Why going unnoticed could be the best outcome for your business

March 5th, 2018


A few months ago I was lucky enough to spend an evening with no-nonsense conservation crusader and broadcasting legend Chris Packham. Well, me and a town hall full of my closest friends. He was talking about nature photography and in particular his enthusiastic use of bokeh. I was enraptured, not only is Chris Packham one of my favourite things, but, unbelievably, so is bokeh! Let me share the love (about bokeh at least) for those of you I’ve lost already.

Bokeh is the way a camera lens renders out-of-focus points of light. Look at the lovely overlaid mosaic of blurry circles made by sparkles across the surface of the river in Ray Hennessy’s cormorant photograph above. Bokeh is joyful and its joy is two-fold. The first joy is probably for photographers only because being able to create bokeh just where you want it demonstrates that you are pretty accomplished at this photography lark. The second joy is more universal and perhaps even magical… this joy is that, rather marvellously, everyone finds bokeh pleasing. Good bokeh makes a photograph visually appealing; we are subconsciously attracted to its pleasant glow. But, and here’s the magic bit, it is not that we actually look at the bokeh (unless you’re me and Chris), quite the opposite in fact, bokeh draws our attention in a lovely, warm cosy way to the thing that is in focus. So we simultaneously see and don’t see it. If I were the Dalai Lama this would be the sort of paradox I would laugh out loud at. I find this generous vanishing act so appealing because it exemplifies the essence of successful information design.

Bringing design, content and purpose together as interdependent parts of one discipline, the best information designers will leave your project looking compelling, with motivated content and excellent structure – attracting the right people and directing their focus to the right places. Sounding familiar? If the design is unnecessarily tricked up, the content convoluted, processes flabby or customer journeys meandering then the wrong things will be being noticed and well – that’s not bokeh, it’s not good enough, the Dalai Lama won’t LOL and Chris Packham will probably cry. Don’t make my new best friend cry.

To achieve successful outcomes, it’s imperative for every business to be noticed for the right things, making sure you’re confident about what’s not being noticed is a great indicator.


  1. A short blog, but a gem. I’ve learnt a new word. And it made your point come to life brilliantly. The cormorant picture is joyous.

    by: Caroline Bennett on 6th March 2018 at 12:00 pm


    • Thanks Caroline, I feel like I’m a character in The Fast Show – but isn’t bokeh great? What I didn’t mention is that the best bokeh is created by the most expensive lenses, I guess it’s the analogy that keeps on giving!

      by: shaell on 6th March 2018 at 2:22 pm


  2. I’m loving this on so many levels. First of all the photo. Secondly the word ‘bokeh’. Thirdly, the fact that you think so deeply about all these things and you don’t just do things in the fastest, least effort way.

    I feel there must be a word for the opposite of ‘bokeh’, which I would put firmly in the court of the random pop-up advert that appears when you are trying to find information. That unwelcome, random, pop-up advert creates agitation of the mind, distraction, leading you away from your focus to nothing of any interest – the very antithesis of ‘bokeh’.

    Moving away from pop-ups and back to Bokeh…. Bokeh, seems to represent things that the public may not see, or may not be meant to see, but are as important as what does get seen, for example, the work and thought that has gone into something. Is that what you are eluding to in your last sentence, or have I gone off down a different path?

    by: Ann Rappaport on 6th March 2018 at 9:50 pm


    • Fantastic comment Ann, thank you and for the compliment, deep thinking seems to be rather unfashionable these days, so, ironic as this will sound given the title of this post, it is lovely to have it noticed!

      There’s an awful lot of ‘opposite of bokeh’ around isn’t there? In fact sadly, there are whole industries thriving on creating it! And you’ve absolutely followed my thought path correctly with your final assumption – I was on the cusp of saying to a client a few weeks ago ‘and when we’re finished, neither you nor your clients should be able to see what we’ve done’ – imagine the blank faces! Equally trying to show a potential new client examples of our work is often difficult without saying ‘you should have seen it before’! We like to encourage clients to measure responses and invite feedback (without creating an ‘opposite of bokeh’ experience of course) in effect this measuring of what we’ve done highlights what is not being noticed, although usually the client doesn’t notice that, they just notice a continued confidence in the solution. Seeing and being seen is a complex business!

      by: shaell on 7th March 2018 at 1:53 pm


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