Design by Comparing Opposites

In my podcast episode, Write While True Episode 7: Find Your Voice, I tried to express an idea that I find is useful in a lot of contexts. There are some choices where you are trying to make something specific or differentiating—in those cases, one way to know that you’ve done it is to see if the opposite choice is also reasonable.

In this case, I was talking about trying to find my “voice” in the podcast—what makes it mine and not generic. I recommended Joanna Wiebe’s video on voice and tone.

But, I cautioned against a voice that was “smart”. I said:

I actually don’t think smart is a good choice because the opposite of smart is very rarely appropriate. Everyone would choose to sound smart.

When you have a generically positive aspect that you want (like smart), a useful technique is to consider opposing ways to achieve it.

I recommended considering the choices of “expert” or “fellow learner” instead of smart. Both voices might be smart, but they are specific, opposite, and both are reasonable.

This is also a good technique in job seeking. It’s easier to find what you want if it’s not something that everyone would claim to have.

Sending a clear signal that “this is not for you” is the only way the people that it is for will recognize it.