Thought Leaders
2 min read

Thought Leaders

I just read an article about Angela Merkel's hands.

Specifically, the semiotics and symbolism around Ms. Merkel's hands.

It wasn't written in a magazine; nor in an academic journal; nor on a blog. It was published by the Flamingo Group, a 'global insight and strategy' organization. They list their specialties as cultural intelligence, semiotics, digital forensics, and insights... something that wouldn't feel out of place in a philosophy classroom (or a William Gibson novel).

Today I've also read about new frontiers and technologies in emergence, browsed datasets charting relationships between app usage and consumer behavior, and watched a lecture about the legal and social quandaries of building apps with powerful psychological stimuli.

I found those on a corporate blog, via publicly available app data, and again on a corporate blog.

More and more, we're seeing corporate blogs and brand communications openly publishing and advertising the type of content that would have once been limited to universities, academic journals, and R&D labs at megalithic corporations (IBM, Bell). Philosophy, ethics, and the science are moving to the forefront of how a brand communicates with customers. That content outlives and outsells traditional advertising, and is a tremendous source of added value to the brand that publishes it.

Is this a sign of the irrelevance of academic publishing, or the sign of the importance of intelligent, ethical conversations between corporations and society?

Does this mark the shift of young, socially minded scientists choosing to work in business, instead of in research labs or academia?

Or perhaps a subtle subversion orchestrated by grad students with philosophy degrees being hired as communication and content strategists?

I think there is a seismic shift happening in how brands and companies communicate, and what values they bring to the table. (A new understanding of 'thought leadership'?) I personally no longer turn to academia when I need relevant, information. Nor do I turn to the products of the ivory tower when I need to understand the significance and subtlety around events and ideas.

Maybe I aught not to be surprised. My own work deals with using research, ethics, and philosophy to understand and create for the world. Regardless, I'm happy to continue seeing the crossover trend between philosophy and business.

Gibson x Nike. CC 2015, Roman Design Co.
Sontag x Leica. CC 2015, Roman Design Co.
McLuhan x Deisel. CC 2015, Roman Design Co.


  1. "The Evolution of Angela Merkel"
  2. Another public example of choosing 'not to publish traditionally' is Jan Chipchase: design researcher and all-around-innovator. His rational: "A lot of rich qualitative user research loses its soul by the time it's been squeezed into conference and journal submission formats and - with the exception of published patents work involving concept generation - tends to remain confidential."
  3. Potential Philosophy x Brand crossovers. CC 2015, Roman Design Co.