HOW TO BEAT THE BULLSHIT
MATT BAXTER AND KATE VAN DER BORGH REVEAL HOW TO STRIP OUT UNNECESSARY EMBELLISHMENT AND EXPRESS YOUR IDEAS CLEARLY
According to Matt Baxter, bullshit is endemic – and we’re all guilty of it to some degree. “Bullshit in briefs means the problem isn’t clear, so it can’t be solved accurately,” he begins. “Bullshit in creative work means the work risks failing to connect with its intended audience. And bullshit in our everyday working lives – from emails to meetings – means we don’t communicate our ideas clearly to one another.”
Alongside his sister, copywriter Kate van der Borgh – president of the Writing for Design jury at 2019’s D&AD Awards – Baxter gave an insightful session at D&AD Festival that explored what bullshit means exactly, why it happens, and most importantly, how to cut it out.
Their conclusion was that bullshit is often pretentious, and designed to give a certain impression of the speaker, rather than helping to express what they’re saying. It also lacks any discernible meaning or value: it doesn’t convey useful information or help you achieve a task. Finally, it isn’t concerned with showing reality accurately.
With this in mind, the duo explain, classic manifestations of bullshit include the following: “Using big words to sound clever; talking in the abstract and refusing to get real; and not caring about reality.”
So exactly how do you beat the bullshit? Simple: just do the opposite. “Use real everyday language, not artificial business speak. Make big ideas real, by talking about people and action. And be honest. Really, really honest,” they conclude.