The one-sentence summary

Generalizations and force fitting our views onto issues is dangerous, but small tweaks in execution can yield big results.


  • The author is a creative partner at design agency jkr, and runs a daily blog.
  • This is an anthology of 50 or more posts from the last couple of years, covering distinctiveness, technology, words and symbols, integrated communications, sustainability, and effective design practice.
  • These are concluded with an essay on modern synthesis in design.
  • The title is drawn from Vladimir Tretchikoff’s painting Chinese Girl, better known as The Blue Lady, which shifted half a million prints after he painted it in 1952. A modern pastiche represents her ‘new look.’
  • Interestingly there is no reference to the fireman’s adage that the painting is charmed since it is apparently the one always left unscathed after fires.
  • A number of themes emerge:

1.      In marketing, generalisations are dangerous – “very often the opposite of a big idea is a big idea itself” (A. N. Whitehead) – so marketers need to be comfortable with ambiguity.

2.     Negative capability is the skill of resisting the temptation to force fit one’s own view onto complex issues and situations – some things are intrinsically complex and should be acknowledged as such.

3.     Small tweaks in execution can yield big results – a big outcome may not require a big change.


  • The author claims to have posted every working day for two years, which would suggest around 500 posts, so this would appear to be the 10% ‘best of.’
  • Scores of themes are discussed: style versus substance, how to brand if form follows function, the use of archetypes to define brand personality, the implications of augmented reality, and ‘over-choice’ in technology (too many features).
  • This is obviously not a world of pat answers – if anything, the compendium of thoughts raises more questions than it answers:
  • Do limited edition designs add value or squander equity?
  • How do you brand bad news?
  • Is sustainable luxury an oxymoron?
  • Can bad taste make good branding?
  • As ever, the conclusion is usually: it depends…


  • Perhaps unsurprisingly as an anthology it doesn’t have a shape that rolls from A-B, so you might prefer to dip in and out.
  • Although much of the observation is cultural, you need more than a passing interest in design for when the examples become quite detailed.