Seeing the unobvious: Fed Ex and other visuals

In higher education, we are taught to find meaning and to make sense of “our world”.  We work with data (although described differently by different disciplines).  We analyze and synthesize information.  We look for patterns – we look for trends.  We reconcile differences.  We identify the obvious and even sometimes we are encouraged to look beyond the immediate and the apparent to that which is unobvious.

Images and visuals are a part of our everyday lives.  Sometimes, they are ubiquitous; so much so that we might no longer see the obvious let alone the unobvious.  One visual that comes to mind is the FedEx logo.  The FedEx logo has become a relatively common sight.  It appears on packages, trucks, offices, and websites.  It comes in different sizes, shapes and colors.  And so you ask, why am I writing about FedEx?  (This is not a product endorsement but it does provide a good example).   Brief background.

FedEx logo design

I heard Daniel Pink, bestselling author of A Whole New Mind and Drive, speak at an annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools and would shortly thereafter invite him to VT as the 2006 Distinguished Graduate School Speaker.   Pink argued convincingly that we have entered the “conceptual age” in which the “whole mind” is needed to excel in today’s society.  His more recent work shares some “surprising” insights into what truly motivates us.

There’s much to learn from Pink’s work but a simple story about his son’s observation gives opportunity for reflection about the importance of that which we might not be able to see.  In his presentations, Daniel Pink often shares a story about his son viewing the FedEx truck and describing it as “the truck with the arrow on it”.  In this case, a child’s view reveals that which is obvious to him but not necessarily so obvious to others.

FedEx Home

It is easy to see the obvious (the words FedEx) but until encouraged to do so, we might not see the “arrow” (space between the E and the x).   As readers, we often tend to see and focus on the words and attend less so on the visual representation that appears in the “white” space.  There are many other examples but two are included here.  In the examples below, one can definitely see what is meant to be obvious but the unobvious – the Bronx skyline and the outline of the Australian continent – requires greater attention to the visuals.

Yoga Australia logo design


Our challenge is to have the unobvious become as real as the obvious.