Stories [What's capturing my attention these days across strategy, design, and more]

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As a proud and prolific doodler, I will be forwarding this article to all future teams. "I'm not ignoring you, I'm just activating my prefrontal cortex reward pathway!".

Key Takeaways:

  • Doodlers are better listeners:
    Doodling while listening increases retention as much as handwritten notes, engaging multiple senses to encourage information synthesis

A masterful combination of long-form reporting and digital design. Though not a cheery portrait, it illuminates many of the oft-overlooked systemic forces undergirding why terrible millennials like me are "killing" every industry, from diamonds to cereal.

 

Even if you don't have time to read the whole thing, take a second to scroll through and admire the UX.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Millennials are misunderstood:
    "This is what it feels like to be young now. Not only are we screwed, but we have to listen to lectures about our laziness and our participation trophies from the people who screwed us."

     

  • Millennials are still reeling from the '08 recession: 
    "Every recession creates cohorts that never recover." As the economy has rebounded from 2008, more recent grads gobbled up entry-level jobs, leaving a displaced cohort who graduated a few years before. "Over 10 years, the typical ’09 grad could earn up to $58,600 less than the typical ’07 grad." And if you didn't go to college prospects are even worse, with unemployment rates x3 as high.

     

  • Jobs aren't what they used to be:
    Jobs aren't only being outsourced overseas. 40% of formerly reliable careers have been "domestically outsourced" into contract work, resulting in a 40% pay cut and elimination of benefits. Thus, millennials have more collective medical debt than boomers, and 26-34yo's have the highest uninsured rate.

     

  • Poverty is not a state, it's a process:
    "We often think of poverty in America as a pool, a fixed portion of the population that remains destitute for years. In fact..poverty is more like a lake, with streams flowing steadily in and out all the time...Between 1970 and 2002, the probability that a working-age American would unexpectedly lose at least half her family income more than doubled."

     

  • Then there's the housing market...retirement accounts...and healthcare OH MY! :(

I always look forward to Fjord's annual rundown, but was especially struck by trend #2 dealing with our evolving relationship with digital currency ("Money Changer$"). While the rest insightfully encapsulates key movements in the strategic landscape, this one really blew my mind, showing how something I use every day was fundamentally shifting how I interact with the world.

Also loved the grafitti-collage aesthetic, which summoned AIGA's Eye on Design take from last year about how we are moving away from the ubiquity of sharp, bold, sans-seriff logos and design (ie - everything from Glossier to Google) into a softer, more organic era.

Key Takeaways

  • Money isn't just money anymore:
    For decades, credit cards have accustomed us to non-physical currency. But digital is fundamentally different. "In this evolution, money can carry other information with it and represent multiple forms of value that aren’t national currencies."

    "Imagine money units with different layers of value on top of unit price...it could carry increased value for certain groups of people – the equivalent of a membership card discount but baked into the money unit itself. If a person’s bank knows their age or status as a student, and can embed this (anonymized) in their money, why should they need to prove these facts when buying travel? ...Imagine if each donation left information in your bank account that unlocked discounts on shops near the point of donation? 

    << Barry's brain exploding>>

     

  • Are all interactions transactions?
    "New digital currencies will come...Our relationship with money will become even more abstract and our transactional experience will become absorbed into social interactions. This might mean that you can effortlessly add “value” (like an emoji) to a photograph you share with a family member on social media – this could be a payment but also might be a Deliveroo voucher. "

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Am I interested in construction? Not particularly.

Am I bullish about AR? Medium.

 

So why has this 200 word article stayed with me for almost an entire year​? As sectors from education to manufacturing struggle to monetize AR, this seemed like such an elegant and powerful solution. It not only makes the the bricklayer's work and training regimen much simpler, it also empowers basic artisans with the tools to make incredibly intricate structures for all of us to enjoy. 

Much has been written about how technology will take all our jobs. And it might. But this was a beautiful illustration of how humans partnering with tech can achieve what neither could in isolation. 

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MARIANNE (Netflix)

The first 5 episodes are jam-packed with unique shocks and scares in this story of a witch possibly conjured by a series of books. Admittedly, it meanders a bit towards the end, but manages to land a super satisfying finale.

The french cast is remarkable, elevating horror beyond schlock into real human drama and featuring great lady bangs.

 

Plus, the subtitles keep me off my phone.

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DOLLY PARTON'S AMERICA (WNYC)

I've never been a country music kinda guy, but still have always been incredibly drawn to Dolly.

Turns out I'm not alone. Now in her 5th decade of touring, Dolly's under-50 fanbase has inexplicably exploded in the past 10 years. 

This series covers her life and rise to fame, her uniquely broad appeal, her delicate relationship with politics, and her unbelievably prolific catalog of music.

Jad Abumrad (of Radio Lab, admittedly never my favorite) sometimes meanders too far into his personal biography, but episode 3's exploration between Appalachian folk music and traditional musical idioms across the Middle East and Africa is super worthwhile.

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ALL OF US (by Labrinth)

If you watched Euphoria on HBO (also recommended), you know this song.

Wait for the gospel choir to drop.

Just. You. Wait.

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ARIZONA (by Ms. White)

"How come I don't have the code to your front door by now" may be the question of our time.

Features some NSFW lyrics. Sorry Mom.

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I first encountered this music piece as a podcast, and admittedly it does lose something in its original print format without the seamless audio integration. Regardless, Wesley Morris is a treasure and brings fresh and vital scholarship to conversations around cultural appropriation. ​

Key Takeaways:

  • Music isn't black or white: 
    "Americans have made a political investment in a myth of racial separateness, the idea that art forms can be either “white” or “black” in character when aspects of many are at least both...interracial collaboration conducted with dismaying ranges of consent."

     

  • The roots of improvisation? Slavery:
    "Particular to black American music is the architecture to create a means by which singers and musicians can be completely free, free in the only way that would have been possible on a plantation: through art, through music — music no one “composed” (because enslaved people were denied literacy), music born of feeling, of play, of exhaustion, of hope."

     

  • Minstrelsy's role in promoting racism cannot be overstated:
    "But [minstrelsy] also lent racism a stage upon which existential fear could become jubilation, contempt could become fantasy. Paradoxically, its dehumanizing bent let white audiences feel more human...They could weep for overworked Uncle Ned as surely as they could ignore his lashed back or his body as it swung from a tree." Black performers were then required to uphold these expectations, essentially mimicking impressions of impressions of themselves.

     

  • Motown was a reaction to 100 years of minstrelsy:
    "Black men in Armani. Black women in ball gowns. Stables of black writers, producers and musicians. Backup singers solving social equations with geometric choreography. Even now it feels like an assault on the music made a hundred years before it. How radically optimistic a feat of antiminstrelsy, for it’s as glamorous a blackness as this country has ever mass-produced and devoured."