Michael Wallis
Founder / Creative Director
@15:55, 04.01.2024

If you hit a wall, or get lost in a complicated problem, drawing a diagram is a great way out of it. I get stuck all the time - diagrams help me move forward. I think it’s because they are a perfect blend of Strategy and Design.

For years, I’ve designed diagrams to help businesses get started on new ventures or define a new direction. So I thought I’d share some - for fun,  to help businesses navigate problems, or to express ideas.  I’ve started with a classic -  the SWOT analysis

New(ish) year. New start
To get a project moving, I challenge you to show me something better than a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats chart :

— It’s four letters and a cross
— Everyone immediately knows what to do 
— All you need is a pen and some paper
— It makes you think 360

If a definition of good design is ‘As much as possible with as little as possible’ then a SWOT is it. Every consultancy has a process or a matrix but a well thought through SWOT analysis can give you 90% of what you need to get going.

If you can’t afford a weapons grade strategist or just don’t want to pay for one, spending a solid few hours with a SWOT will give you really valuable insights and a well rounded view of your USPs, your competition and some early ideas about where to point your marketing.

Diagrams for modern life
I would love to get a diagram as useful as a SWOT out into the world. Something that helps people INVENT or SOLVE faster. Or just understand better the context in which they operate. My top three are:

— SWOT – Get a 360 view really fast
— Boston Consulting Grid - Great for developing roadmaps
— Gartner’s hype curve - Innovators need to know where they are on it

Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not
I’ve been lucky enough to spend my time in rooms with people a lot smarter than I am. Global brands, tech start ups, placemakers, boot makers, bike makers; academics, strategists, investors and entrepreneurs. I’ve learnt something from every one of them and I want to share it. If just one person gets some value from it, or starts a new venture because of it, then it was worth it.

Why should you believe me?

I started out at one of the world’s most influential branding agencies, Wolff Olins. They were on a hot streak post Orange and First Direct and I got to witness them figuring out that they were on to something. Something to do with simple powerful concepts that define and drive businesses.

During my stint at WO I had to spend some time in design gulag. I kind of messed up a project and the Exec CD got grumpy with me for a while, so I found myself working on pitches and proposals for a year. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got to work with a lot of really smart strategists producing lots of diagrams and ‘one-pagers’ that brought strategic thinking into easy to understand diagrams.

And I got a bit creative, introducing better words and pushing at the edges. I remember working on a big Telco pitch, trying to make the (generic) thought about being local and global a more interesting and directional. I suggested intimate - infinite as a more challenging articulation of the same idea. That ended up in a LOT of presentations.

Please show me how I can improve them. Tell me if they are useful or not. Be kind and constructive. I will steal, edit, glue and rehash cliches where appropriate. And keep in mind, the principle of parsimony - Occam's Razor - the simplest explanation is the best one (I know that’s inaccurate but you get the gist).

Alright then…