Decode #6 - Style

Decode #6 - Style

Style is a way of doing something. But the word also has other, more subtle, connotations. A style is a complex language, often hacked together from philosophy, art, design, literature and so on. Style is sensed, usually through non-concrete concepts like mood, emotion and atmosphere.

By tracing changes in style, and the associated concept of aesthetics, we can understand social change, and make ourselves stand-out...

Experiment with new ways to create style

In this section we will list how different visual aspects help improve communication:

  • Illustration helps the essence of an idea emerge
  • Animation helps represent connections between ideas
  • Colour and typography infuse communication with style
  • Diagramming helps represent complexity
  • Poetry prompts epiphany by concentrating on brevity and urgency
  • Photography provides real proof that charges a moment with meaning
  • Game design provides a powerful set of engagement tactics
  • Experience design improves information processing by activating the senses
Strategy: develop collaborative partnerships with people that are strong where you are weak

Learn design schools and movements

A broad overview of the mindset of different design schools will allow you to know when to pull on which:    

  • Bauhaus draws our attention to function
  • Minimalism distils the signal from the noise
  • Baroque invites us to describe people in messy and realistic ways
Strategy: increasing your vocabulary of different design techniques will allow you to use additional tools for communicating with others.

Improve business poetics

The tone of voice within many organisations could do with a style workshop. Take the following description of a business strategy:

A strategy for aggressive expansion is planned in a war room, creating a campaign that is executed by dissecting society into segments. People are targeted, desire is triggered, and attention is captured  

These militaristic metaphors (strategy…expansion…campaign…targeted…captured) can be replaced by a regenerative lexicon:

A movement is planned in a richly diverse environment, nurturing a concept that is explored by interacting with the possibilities of different mediums. People are engaged, interest is stimulated, connections are formed, and natural growth is achieved.

The words we use are important. They shape our way of seeing the world and the relationships we form with other. The next generation of commerce can be richer than the last.

Strategy: spend time noticing the metaphors used in your organisation and explore alternatives. Think: should we still be calling people 'consumers'?

Adopt the metamodern sensibility

One of the cultural styles that we have been exploring at InsightOS is 'metamodernism'.

It has proved an appealing concept for a growing number of thinkers. The following visualisation shows how we can situate this historically:  

Designed by Olive

Use the spirit of romanticism

Romanticism was a revolutionary upheaval in consciousness. It created a new state of mind that changed life and thought. It created great art; birthed the introspective genius; inspired poetry that soared; reason that united; and emotion that divided.

It sparked the enlightenment, democracy and humanism. But it also staged a gothic revolt against civilisation with depictions of melancholy, castles, darkness, disease, death, decadence, torture, suicide, ennui, and skulls.

This was a period that mapped natural forms to human psychology: waterfalls, lakes and mountains were infused with cognitive meaning.

It caused revolutions to break out. It mythologised rural peace. And it stirred an urge to love.  

Strategy: the turn towards bio-design and sustainability can use romanticism as a 'usable past' to understand natural forms

Decode the gothic

Weird, monstrous, uncanny, macabre, spooky, sinister, terrifying… all fundamental parts of the human experience, and all aspects to be explored via the gothic. And, for organizations, a healthy relationship with the gothic can battle cheery business optimism that can reek of inauthenticity.  

This is a genre that spawns other genres. The first science fiction novel, 'Frankenstein', and the first detective novel, 'Murder in the Rue Morgue', were Gothic. This is evidence of a freedom within the genre that allows it to operate at the border of comprehensibility.

As such, there a type of prophecy that can be achieved through the gothic mindset. Whilst sci-fi might be the tool of organisational futurists, and the detective may be an archetypal figure for the investigative researcher, it is the Gothic that truly holds the potential for the type of radical transformation required today.

Strategy: Go for a walk around a graveyard

Interview questions to help think about 'style'

  • How would you describe your personal style?
  • Which artists, writers, designers or thinkers do you admire? Why?
  • What styles/looks/aesthetics are you into? Why?


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