The international design firm Pentagram has a storied tradition of creating elaborate, beautifully crafted holiday cards every year. This year, the firm’s card pokes fun at the bane of many a designer’s existence–corporate jargon–with an illustrated seven-verse rap.
Called “Gamechanger: A Cautionary Tale of Corporate Jargon,” the card is actually a 15-page booklet filled with the pretentious argot that’s spread plague-like through the boardrooms of the world. “We have developed a bit of an allergy to corporate jargon,” Marina Willer, who designed the card, tells Co.Design. “People start to overdose on it.”
Working out of Pentagram’s London office, Willer collaborated with Naresh Ramchandani, who wrote the rap, which begins “I’m a gamechanger/I’m a changer of games/A shifter of paradigms/A reframer of frames.” Inspiration for the card came when Ramchandani worked with a man who, on their very first meeting, said the task he wanted him to achieve was “mission critical.” “The task was to add a couple of pages to a corporate site, not to hack through a jungle or to take a ring to a volcano,” Ramchandani writes in his description of the card. “Was it that critical? Well, given that he only had to amend an ‘About’ page, the failure to do so was neither going to halt the ‘mission,’ if that’s what it was, or kill anyone in particular.” The pair starting keeping an ear out for more boardroom buzzwords: “ramp up,” “blue sky thinking,” “big enchilada,” “and “creavate” (huh?), and then spun them into seven verses.
Ramchandani pins down exactly what’s so cringe-inducing about this kind of language: “The trouble with corporate jargon is that it turns our language into promotion,” he says. “As we’re saying things, we’re also hyping the things we say and ourselves as the sayers. It’s words on steroids rather than words with simple meanings. It’s about sounding good, rather than having something good to say.”
As for the card’s design: Willer decided to make it as simple and as unpretentious as possible, in contrast with the language the card skewers. “With a typewriter font and black-and-white hand-drawn illustrations, it’s a little undesigned,” Willer says.
For the blissfully ignorant, the book ends with a glossary of the jargon included (similar to the jargon glossary Co.Design compiled this month). “Not only is it fun to have a glossary, it’s also necessary–half of it even I can’t understand anymore,” Willer says. Her favorite? “When I first heard it, I found ‘open the kimono’ really funny.” (It’s defined as “the revelation of revealing information.”) Pentagram’s hope is that the card will remind readers–and themselves, the designers admit–to cut down on the buzzwords in 2015 and use plain English a little more.