Two Designers Parody Meaningless Business Jargon

A Load of Jargon thinks outside the box by actualizing corporate speak.

We’ve all been known to slip into meaningless business jargon along the way to efficiently implementing best practices and empowering the organic potential of human capital–whatever that means. This buzzword-filled language is the subject of a new installation called A Load of Jargon, which takes some of the creative industry’s emptiest catchphrases and adds a very literal (and humorous) spin.


Designed by the artist duo Isabel + Helen in conjunction with the design publication It’s Nice That‘s team led by senior art director Jamie McIntyre and The Conran Shop in London, A Load of Jargon takes five of these phrases–“big idea,” “going viral,” “easy win,” “next steps,” and “thinking cap”–and puts a creative twist on them. The empty language of these phrases are made tangible through visual puns: “Thinking cap” becomes a baseball hat embroidered with its purpose; “easy win” is translated into a short, easily dunk-able basketball hoop; “big idea” is made literal in the form of a cheerful inflated ball. While the thinking caps are fairly obvious, the others need the help of a caption for their meaning to become clear (a little like the vague meaning of the phrases themselves).

Thinking Cap

But corporate speak isn’t just funny sounding (and fuzzy in meaning)–it actually can make you less intelligent. According to one study, the words that you use tend to shape how you think about the world–if you use the word “hate” to describe anything you remotely dislike, it may actually increase the numbers of things you do truly hate. When you use vague words and unclear sentence constructions, you don’t have to think as clearly. Giving your brain a shortcut by communicating with confusing language can infect the rest of your team, bogging everyone down with ineffective buzzwords.

The easiest way to stop? Geoffrey James, author of Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know, suggests using a technique he calls “pin the Jell-O to the wall.” “Whenever you hear a buzzword, ask a question that forces clearer thinking,” he explains in Inc magazine. “Asking these questions with a genuine desire to understand (and without snark) will help the other person to clarify his or her own thoughts… to your mutual benefit.”

Perhaps the art pieces will be a catalyst for their target audience to have a little more awareness about the absurdity of business buzzwords. The installation will be on view at the Conran Shop from September 17 through October 30.

[Sculptures: Isabel + Helen. Photos: Benjamin Swanson courtesy It’s Nice That]


About the author

Katharine Schwab is the deputy editor of Fast Company's technology section. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable