Filed under Theory


Our ability to design has been a pivotal part of our evolution and survival as a species. In Denis Dutton’s radical speech on beauty, he outlines how these hand axes were more likely used to slay chicks than dinner. Apparently design chops were every bit as important 100 million years before we could speak, as they are today.

As always Wikipedia is much better at explaining this stuff…

Marek Kohn and Steven Mithen have independently arrived at the explanation that symmetric handaxes have been favored by sexual selection as fitness indicators.[8] Kohn in his book As we know it wrote that the handaxe is “a highly visible indicator of fitness, and so becomes a criterion of mate choice.”[9] Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller follows on their example and has said that handaxes have characteristics which make them suitable for being subject to sexual selection forces, such as that they were made for over a million years throughout Africa, Europe and Asia, they were made in large numbers, and most were impractical for utilitarian use. He says that a single design persisting across such a span of time and space cannot be explained by cultural imitation and draws a parallel between bowerbirds’ bowers (built to attract potential mates and used only during courtship) and Pleistocene hominids’ handaxes. He calls handaxe building a “genetically inherited propensity to construct a certain type of object.” He discards the idea that they were used as missile weapons as there were more efficient weapons at the time, such as javelins, and although he accepts that some handaxes may have been used for practical reasons, he agrees with Kohn and Mithen who have shown that many handaxes show a considerable degree of skill, design and symmetry beyond the demands for utility, some were too big (such as the handaxe found in Furze Platt, England which is over a foot long) or too small (less than two inches, therefore of little practical use), they feature symmetry far beyond practical use and show evidence for excessive attention to form and finish. Miller thinks that the most important clue is that most handaxes show no signs of use or evidence of edge wear under electron microscopes. Furthermore, handaxes can be good handicaps in Amotz Zahavi’s handicap principle theory: the learning costs are high, there are risks of injury, they require physical strength, hand-eye coordination, planning, patience, pain tolerance, and resistance to infection from cuts and bruises when making or using such a handaxe. [10]

No bosses | No defined teams | No top-down hiarchy

Valve, a company responsible for some of the most ground breaking games over the last 20 years, released its handbook for new employees earlier this year. A friend of ours pointed us to this document in response to our handbook (which is still and will probably always be, in its beta form). Outlined in it are many beliefs and principles that we have also coincedently adhered to since day one; self direction, mobile work environments, entrepreneurial spirit, zero barriers to the client, no titles or defined roles and the importance of a healthy work / life balance. This is a great read for any business looking to streamline and engage their team and clients in new and exciting ways. Enjoy!

Trust Fall


We know our success hinges on relationships. Consultants and clients playing to one another’s strengths and supporting each others weaknesses. As with all great relationships much of what we do is built on a mutual respect, understanding and most importantly trust.

In our line of work this trust is tested at key moments: the presentation of a logo, strategy, name etc. This is because revolutionary answers are never easy to buy off on. If it doesn’t make you scared or excited, it will never make anyone else feel anything. It is at these critical moments that a leap of faith is in order. Companies like Apple and Nike have always understood this risk taking measure; catapulting them to become the leaders of their categories.

Strategy tends to be the most innocuous of these endeavors since the effort is largely logical and sequential. It is often times Design or “Creative” that takes the brunt of the criticism.  Its success can not be measured and most often the path is not so obvious.

Next time it comes down to that final option that appears to be all too easy, remember that good design consultants have a few aces up their sleeves.. Here are a few things that go with the territory:

  1. Dedicated a lifetime to the study of design, communication, art, marketing, and branding in to order to understand what truly makes an iconic, timeless, universally appealing design.
  2. Always do their homework and considered the rich history of the brand and the strategy moving forward..
  3. Analyzed the competitors and customers and considered the market  — remember this is war.
  4. Interviewed, a lot. Customers and Executives alike along with any other key stake holders all need to be interrogated.
  5. Considered the environments in which the design is going to live. ( print, interactive, clothing, interior, etc. )
  6. Explored hundreds of options formally and conceptually and designed to perfection a only the best options to be reviewed and refined.
  7. Thought about how these options would live in the greater brand system.
  8. Considered the longevity and localization of the design.

Great leaders understand they need to take risks. Of course achieving this level of trust and bravery is much easier said than done. With so much at stake and so many intangibles, the trepidation is understandable. Remember these 8 risk reducers next time you’re considering creative and sleep easy.

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