Newspeak and Waffle

Sounds like a slightly shonky Law or Accounting firm:  ”Newspeak and Waffle – Solicitors”. But no, I’m fired up after reading a self-congratulatory article in “The Adelaide Review”.

Back in the days when Christopher Pearson was speech writer for John Howard, and running  ”The Adelaide Review” between long lunch breaks, you would get a regular and balanced diet of long and thought-provoking articles. He’s moved on and “The Adelaide Review” has become a far more lightweight puff-piece. “The Adelaide Purview” might be more appropriate.

Anyhow, I’m just scanning and reading a few articles from editions back in late 2008. Two things struck me.

Firstly, the series of articles by the “Design” fraternity. This encompasses architecture, interior design, furniture design, and so on. This mob have hijacked and devalued the term “design”. Once a wide-ranging verb (design, a creative act, generally associated with engineering and building of structures, including creation, calculation, verification) the word has now become a noun when applied to the softer how-things-look disciplines. For example, you can design a bridge – which is more than drawing a picture, it requires material selection, and a lot of calculation of loads, stresses, and so on. You can design an electronic whatsit, which involves component selection, and a lot of calculation of currents, voltages, waveforms, timing analysis, and so on and on. But now we have “Design” as a collective which make interiors look nice, draw advertising brochures and so on. Yes they are related. No, “Design” is not ONLY limited to the disciplines who plug it so hard as being their profession. Is it any wonder English is so confusing?

Secondly, though, and worse, is an article about the update to the Adelaide Zoo. I had to read this drivel 3 times and interpret it before I could understand what it meant. It started quite well: the Zoo is getting some giant Pandas and doing an upgrade as well as building a suitable enclosure. Then the article descended into bureaucratic Newspeak, before finally coming back to sanity.

Here are a few of the bits in the middle,  some names are removed to protect the innocent.

Aligned with the South Australian Strategic Plan, Adelaide Zoo embraces cross-institutional and cultural fusion, engaging with the wider urban environment through its unique parkland setting and benefiting the community through significant education, research and conservation practices.

The strategic plan bit just sounds like waffle. Oh-oh, we have FUSION. One point earned in bullshit-bingo. Essentially I think this means: “The zoo tries to be inclusive. It’s in the parklands and we think that’s good. It helps with education, research and conservation.”

XXX has partnered with the Zoo to deliver the project , providing an unrivalled zoo experience through its unique design solutions and innovation. With only seven other zoos in the world accommodating giant Pandas, this is a unique opportunity for Adelaide to showcase the best in zoo design, within sustainable parameters.

Partnered? Really? So XXX is sharing the risks? I don’t think so, last I heard they are an firm of architects. You know, the folk you put on a contract. They take the money, deliver the building design and move on. They don’t take a share of the revenues or share in the losses of the enterprise. Not partners. Contractors. That’s two points in bullshit-bingo.

“Unrivalled zoo experience”. Er, what does this mean? And through unique design solutions and innovation? Pardon? Meaningless waffle. That’s three points in bullshit-bingo.

“within sustainable parameters”. What parameters? How is sustainable defined? Sustaining what? Perhaps the pillars have to sustain the roof? That’d work! That’s four points in bullshit-bingo.

… (more stuff) … The Zoo and XXX undertook a study tour to the United States in December 2007, visiting four giant panda exhibits with a focus on animal husbandry, behind the scenes holding facilities and exhibit design requirements. The tour identified that the unique breeding and behavioural habits of the pandas would require a compelling exhibit that would tell an active story. The Adelaide Zoo exhibit aims to deliver an emotional experience that encourages visitors to leave with conservation in mind and with the tools to participate in further conservation action.

Oh for crying out aloud, spare me. I want to poke my eye out with a fork, it’s more fun than reading this drivel.

So, the architect and zoo staff had a jolly, then waffled on about it. What on earth does a “compelling exhibit mean”? Does the compulsion mean that attendance will be mandatory – perhaps a prison sentence for non-attendance ? “Compelling.” That’s five points in bullshit-bingo. But it gets worse. “Tell an active story”. What? Pure padding. Words to fill the page. That’s six points in bullshit-bingo.

But just when you though things could get no worse, we have “an emotional experience” that gives the visitors “tools”. Do they leave with a spanner? Or a screwdriver?

Where is that fork? My eyes are itching to feel it. That’s seven AND eight points in bullshit-bingo.

But wait, there’s more:

A key design principle has been to encourage an emotive connection between humans and animals…

There’s more, but I’m tired of this shit. I’ve now made nine points in bullshit bingo, and this in only a half-column of the article.

The only thing missing is that they didn’t deconstruct the zoo and rebuild it using a paradigm shift, inspired by right-sizing the nuances after getting in touch with their inner feelings.


Come on self-congratulators, you can do better than drivel like this. Oh, sorry. Come on “Designers” – you can do better. Can’t you?


This is your best blog post ever! You nailed them limp wristed faggoty design types.. they don´t design.. they bullshit.


Comment by Duncan Margetts | March 14th, 2009 4:47 pm | Permalink

Absolutely. Because everyone needs a paradigm shift……..

Comment by river | March 14th, 2009 6:32 pm | Permalink

I love it! It actually sounds as though it was some PR flack/Buzzword Bingo-loving boofhead who wrote the piece and all the Adelaide Review did was (lazily) reproduce it.

I’m working on a piece for The Age called Corporate Crapulence (my title; likely to be ‘edited’). Wanna contribute some of your favourites and also some advice on what a sane, hard-working person can do to avoid the people at work (ie the corporate planners) who insist on the rest of us providing them with regular reports that go nowhere and do nothing except justify their jobs?

Comment by Kath Lockett | March 16th, 2009 6:36 am | Permalink

Hahaha. Nailed.

Comment by Newman | March 16th, 2009 7:30 am | Permalink

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