Sam Morris

Where should we do this?

Mar 30, 2015

Foul Language

List of Shame Illustration

As someone who has tended to work in relatively large companies, start-ups really intrigue me. A smaller closely-knit team with, usually, more focus on a single problem. Sign me up.

Yet every time a job spec surfaces on my screen I’m instantly dismayed by the language used. Disruption, engagement, users, unicorns. All words part of a vernacular that has since escaped the start-up bubble and bled into digital design.

We talk about disruption when we simply mean a new idea in a tired space. Engagement is inhuman shorthand used when discussing whether people enjoy what we make. We talk about our users as if they’re just numbers to acquire. And as for anyone who calls themselves a unicorn…

At University I decided early on that I didn’t want to go into advertising because of the way most agencies talked about their work and those that viewed it. It felt gross, dishonest and elitist. These are words that most people would naturally associate with advertising. Not digital design. At least they shouldn’t

I’m not immune to drawing from this vocabulary myself. However, recently I’ve started to make more of a conscious effort to stop. Starting by calling those that use the Guardian website readers rather than users.

All industries inevitably form their own lexicon but our work is ultimately for the benefit of others. For this reason we should speak as clearly and inclusively as possible. Call me naive, but I believe a more humanistic approach in discussing problems will show in the solutions we choose and build. And that’s something everybody can understand.

Unicorn illustration by Pieter J. Smits from the Noun Project

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