A big thanks to Vox for this video and the inspiration.
When NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 (1977) they both had a “golden disc” which contained summaries of life on earth. It held 116 images, greetings in 50 languages, a compilation of earth sounds, 90 minutes of music, and a message from then President, Jimmy Carter.
Right now these spacecraft are in the outer edges of the heliosphere and within interstellar space, still communicating with Earth. In 40,000 years they’ll near a star closer than they currently are to our sun. By the way, it’s moving at 35,000 mph.
We couldn’t help but think of this assignment. Client walks into the office and says, “I have a giant budget to undertake a universal marketing campaign that must communicate the whole of the earth and its inhabitants to intelligent beings that have no knowledge, or understanding of our reality.”
Where do you begin?
If you watch Vox’s video with the Buddhist “child mind” perspective, then it’s easy to see how even the most basic images could be interpreted in really incorrect ways.
In smaller ways we encounter these “people-in-the-know” agents everyday. Go to a hardware store, start talking about plumbing. If you’re a typical homeowner you’re almost immediately overwhelmed. But here’s the magic question – does the hardware store employee approach you like you’re a pro or like the novice you are?
It makes a big difference. It changes the communication style, diction, pacing, and ultimately how that customer / user will buy/not buy your product or heed your message.
It changes everything.
Too many products act like you’re familiar or a daily user. Websites and apps are easy targets for this trait. But that’s just the beginning. Basic client contracts and agreements are indelible examples, too.
Guess what? Most folks are not familiar users, so keep it simple and intuitive. Don’t give me binary code, give me a stick figure.
Same goes for your value-added protein snack, your cheesy-poof, your website you want everyone to visit.
Design for the uninitiated. Design for an alien.
Since we’ll never really know if NASA’s golden disc worked, we’re going to give them full approval for their effort. Though, one thing’s for sure, we would have included The Beatles. Lots of The Beatles.