Can you summarize your project in one sentence?

~ 22 November 2006 ~

Rumor has Steven Spielberg prefers to produce movies whose underlying theme can be summarized in just one sentence. “Boy helps alien return home” — can you name the movie?

I can’t find an attribution on the interweb to Spielberg’s penchant for one-sentence summaries, but the idea has merit nonetheless. I often wonder how much more focused our projects, even our clients’ expectations, would be if we/they could summarize a project’s “raison d’ĂȘtre” (reason for being) in just one sentence…

 

21  Comments

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1   Amanda Kern ~ 22 November 2006

Hmmm. Tough one - ET.

I think EVERY type of project would benefit from some great storytelling. If you don’t have “Save the Cat” you need to go get it.

Cameron, the oneliner you’re referring to it actually commonly referred to as a logline in screenwriting - and without it most movies usually never make it to the theaters. I didn’t know that until I read the book. I’m not a screenwriter at all - but I think everyone would benefit from finding a way to tell the audience what it’s all about in one line. A bit of storytelling and witty writing never hurts a project, right!


2   Olof Lönnroth ~ 22 November 2006

It’s not just Spielberg. In hollywood filmstudies you often talk about “high-concept films”, which basically means just this - a highly attractive concept summarized in one sentence. “Snakes on a plane” is a recent example of this (and kind of a parody on the “high-concept” term).

I think you have a great point. But isn’t setting up organizational goals essentially the same thing? I’m a web designer. My “high-concept” or goal, is to create websites that work and are easy to use. My client is a company, and their goal when using my services is to get a good and functional website with which they can reach out to their customers. Doesn’t most projects in fact have a pretty concise goal?


3   Cameron Moll ~ 22 November 2006

Interesting insight, Olof and Amanda.

My “high-concept” or goal, is to create websites that work and are easy to use.

Yes, but a high-level goal such as this — websites that work and are easy to use — is too subjective. Something such as “an invoicing web app whose interface is as intuitive as a desktop application” might be more focused.


4   Rachel ~ 22 November 2006

I think it’s valuable to be able to summarize your project or objectives in a sentence just for your own focus and understanding. If you don’t understand your project’s objectives well enough to put it that simply, or it’s too complicated to distill down to that level, then you need more planning and focus.


5   Joshua Lane ~ 22 November 2006

I think it’s because the focus has typicaly been on the “Mission Statement” or “elevator pitch”… something that is usually several sentences long. That being said, if you ask a client to shorten it to just a sentence, then you get stuck in “tagline” world… which can be its own problem.

Perhaps it could be a simple “In one sentence, how would you tell an 8-year-old what the site does?”


6   Cameron Moll ~ 22 November 2006

Tagline issue - yes, that can be a problem, as well. I go back to idea of a raison d’etre. It’s something I’ve been including in my project briefs for some time now, and it tends to be a great way to summarize the point of the project in typically 15-25 words; no sales pitch, no fluff.


7   Kevin Shoesmith ~ 22 November 2006

Extend this one-line advice to your business. Can you describe your business in one simple sentence?


8   Mike Papageorge ~ 22 November 2006

We came up against a situation that needed “dumbing down” the other day where we had to step back from a too many cooks in the kitchen syndrome.

Lots of “do this” and “do that” and no “why”.

In the end we focussed back to the main purpose which was a one liner. I think the result, if not excellent :), will at least have had a ~tangible purpose that we can reflect on and adjust if necessary.

One liners, added to the arsenal :-)


9   Greg ~ 22 November 2006

Extend this one-line advice to your business. Can you describe your business in one simple sentence?

Here’s what I’ve been using for about a year now and it does the job: Airbag Industries, LLC is a consultancy that aids businesses with their Internet related concerns.


10   Thomas Aylott ~ 22 November 2006

Crazy Egg helps you visualize your visitors.

Hmm… sounds a bit vague ;)


11   Blake ~ 22 November 2006

“Save money.”

Unfortunately that’s their goal.


12   John Lampard ~ 23 November 2006

It’s a common enough concept. I do a little freelance article writing and when I was starting out an established writer/mentor told me I should be able to summarise the gist of any article, whether 500 words long or 5000, in ten words or so. In other words, one sentence.


13   Kenzie ~ 23 November 2006

I took a journalism class that taught reducing redundancy in sentences. If you can understand a sentence without a word, take it out.

In other words:
If you don’t need it, leave it.

In fewer words:
Don’t need it? Leave it.

In fewest words:
Less is more.

:)


14   Shay ~ 23 November 2006

This is a very important aspect for any kind of work. Summarizing allows us to get the big picture out there and add perameters to the project.. fantastic point.. thanks for your insight.


15   njyo ~ 23 November 2006

This reminds me of some really wise words I heard from a friend doing computer science, management and learning:

If my student cannot summarise the thesis in one sentence it means to me that he/she has not understood the topic yet.


16   Thomas Holmes ~ 24 November 2006

Hi Cameron

The last few days I have been trying to come up with practical one-liners to help give me direction in work each day.

For example, I have been on a website usefulness buzz since reading a recent wisdump post. So a goal for my work is ‘to make the website a little bit more useful each day’.

It being a one-liner and it being practical helps make it something that can be done bite by bite.

We’ll see if it works!


17   Somebody Else ~ 25 November 2006

Authentic Boredom is the platitudinous web home of Cameron Moll.
Given its placement at the top of www.cameronmoll.com I guess that it’s your summary of this project, although I’m not sure why it disappears as soon as you navigate away from index.html. Perhaps it isn’t the summary of this project.

Is it?


18   Shawn Blanc ~ 25 November 2006

This is great.

I am always complicating things as the design progresses. Keeping a simple, focused, detailed vision is a great way to not over clutter and get messy.


19   Phil Crosby ~ 27 November 2006

You mean like a tagline?

Skype’s is “With Skype you can talk to anyone, anywhere for free.”


20   Cameron Moll ~ 27 November 2006

Given its placement at the top of www.cameronmoll.com I guess that it’s your summary of this project, although I’m not sure why it disappears as soon as you navigate away from index.html. Perhaps it isn’t the summary of this project.

That text is there primarily for SEO purposes. It’s repeated in the sidebar on article pages (but not the home page), and therefore it’s not necessary beyond the home page.

You mean like a tagline? Skype’s is “With Skype you can talk to anyone, anywhere for free.”

No. Taglines are often riddled with marketing speak. Skype’s is nearly marketing fluff-free and probably doubles as a one-sentence summary in this case.


21   jh ~ 14 January 2007

you are boaring




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