Artemy Lebedev

§ 125. Facts

December 15, 2005

Russian designers are strikingly like Russian journalists, in that both don’t care for facts. Finding out the original source, making sure the quote is correct, checking whether the guess is right are all routine but utterly unwanted operations.

A person with a thing to say shall bear with others if they have a different opinion. This forbearance goes all the way to letting others err whenever they will.

The first thing a journalist does having taped your words on a voice recorder is putting on a cloak of a poor literary editor and rehashing your words. “Board member” in your direct speech gets replaced with “a top manager” as easily as if he were editing his own diary. A designer does just the same thing: he doesn’t give a damn for how many buttons there might be on a jacket sleeve. He wouldn’t look it up in the first magazine ad he can get: that’d be fact checking. A journalist is content with the information he or she obtains from the top ten links of Google search results, because he or she wouldn’t know there’s the second ten. A designer goes to Getty Images and is happy to see the pics posted on the first page, because he’ll never shoot anything near that beautiful, and it’s all yours—wrapped and ready—for the taking.

A journalist quotes an article (without specifying the source) published by another journalist who overlooked the date April 1 in small print in the material he had based his insights upon. A designer borrows a logo for a banner without considering the fact that the latter was posted as an exhibit in a collection of spoofs.

A journalist doesn’t give an ear to his partner, a designer—to the customer, although these sometimes talk for much longer than they’d want to, their words falling flat. For a designer or a journalist any job is an improvisation on the theme of given key words.

If you want a confirmation of all of the above descriptions, ask anyone who has gone through an interview with a voice recorder what he or she thinks about the end result. Ask your customers what they think of designers and their associative capabilities.

Housekeeping tip

For example, even very reputable people claim sometimes that the name of Leo Tolstoy’s novel used to be spelt “Война и мiръ” (“War and Peace”). And that once old spelling was abolished, we lost oh so much sense (мiр meaning universe, world, society, as opposed to мир, the antonym of war, both pronounced the same).

What could be simpler than finding out how it really was?

After the Optimus keyboard was unveiled, the author (who conceived the keyboard and penned this section as a sideline) was contacted by a journalist from Wired who asked a few questions. He was followed by a man working as a fact-checker for the same edition who sent a list of facts that needed to be confirmed, corrected, or denied. Unfortunately, the author has never experienced anything like that on Russian soil.

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