Be an Inceptor

Today, Tom played the TED talk by Rory Sutherland, Life lessons from an ad man. In many of his other genius observations, he noted that Shreddies was able to change perception of their product through this humorous campaign.

picture of cereal box featuring shreddies combo pack square or diamond

“The interface fundamentally determines the behavior.” -Rory Sutherland

in·ter·face [n. in-ter-feys; v. in-ter-feys, in-ter-feys]  noun, verb, in·ter·faced, in·ter·fac·ing.

1. a surface regarded as the common boundary of two bodies,spaces, or phases.
2. the facts, problems, considerations, theories, practices,etc., shared by two or more disciplines, procedures, or fields of study: the interface between chemistry and physics.
3. a common boundary or interconnection between systems,equipment, concepts, or human beings.
4. communication or interaction: Interface between the parent company and its subsidiaries has never been better.

5. a thing or circumstance that enables separate and sometimes incompatible elements to coordinate effectively:The organization serves as an interface between the stategovernment and the public.

Interface is a fancy word. I daresay, I might have never known it unless I was in graphic design, specifically interested in Interactive (lately, anyways). I am happy to see the definition reflecting what I think is profound about the word: its relation to systems. Interface is the way we communicate to each other. I type in this blog to communicate my ideas to you. From my system of thought, to yours. The blog is the interface. Interface determines when a thing is accessible or confusing.



One of my favorite movies is Inception. The main character, Leonardo DiCaprio, leads a team of specialists to plant an idea in an heir’s mind. They affect that person’s behavior. The heir ultimately divides his inheritance and benefits the Inceptor’s client. As advertisers, or designers for advertisers (is there a difference?), we are also Inceptors. Our interface is not a dream, but a poster, or a billboard or a pop-up ad (ew… gross). And our ideas vary. Sometimes, they are “buy this” or “check out this” but as Tom Lenon (and Leo DiCaprio) says, the best ideas resonate emotionally.



That’s why there are so many funny ads. Sometimes things don’t have to be jokes to be funny. Sometimes, they just have to be a little incongruous, a little surreal to perk our heads up. Tom Lenon showed the class Chocolate Rain. Why is this youtube video so funny? Is it the repeating refrain or is it that Erkel-look-alike Tay Zonday has such a deep and polished singing voice?



There’s a few websites devoted to understanding the underlying reasons for why these things, memes, are so strong that they get passed from one person to another, infecting the culture. See Richard Dawkin’s book, The Selfish Gene for more information on what exactly a meme is. My favorite website for meme info is Know Your Meme. It’s our job as Inceptors to understand what is the best approach to appealing to an audience. It’s not enough for us to by advertising space, billboards and commercials. We have to get our ideas to stick.



By knowing your audience, taking the right approach, finding the right exposure, being sharable, you can be an unstoppable force in the meme pool. For good or for evil, it’s hard to say. Sometimes memes that were once helpful become harmful. As in Christopher Hitchen’s book, God is Not Great, he describes how being Kosher was just a way to check with authority if your food was good to eat. (Their ideas of nutrition were a little uninformed, but you get the idea.) The religion wraps good lessons in myth to reinforce itself. But, you betchya, the fear of God made society cooperate.


You might not be the next Joseph Smith, but you can influence people by inventing larger than life endorsers of your ideas. Tony, the Tiger may not have started any wars, but it sold sugar-covered corn. Yum.


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