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Spot The AnthropologistEvery Signwriter Should be an Anthropologist!

It’s a classic scenario – a client calls up and announces they need some new signage, could we please come down and help?


At this stage – it’s looking great. Client needs some signs. We make signs. It seems like a perfect match. Let’s just get out there and get it done!

However, what happens next determines success or failure for the job. For a successful outcome, you want to hope your signwriter is also an anthropologist!

Anthropology is a discipline dedicated to understanding others above giving instructions. Antrhopologists are dedicated understanding other people’s lived experience. 

In the modern western world, we’re often extremely time poor and we can tend to rush things. It’s true that in most cases, any decision is better than no decision (see here for more on that), but the balance to that principle is that an effective decision must be based on the relevant information. We’re sometimes very quick to draw a conclusion, so quick that we don’t even hear all the facts before we head into decision making mode.

You will have seen it often in social circles as well. Friends are gathered and the conversation turns to an issue in the news – it could be an event, or a current political debate -  and based only on what someone heard in a radio news snippet this morning, they already have a strong opinion, “I can’t believe they’re doing that! They should be …” and so it goes. 

Most issues in life can be seen from several viewpoints, and there are generally a few things to consider. 

An anthropologist is trained to spend time observing how things really work. Rather than just noting down the rhetoric, an anthropologist will watch to see how people live – what happens on a day to day basis. 

Your consulting anthropologist will attempt to understand the reasons why you might say it’s extremely important to you to be diligent in your work, but then they notice you have a sleep for an hour or so after lunch every day. On the surface, these might seem contradictory behaviours, but by understanding the full picture, your anthropologist will come to learn that in your culture, it is accepted that when the mind is pure, fresh and clear, you can operate at your best. This then explains why diligence at work requires you to take a siesta after lunch and rest during the heat of the day so you can continue on in the afternoon functioning at optimal efficiency.  What at first appears contradictory is in fact a mutually supportive believe and behaviour system. If we are too quick to judge, and we base our opinions only on what we already know, we’d completely misunderstand the situation. Any decisions we made about how to run a business in that environment would be flawed because they only worked from the stated value that diligence at work is important.

To provide good advice, your signwriter should seek to understand your full situation, not walk in quickly and make a recommendation without understanding your business properly. There are a range of issues that might influence how your sign should be designed and produced.

In an ideal relationship with your signwriter, you would expect to develop a relationship over time where your signwriter, like an anthropologist, gets to know your business and understands the range of different things you do. 

You might be a quality oriented business, and it’s important to always present as a premium brand. Of the range of materials and processes available in the signwriting industry you may generally be happy to pay a little more to get a premium quality result. However, within that context, there may be times that the result you need, doesn’t warrant the premium option. Only an anthropologist sign-writer will take the time to understand your culture well enough that they can recommend the appropriate solution for what you need. An anthropologist signwriter will understand you as a client well enough to help you pick the option which is right for you, even if at first glance it might seem to contradict your stated position.

Cyborg Anthropologist

Anthropology now lives in the modern world and so should your sign-writer. It’s worth the time to deal with a signwriter (or an anthropologist) who takes the time to understand your business