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A wonderful pamphlet by S.O.R.T design - The Society of Revisionist Typographers
I’ve been thinking about aphorisms again and why they are such wonderful things.


I’ve been thinking about aphorisms again and why they are such wonderful things.
It was partly because a planner called Mohammed Iqbal at O&M in Bangalore sent me a paper on the power of aphorisms or ‘wisdom literature’ as he calls them.Download file.
He talks about aphorisms as the world’s first information sharing network and ponders why we remember the wisdom encoded in aphorisms but find company intranets so useless.
And then I read David Ogilvy’s ‘Confessions of an advertising man’ in which the aphorisms that David created about this business are all on show from ‘if you pay peanuts you get monkeys’ to ‘why keep a dog and bark yourself?’
And then I came across ‘Heed my warnings’ a beautiful little pamphlet from S.O.R.T Design in Magma, which gives wise words edible typographic treatments including ‘zeal without knowledge is the sister of folly’ – a clear watch out for all of us who blog.
Now, as you know I am not sure about the the aphoristic form in advertising itself (though I recognise many of the brand lines that have endured have an aphoristic form) but rather in the business of advertising – helping to make the ideas we create more attractive and to promote our actions and advice.
Their power is that they deliver a truth or strong point of view in a form that is built for memorability and for repetition and transmission to others.
But having read Iqbal’s paper I realise they go deeper than this.
As humans we are pre-disposed to accept ideas presented in the aphoristic form as truth. Since they were the preliterate means of distributing wisdom (like the folly of eating the red berries or taking the seemingly quick view over the mountains) we invest them with moment, real meaning and truth.
So when Ogilvy says ‘we sell or else’ or S.O.R.T Design repeat wisdom like ‘a smooth sea never made a good mariner’ or Tony Blair says he will be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ we recognise the sense of the advice being given but we also respond to a form of communication that we are pre-disposed to believe.
Handy little things really.

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