I Think Seth’s Slick is, Sadly, Too Optimistic

I don’t think the world is as easy to deal with as Seth Godin suggests in Slick, posted on his blog a few hours ago. He says that now even small-time individuals can have big-time production values, “gloss for not much money,” by using Kinko’s and Moo cards and so forth. He concludes:

So I guess instead of slick we’re now seeking transparency and reputation and guts.

I wish that were true, but I doubt it. What actually happens is that the bar goes up, as in my invention is the mother of necessity post from a couple of months ago. As gloss becomes available for not much money, everybody has to have gloss. The bar goes up. When slick becomes more accessible, the unslick looks even worse.

If you’re old enough, think back to the middle to late 1980s when desktop publishing became easy: Did we think typed was better? No. We all adopted desktop publishing standards for every damn letter.


  • Susan Nicolai says:

    I generally agree that access to affordable quality production has raised the standards, and that’s mostly a good thing. But there’s another dimension to the “slick/professional” look that you can’t separate from the gloss…that is the design’s fit with the content (does the form enhance the message) which might be getting at the authenticity vouched for by Dallon. There probably could be a case made for why intentionally unslick might work in a certain situation…for example, if you wanted to engage people in an unfinished process or problem, and not present the magic bullet.

  • Dallon Christensen says:

    Tim, I tend to disagree with you more on your post than I agree with you. When I read Seth’s post, I interpreted it as saying slick is now a commodity. When something becomes a commodity, it becomes something taken for granted. Can a business actually become remarkable and noticed by intentionally being “unslick”?

    I think of when it was supposedly cool to wear jeans with a bunch of holes in them (I never considered wearing these, but I know many people did). It was cool to wear something that appeared old and faded. The same can be true in business. If I have the choice between being authentic and being “slick”, I’ll choose being authentic. People will eventually see through the slickness.

    I see your point that professionalism will always be important. However, I think there is an acceptable line between “professional” and “slick”.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Dallon, thanks for the comment, disagreement is so much better for all, it optimizes the value here, for sure. And your comment points out that slick might not be the right word. Slick is too closely associated with sleazy or slimy, something that’s inherently artificial. And if that’s the case, then ugh, who wants it? I’m with you. But what if we called it “having professional-looking production values?” When that gets easy, the bar gets raised, and we don’t get forgiven for lower production values. So we’re not more productive.

  • Jeremy Meyers says:

    Some companies will keep going on the slickness track until it becomes completely unrelatable.

    Others will take cues from the real world, where flipcam vids of cats on keyboards rack up millions of views, and rethink what makes their presentation to the public noteworthy.

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