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Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

When Paradoxes Are the Normal

When you’re chasing the client’s vision, sometimes it doesn’t matter how fast you run.

You, the designer, are Achilles, hero of the Trojan War, star of the Iliad, and overall mythological stud muffin.

Your client is a tortoise.

Also, your client has a new project. When the project starts, they have a preconceived vision of the end result. Despite their tortoisey speed, this is a head-start. You, the designer, slayer of Hector and legend even in his own time, reads the creative brief and leaps to catch up by executing on your vision of the project.

Somewhere there’s a finish line where your visions align.

But does the designer ever catch the client?

Zeno of Elea was a philosopher and contemporary of guys like Plato and Socrates. He’s best remembered for a set of mathematical paradoxes (known as Zeno’s Paradoxes) that were written to challenge the thinking of the day.

The “Achilles and the tortoise paradox” posits that in a race where the tortoise has a head-start, Achilles will never be able to catch up because during the time it takes him to reach a given position, the tortoise has moved forward again.

Of course, you know that Achilles will pass the tortoise without troubling our brain to math all over itself. But the paradox still forces you to pause, dance your fingers in mimicry of two bodies in motion, mumble thoughtfully, glance suspiciously at a turtle, and ultimately shake your head in bewilderment. We can theorize that Zeno excelled at annoying his fellow togas.

With equal confidence, you know that you will catch up to your client and deliver their vision. But during the fervor of the race, when the client keeps shifting positions and you keep scrambling and the finish line isn’t even a blur on the horizon, paradoxes become the normal.

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