The Theory of the Hairy Arm
I do some freelance writing for my local papers, and I've found that the hairy arm is a useful tool. I've learned that with some editors I should insert a throwaway paragraph that is either redundant or can be easily edited for clarity. That allows them to feel as though they have done their job and are really in control, and keeps them from mulching up the rest of the story.
Most of the time I understand the needs of the ego and the desire for credit so I just let it go -- but there are still times that it truly amazes me. Thanks for putting this story into words that we can all relate to and use in the future.
I was intrigued to read the inSANity column The Theory of the Hairy Arm. A similar story is part of the folklore at Hallmark.
Before a greeting card is judged complete and sent on to manufacturing, the artists have to bring their work in front of a committee. According to legend, there's an artist who always adds something distorted -- a flower or tree or something wrong in some way -- to help get his work past the committee.
Then, after the design director tells him to change that stupid thing, his work is approved.
I just read San's inSANity column, "The Theory of the Hairy Arm." I've been doing design for about four years now, and friends of mine (designers and other professions) would usually ask me why I always have this out-of-whack element or variable in my layouts. You know, just something that doesn't seem right. So I'd always say something like "Oh, this is just to keep them on their toes" or "If they pick this one, I know for sure where this project's gonna go from here." You can't imagine the ear-to-ear smile that came over my face while reading San's column, because up until now, I hadn't met anyone yet who understood or employed this method of madness (or at least no one who would admit it). And alas here I am, ten minutes after reading the story, still grinning with a sense of validation and humor.
I accidentally discovered your webzine... I don't even remember how. The first article I read was San's inSANity column about the Hairy Arm Theory. HATS OFF! This well written, witty article opened my eyes a bit, for I have been known to take things a bit 'personal' in the past. It's the Artist in me that overrides the Professional.
Thanks thanks thanks! I'm passing the word around... your site has my full attention.
Can't wait to delve deeper, but had to speak my mind now before I put it off and forget.
Thanks again... such a pleasure.
I just discovered your zine after reestablishing my relationship with Aquent. Once upon a time, I worked on an in-house video production team. We very quickly discovered the value of the hairy arm, in a slightly different context.
You see, the area where we gave our presentations to the client was also our editing suite. If you've ever been in an editing suite, you know there are usually several large pieces of equipment literally covered with buttons, switches, sliders, and knobs. We created a modification to one of our consoles, which increased productivity dramatically. We called it "The Client Button."
Whenever a wannabe editor/middle-management type came to preview the tape for their project, we inevitably got a response like "The image seems a little hot," or "Can we highlight his face a little?" We would cheerfully respond in the affirmative and reach up during playback and tap the Client Button a few times.
Tap tap, "Uhhh-huh," tap tap tap. "There. That does it," we'd say to the client. "How's that?"
"Now it's perfect" was their unfailing reply.
You've probably already guessed that the Client Button didn't actually do anything. It was merely a spare button on the console that was attached to absolutely nothing. It was, however, quite functional -- it sped up production and helped us meet deadlines every time!
Paul E. Mullin