When Language Is Art

I’m in the home stretch of my Area-51 project; the big board presentation is tomorrow and the slide translations are complete. It is a shame I’m not able to share them with everyone in advance of the presentation as the native language for Area-51 is, from this American’s point of view, particularly elegant and categorically artistic. That, in combination with the wonderful templates provided by the parent organization (complete with color pallets) have conspired to make these some of the most attractive slides I’ve had the pleasure of constructing. In addition to having the slides prepared by an expert translator, the organization wanted to have a copy of my professional bio translated for board members who do not read English. Although it will have to wait until I return, I’m looking forward to posting the translated bio at my consulting site.

All in all, preparing for this presentation has been a unique experience; not only did it present an opportunity to be more artistically creative but the lack of a single common language among all board members presented an opening to really take a step back and look at how information must be presented. Is it possible to convey complex ideas graphically? Can tone, inflection, and body language substitute for verbal communication? I’m looking forward to finding out.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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1 thought on “When Language Is Art”

  1. Drew – to answer just one of your questions (“Is it possible to convey complex ideas graphically?”) you might want to explore the fascinating books and ideas of Edward R. Tufte, a professor at Yale. He has self-published three award-winning books on information design: “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”, “Envisioning Information” and “Visual Explanations”.

    And none of us should be without his pamphlet “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.”

    Elaine Calder
    President, Oregon Symphony Association

    Many thanks Elaine, I am not familiar with those books but will try to find a way to wedge them into my nightstand reading.

    As it turns out, the presentation and related governance work was a smashing success; having hte dual language slides worked wonderfully and what I thought might be difficult concepts to convey ended up coming across crystal clear and sticking with the board members. I’ll try to find a way to post some details without stepping outside the boundaries of my work agreement.

    Thanks again for sharing those books with readers. ~ Drew McManus

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