So Much Jargon

When this semester first started, a classmate said to me: ”I have read the syllabus for three times but still don’t understand what we will learn or do in this class. So much jargon in there; or it could just be the wine I used before reading the syllabus.” Having worked in contexts that contained many of the buzzwords in the syllabus, I said to her: “I think it basically says we will learn trend forecasting, future scenario building, and some story-telling techniques, which will be useful in consulting. Consultancy likes to use jargon.”

Although later I realized that jargon is probably more useful in academia, marketing, self-promotion, or impressing one’s first date (maybe), my reading of the syllabus turned out to be not too off-track. But I still have questions: why did we stop communicating in languages and terms that others could easily understand without having to resort to some website or paper? Is to be understood still the primary intention of communication? Also, when will Google translate have jargon translation?

A couple weeks later, there was one article on transition design in assigned reading. “Transition design? I have no knowledge of it; let me learn what this new field is about!” I was intrigued. One third into the article, I found all concepts proposed familiar. Two thirds in I realized I was probably reading one of those articles again that mix and match existing concepts to generate another “new” term that illustrates the author’s “epiphany” that he was able to reach after burying his head in papers and theories for long enough. A little disappointed, I still managed to finish reading the whole article, only to come to my own epiphany: “I should go very innovative and have my sir-fry with a different sauce today.”

That week in class we had a small venting session on some buzzwords in design field these days that serve the term-creators’ own interests more than anything else. As much as some designers may not like to admit, design field has always been implicitly competitive and explicitly egoistic; everyone wants credit. It might be one of the many reasons why there have to be so many different terms that essentially talk about very similar ideas. Many designers are competing for attention and sometimes those activities are in the name of “social good”; many people are all about being “innovative” these days they forget that as long as a solution can bring desired value to its users it could be as simple as a good cheeseburger.

When I first entered the new age of design I used to endorse some of the jargon too, but in the past year I have been much more concerned with whether my design works have created or will create real value or meaning than weather they appear innovative enough or riding with some trends that might just be fads. I have learned and am still learning to be cautious so that I could possibly stay true to what matters to my heart, so that I would not get lost in glorified but unnecessary activities, so that I could create things that are bigger than myself and my own limitation, so that I would be able to eventually get into something, something meaningful and definitive, something not dishonest or insincere, something not merely from or toward any jargon.

There is so much jargon out there already; the world needs more real design work.

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