As Zvi spoke, I furiously took notes in my trusty blue Moleskin, because nearly everything he had to say was applicable to communication. Turns out that if you’re building an email list, you can learn from someone building tables.
Here are three ways successful communication is like successful furniture design.
1. It must be subservient to the purpose.
Zvi gave the example of how Mongolian life influences Mongolian furniture. Traditional Mongolian homes have hot water piped through the floor to provide heating. To stay close to the source of heat, families sleep and eat close to the floor. Designing chairs in the Western-style, to raise people above the floor, would make no sense in this context.
Similarly, using Twitter to share recipes doesn’t make much sense when Pinterest is much better-suited to the task. Neither does having a Board member as your spokesperson when the CEO or ED has more credibility with your audience.
2. You must know what reaction you want it to evoke
“How do I want my senses to perceive it?” Zvi asked.
I spent a lot of time in my room, so I put a lot of thought into furnishing it. It had to serve its purposes as a place of rest (bed), work (desk and workspace) and storage (bookshelves) but all of these elements had to come together in a style and manner that made the room evoke what I wanted it to. I carefully choose furniture, decorations and lighting to align with my vision of a restful, clean, productive space.
This is the exact care that goes into good communication. How do you want your audience to feel when they look at your website? What language should your newsletter use to convey professionalism, humour, intelligence, or whatever trait/ability you want to demonstrate?
Two conferences, two websites. What do the differences in their colours, fonts, and images convey? On first glance, which are you more likely to want to go to?
3. You will benefit from finding inspiration in unexpected places.
Zvi's store is “mostly” Danish because there are some other influences too. He loves the simplicity and ingenuity of Chinese furniture, and draws inspiration from Chinese design for his Scandinavian furniture.
“You can get to your destination in many ways,” Zvi said. I agree.
Good communicators find inspiration from unexpected places. In your communications, surprise your audience by making connections they have never considered. Use creative metaphors. Relate your work to work done in an entirely different field.
Tackle topics and describe your work in ways that will make you stand out. What can your business learn from Lego? What does your audience have in common with astronauts? How is a charity like a football team?
Read widely. Scan the news. Attend events that have nothing to do with your organization. Talk to people outside your field. You’ll find inspiration lurks in unexpected places — like at a lecture on furniture design.