clarity.

On the cycle into work I pass a few milestones (no, not the life-goal kind. Those lumps of rock with ‘This Town – 8 miles’ carved in them) and these economical beauty’s contain all the information a traveller would have needed for thousands of years – ‘oh, damne, oim still 8 mile aways from Wantage’, etc.

I love these because they’re the embodiment of clarity.

Meanwhile I sit through terminally long, day long meetings and often never have any real idea of what the point of them was (apart from ‘the meeting’, obviously); and briefings that are long on the business of setting-out and brand self flattery and totally devoid of the actual brief.

The writer Jonathan Franzen wrote “You always reach for the easy solution before you, in defeat, submit to the more difficult solution.” If only. My experience, in this line of work, is almost always the exact opposite.

So, sorry, what was the question?

PS There are so many simple mnemonics for getting to the right questions quickly, here’s one I found (and apologies to the author, but I cannot remember where I saw this):

‘P – B – J’

P is your (product) Proof, B, your (audience) Barrier and J, the (comms) Job.

Last week, Nathan wrote about why execution is so important—how “marginal improvements to each step in a process (like raising money, launching products, onboarding users, recruiting, etc) can compound into exponentially better outcomes.”

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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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