In the design consulting world, we’re accustomed to words like ‘Strategic innovation’, ‘qualitative and quantitative analysis’, ‘research synthesis’, and ‘concept ideation’. So much so, in fact, that it’s easy to forget just how pompous we sound to the rest of the English speaking world. The next time your significant other says “Honey, we really need to repaint the kitchen,” try responding “Let’s have a creative emergence session to highlight opportunities for innovation in the domestic culinary arts sector!”

And the next time you lapse into yet another chorus of ‘good design will save the world’ with a group of would-be friends, remember that while the smiling-nodding heads seem to support your conclusions, their internal soliloquies are saying “Sure, you color-coded the measuring cups. That’s a cool idea and all, but calling it a “strategic innovation” might be taking it a bit far. And how exactly does that ‘saving the world’ thing play into it?”

Maybe I’m just jaded. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using words – that’s why they exist. And to anyone who knows me, I’m as guilty of big-word abuse as any big-word-user-that-ever-used-big-words. There are lots of good reasons to use big words. Sometimes they communicate something really difficult to explain, or function as a place-holder for a larger discussion. Sometimes it’s even useful to intentionally obfuscate a sentence in hopes of forcing the reader to engage more critically in the text. (Damn, I’m doing it again.)

When we work with our consulting clients here at EvD, while our egos doth protest, we do our best to speak in normal human English. That said, we do fail now and then. Next time you hear me try to slip in the word ‘obfuscate’ or, God forbid,’juxtaposition’, please reprimand my flagrant hypocrisy.


Adam O'Hern is an industrial designer, designing products ranging from laptops to power tools, classroom toys to bathroom fixtures, and pro audio gear to guitar tuners. In 2008 he founded, and in 2010 co-founded EvD Media with Josh Mings of, and the two collaborate on the podcast.