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November 2012

Downhill from here


We were delighted to find out Disappointments Diary has made it into the Guardian’s Christmas gift guide. No doubt there will be some compensating bad news soon enough.

The diary also sits grumpily at the bottom of the excellent We Made This gift guide

Thanks to everyone who has bought the diary, blogged about it, tweeted about it and generally been supportive.

For the uninitiated, Disappointments Diary 2013 is an appointments diary with a series of disappointing twists. It’s published by Asbury & Asbury, designed by Hat-trick Design and available in no good bookshops – only from disappointmentsdiary.com

Communicashun over-accommodashun, yes?

You will by now have seen the video of Joey Barton being interviewed by the French press (above).

And you will surely have seen the Shteeve McClaren interview from his time in Holland:


Both videos are brilliantly entertaining, but they got me wondering about the motivations behind this evidently illogical way of talking.

It turns out there's a linguistic term for it – communication accommodation. This takes place when any individual consciously or subconsciously adapts their speech pattern to reflect the person they’re addressing. This usually takes place in subtle ways – mimicking the inflection or using similar vocabulary. When speaking to non-native English speakers, you might also slow down and soften your regional accent, in a reasonable and helpful attempt to make yourself understood.

To some extent, this is what Shteeve And Joe Le Barton are doing – speaking more slowly to make themselves understood, and bringing their accents more in line with the accent of their target audience. For all the mockery they attract, there is a sweet and appealing side to what’s going on – they are trying to help.

But in each case, this is clearly an example of communication over-accommodation: adapting your speech patterns in a way that is so extreme that it becomes condescending and counter-productive.

I wonder whether the term ‘communication over-accommodation’ might come in useful in a branding context too. This may be stretching the analogy, but many brands are continually engaged in a form of communication accommodation – adapting their native language to suit what they perceive as the preferences of their audience. While the default position for a business might be to use formal business-speak and insider jargon, the ‘communication accommodation’ instinct rightly leads them to adopt a more informal, accessible tone in their outside communications.

But in so many cases, it goes further than that. From trying to be personal and accessible, brands end up over-accommodating to the point of being condescending and counter-productive. It’s one thing to stop saying “Please find enclosed herewith the information requested”. It’s another to say “Hiya! Look inside me and you’ll find that gubbins you were after!”

I realise this is one of those posts that takes a topical event and says, 'When you think about it, that's a bit like branding, isn't it?'. But it is a bit like branding, isn't it? There are many Joey Barton and Steve McClaren brands out there. Good instincts, bad execution.

Meanwhile, and on a slightly different note, I'm continuing to document the gap between What you think your Tone of Voice is and what your Tone of Voice is. Joe Le Barton is the latest addition at the foot of the page.

Ghost in the machine

A brief post to point you somewhere else.

To coincide with the release of the 2012 Creative Survey, Design Week asked me to write something about creativity, collaboration and the role of the freelancer.

You can read it here.

Dispatching disappointment


An announcement for anyone who’s ordered a diary. Unfortunately, there’s been a slight hold-up in delivery from the printer – we were hoping to dispatch the first 1,000 today, but it looks like being early next week now. Non-ironic apologies for this. But rest assured, if you placed your order before Friday 9 November, your limited edition copy will be going out next week.

If you’ve placed an order since Saturday 10 November or are placing one now, it’ll be a non-limited-edition but nevertheless massively disappointing version. These will dispatch in the first week of December.

This whole thing has been an eye-opener for us. We underestimated the logistical challenge of parcelling up and labelling this many diaries. The picture above shows the youngest Asbury being roped in to help. (If you have concerns about child labour laws, you are right to.) But all the envelopes are printed and ready to go. We just need the diaries to arrive.

Disappointments Diary 2013 is a pocket-sized appointments diary with a series of disappointing twists. Initially produced in a limited edition of 1,000 copies, the diary is now available more widely. It's published by Asbury & Asbury, designed by Hat-trick Design, and available from disappointmentsdiary.com

Sold out and laboriously restocked


A couple of weeks ago, we announced the publication of Disappointments Diary 2013, an appointments diary with a series of disappointing twists, designed in collaboration with Hat-trick Design.

It came in a disappointingly limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies. The site has been open for advance orders, but the bulk won't ship until after 14 November (we're waiting on the main delivery). If you've ordered one, thanks both for the custom and your patience. All 1,000 are now accounted for, including about 25 that we kept back for ourselves.

In a rash and self-defeating business decision, we have now ordered some more. These won't be numbered and therefore come without that carefully contrived limited edition cachet. However, in all other respects, they are every bit as disappointing.

Again, there will be a delay between ordering and delivery. You can place orders any time at disappointmentsdiary.com, but orders placed from today won't ship until after 4 December. Still in good time for Christmas, and certainly for 2013 itself.

If you weakly succumb to one purchasing decision today, make it this one: disappointmentsdiary.com