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"Make it Pop": The Fast Path to Losing Your Creative Team's Attention

It’s ironic that we work in an industry that prides itself in communicating complex and creative ideas in a simple way, yet fall prey to a deluge of dire verbal shorthand, denigrating the ability to concisely convey meaning.

Take for instance my least favorite phrase in the industry: "Make it pop." It is my Kryptonite, the red flag to the bull in my creative head, the Bane to my Batman.

Over time, I’ve heard it used to mean "give it more emphasis," "the color is not saturated enough," "it needs a stronger visual element," or a variety of other things which clearly had little to do with "popping" (to suddenly break open, make a sharp noise, or to cook as in "popcorn"). Some will — indefensibly, in my opinion — stand on the "pop of color" argument, but I’d encourage them to open a Merriam-Webster’s dictionary and find that usage.

It’s a cliché wrapped in the guise of informed communication, as if making it “pop” were some absolute axiom allowing poor design to pivot at the mere mention of the word. I’ve heard it from account people, strategists, multiple unsolicited “opinion givers,” and most unforgivably — design gods forgive them — designers, copywriters and creatives.

The worst result is behavior that fosters a culture of self-talkers, speaking in code that appears market savvy but is without substance. It makes an assumption that the listener somehow derives universal meaning from the statement, but in most cases, leaves the utterer of the phrase unable to articulate any intelligent direction to follow up. This verbal shortcut impedes the briefing process, damages our ability to present cohesive and creative work to our clients, and, even worse, degrades our ability to properly dissect and solve a problem with well-crafted language.

End of the world? Maybe not. But please, don’t ask me to "pop" anything but a bubble or balloon.

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