Category Archives: language

Why generative AI is a raw material, not a finished product

Seeing generative AI as a raw material might be the perspective shift you’ve been looking for to get your thinking get unstuck and help you make sense of the rhetoric around you.

It’s a Bouba, Not a Kiki: The Relationship Between Sound, Form, and Meaning

People are consistently more likely to decide that the rounded shape is a bouba and the jagged, spiky shape is a kiki. This finding holds for college students, older adults, and very young children, and for speakers of not only English but other languages as well.

Why Business Leaders Must Resist the Anti-ESG Movement

The culture wars in the U.S. continue to rage, and they’ve come for business. Companies are being dragged into issues that stir emotions, such as abortion, gay and trans rights, racial and gender equity, and climate change. In particular, business is facing questions about its stance on societal issues mainly from the right side of the political aisle. So with 70% of America’s top execs calling themselves Republicans, business leaders now find themselves in an odd position: accused by high-profile members and pundits from their own party of being part of a “woke” or “anti-ESG” progressive agenda.

How Brands Are Selling Quiet Luxury to the Masses

Call it “quiet luxury,” “stealth wealth,” or the most blunt, “low-key rich bitch,” the trend is perhaps best encapsulated by the phrase “if you know, you know.” It’s a pair of navy trousers, a white button-down or a cashmere coat, but made from the finest fabrics, in carefully-crafted cuts, sold at an eye-popping price. It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s sleek, unfussy courtroom outfits, like a simple black skirt and sweater that just happens to be Prada, or the head-to-toe neutral ensembles from The Row that Cate Blanchett wore in the film Tàr.

AI and the American Smile

Why do you smile the way you do? A silly question, of course, since it’s only “natural” to smile the way you do, isn’t it? It’s common sense. How else would someone smile?

As a person who was not born in the U.S., who immigrated here from the former Soviet Union, as I did, this question is not so simple. In 2006, as part of her Ph.D. dissertation, “The Phenomenon of the Smile in Russian, British and American Cultures,” Maria Arapova, a professor of Russian language and cross-cultural studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University, asked 130 university students from the U.S., Europe, and Russia to imagine they had just made eye contact with a stranger in a public place — at the bus stop, near an elevator, on the subway, etc.

Framing the problem (Culture Mapping Story Systems)

At the beginning of the film The Menu, the character Chef Slowik played by Ralph Fiennes commands his guests not to eat.  “Taste, don’t eat.”  Frame the problem.

When introducing the concept of Culture Mapping to clients and students, we are always faced with dislodging an existing mindset that prevents the mobility of process toward better futures.  The core of our method is about having the confidence to ask better questions so that one can make better decisions. Establishing questions and unearthing questions are critical in showing us unknowns. How are we framing what we want in the future?  Our existing biases and the groupthink within corporations are strong forces that erode progress and water down opportunities.

The essential questions are never business questions, they are human questions. We should seek to understand emerging needs over the current relevance of our brand. From there, we can better understand the capabilities available to us that can rise to meet those needs. Unfortunately, without critical upfront planning, innovation, and marketing quickly fall out of balance.

The role Culture Mapping plays is to carve out the breadth of story spaces allowing us to map innovation and reflect on the language, archetypes, and subsequent design actions that can emerge from that knowledge.

In developing sustainable strategies consider the language expressed in the disruptive story space. Think of indigenous food systems as integral to food systems architecture. In the emergent story space of clothing creativity and experimentation, understand material and technique before it becomes impulse shopping. In the dominant story space, recognize how quickly the efficiency of technology can dilute the meaning of diversity through the ease of shareability and memes. And in the residual space, consider regulation and how new policy must include accountability in the sustainability of going forward.


Dumb phones are on the rise in the U.S. as Gen Z looks to limit screen time

Dumb phones may be falling out of fashion on a global scale, but it’s a different story in the U.S.

Companies like HMD Global, the maker of Nokia phones, continue to sell millions of mobile devices similar to those used in the early 2000s. This includes what’s known as “feature phones” — traditional flip or slide phones that have additional features like GPS or a hotspot.|linkedin&par=sharebar

Most Brand Communication fails. Why?

The majority of brand communication campaigns we see today is designed to spoon-feed some sort of “meaning” to a target audience, often in the hope of activating a fast, impulse-driven response.

Which is a futile battle, because almost all brand communication today is prettily packaged information, but not ‘meaning’.