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communications

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thoughts iconic

Sticking my head above water here for a few minutes to note a particularly interesting initiative that came across my desk: The Noun Project.

As far as I can tell*, The Noun Project is a sort of marketplace where anyone can access and upload icons from designers around the world. And they do appear to be limited only by the imagination: in a one-minute scan of the site, I saw icons for hand dryers, a man summiting a mountain, needle-nose pliers, and a "paleo muffin." 

For the most part, this strikes me as an advancement for humanity, and one with particular relevance to development, where we're often dealing with language and/or literacy barriers. There's no guarantee, of course, that these symbols will be universal (as anyone who has ever tried to Pictionary their way through a foreign market can attest), but they obviously have a lot more potential to be understood. For the most part, a person looks like a person looks like one of those bathroom door icons. 

What might be more interesting in the long term, however, is the impact of this communication shift on our actual thought processes. These icons have the potential to turn our brains lazy, I'm afraid, with the shorthand that they provide - but they also provide semiotic layers that words can't necessarily. (To cite one example, some friends and I have lately become fascinated with a particular set of "stickers" on Facebook that features the incredibly strange Sunny Eggy,** which is a character with a fried egg for a head. Somehow, the exuberance of an egg yelling "Good Morning" sometimes conveys my feelings better than the words themselves. And yes, I am being totally serious.)

For a glimpse into this future, I suggest you watch this video. Note: a brief part of it is mildly NSFW, but nothing serious.

Eventually, perhaps we will all find that the English language is no longer sufficient to express the complexities of our thoughts. Just like Gina. Now that is a consequence worth assessing.

(H/t An Xiao Mina for the Noun Project link.)

 

*Note to site designers: the "About" page is pretty difficult to find. I did, but it took some effort.

**Fun fact: I was discussing these stickers with a friend who's based abroad, and she expressed fondness for them too. Subsequent discussion revealed that we were actually talking about two DIFFERENT sets of stickers featuring eggs, which is either a testament to human ingenuity or a sign that we need to destroy the Internet.

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but are we all Aztecas, really

More on the World Cup. (I realize that I'm stretching relevance here, but: marketing + international relations + it's my blog.)

Among the many, many things that fascinate me about the World Cup is the creation of team slogans. Partly because they reflect the event's ability to create a (somewhat) equal ground for countries that otherwise differ dramatically in global power, and partly because they are awesome.

The Washington Post did a pretty good roundup of the slogans, but I beg to disagree with a few of them. For example:

 

  • Australia: "Socceroos: Hopping Our Way Into History!"
    • Washington Post says: C+
    • Hillary says: A-. How can you not admire their commitment to something so profoundly dumb? Also, it's kind of fun, and games are supposed to be fun, the last time I checked.
  • Cameroon: "A Lion Remains a Lion"
    • Washington Post says: A- ("smacks of laziness")
    • Hillary says: A++++++. This is arguably the toughest and most menacing slogan I have ever heard, for anything.
  • Chile: "Chi Chi Chi Le Le Le! Go Chile!"
    • Washington Post says: B+
    • Hillary says: D. I'm pretty sure that this is just a thing you say, and not a slogan per se.
  • Ecuador: "One Commitment, One Passion, Only One Heart, This is for You Ecuador!"
    • Washington Post says: B (too earnest)
    • Hillary says: B-, for different reasons. I am actually a big fan of their sincerity, but much like Chile's "slogan," I don't think this one really qualifies. I mean, look at its length alone.
  • Ghana: "Black Stars: Here to Illuminate Brazil"
    • Washington Post says: B, for cheese
    • Hillary says: A+. It references the nation both symbolically and literally (black star on the flag), and it factually describes the behavior of stars. Plus it strikes a nice balance between being threatening and being terrifying. They're not going to eat you, like Cameroon! They're just going to show you how it's done. They'll show you the light. The black star light.
  • Greece: "Heroes Play Like Greeks"
    • Washington Post says: D, although they admit bias
    • Hillary says: Are you kidding? A++. It's not as breathtakingly baller as Cameroon's slogan, but it's in the same arena. Bonus points for the mythological allusion.
  • Mexico: "Always United, Always Aztecas"
    • Washington Post says: B+
    • Hillary says: D. First of all, why does Mexico get credit for its historical reference, when Greece does not? Secondly, this is not even accurate, as there were a multitude of pre-Columbian civilizations in Mexico, including the Toltec, the Mixtec, the Purepecha, and the Maya, all of whom could very well have been good at soccer. We don't know, because colonialism. And now we're even erasing them from our team slogans. 
  • Netherlands: "Real Men Wear Orange"
    • Washington Post says: C-
    • Hillary says: B. I don't know, I kind of like it. There's another historical callback in there, and also orange is not a color that America traditionally associates with masculinity. 
  • Portugal: "The Past is History, the Future is Victory"
  • Russia: "No One Can Catch Us"
    • Washington Post says: B+ (basically: too soon)
    • Hillary says: A, for chutzpah. Also, it's short and descriptive, which is how a slogan should be. (Are you listening, Ecuador?)
  • South Korea: "Enjoy It, Reds!"
    • Washington Post says: B-, for reduced expectations
    • Hillary says: B. They really nailed the essence of most of the English that gets translated from Korean - technically clear, but still a little puzzling.
  • Uruguay: "Three Million Dreams...Let's Go Uruguay"
    • Washington Post says: B+, because it accurately reflects Uruguay's overall position coming in
    • Hillary says: B+, but again, this is a concurring opinion. I like that it sums up the World Cup's importance as a global stage. But "Let's Go [team]" is not a slogan. I don't know how many times I have to say this. 

Anyway. I do agree with the Post that America's slogan ("United by Team, Driven by Passion") is stupid and probably better suited for a Chevy truck commercial. How about "At Least Our Country Is Kind of Paying Attention This Time"? Another option: "We're Still Not Calling It Football." Team USA, if you're listening, I am available as a brand consultant. Just saying.

 

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