Thursday, August 9, 2007

Rectangles and Lewis Mumford.

If you're in advertising, much of your time is spent thinking of how to fill a rectangle--a rectangle shaped like a spread, or a single page, or a 4x3 screen or, today, more often than not, some oddly shaped rectangle we call a banner.

If you go to Times Square and behold the onrush of messages aimed at you, they're almost all rectangular.

Now I have nothing against rectangles, but the preponderance of them makes me wonder if we have not listened well enough to Lewis Mumford. Mumford, though almost forgotten and almost out-of-print today, was an historian of civilization. How we as a species developed. He was also a big fan of circles and ovals. In fact, Mumford believed (I am simplifying here) that the round shape was responsible for civilization itself. Bowls and baskets were round. They stored grain and carried water. The ability to store and carry made it possible for mankind to settle. We could stop being nomads, stop hunting and gathering and start building community.

OK, it's late for me, I had a rough day and I have another one tomorrow. This post is weirder than I usually get. But maybe if our rectangularity in advertising were supplanted by circularity, connection, and community we would do a better job reaching people. It's less "here's my message," and more, "come, share this with me, help me, join me and build with me." Not sure what this all means. But I do have a call into Lewis Mumford.

1 comment:

peter said...


More prescient than you may know. Pick up Wikinomics by Tapscott and Williams and read it cover-to-cover this weekend. Astounding. Mass Collaboration is going to change everything.