Changing the Conversation; The 17 Principles of Conflict Management
Dana Caspersen's book originated as a manuscript. When Joost Elffers read it he immediately saw that the concepts in the book could be visually presented in a manner that could be quickly consumed and easily understood.
The manuscript for Changing the Conversation is extremely well structured and reflects Caspersen's background as a dancer. She doesn't just tell, she explains with detrimental examples of "attack and counter-attack" dialogue, why changing the pattern mattered and how to approach change. Each section explains how to turn conflict into an opportunity for positive change.
Caspersen knew how to communicate this material as straightforward text. Elffers wanted to bring that text to life.
Elffers realized the excellent book printed in running text would appeal to a tiny fraction of consumers; we could move beyond just the tip of the audience by making the book understandable in a graphic way. We would transform the manuscript from standard running dialogue into a dynamic method of communication. And we would keep it affordable by designing in only two colors.
As we know, most people remember only about 20% of what they read. With images, memory increases to about 80%, and understanding can be up to 60,000 times faster.
We started by analyzing the text, trying various graphic methods of emphasizing the transformation from attack to resolution. There was no need to add "pictures," the text was strong enough to speak for itself. Once the format was set we worked closely with Caspersen to hone the text to its essential elements. Paragraphs remained but were treated in a way that reinforced the message with graphic shorthand, color, diagrams and callouts.
We finished with an easy to comprehend diagrammatic book that showed the method in a visual way and allowed the reader to absorb the information in a non-linear manner.
When Penguin saw the book they were sold. Working with their editors we further refined it. At this point we were able to hone the book more, spending days together refining both writing and design. Every page was analyzed until it met with Penguin's standards. At no point did Penguin require that we compromise, their input made the book stronger.
We created a book that illustrated why "changing" mattered and how to approach resolution.
THE END RESULT
The book is described as a graphic resource for learning to create dialogue and find lasting solutions to conflict. This manual teaches seventeen fundamentals for turning any conflict into an opportunity for growth. Each principle is featured in a chapter that breaks conflict down into a series of decisions. The graphic layout gives real-life examples and easy-to-grasp exercises that allow you to test the lessons.
The book was published to rave reviews. We expanded the market to a new (and enormous) set of readers. The universal solutions appealed to a wide demographic; families, teachers, leaders in law-enforcement and conflict management specialists wrote reviews on how the book informed them about new ways to transform stubborn conflict into communication. The book is currently required reading in several universities and training programs. It has been translated into many languages, including German where a magazine published a review of the design process.
Needless to say, I am a convert. Changing the conversation has made me a better designer by teaching me to approach all problems from seemingly divergent points-of-view.
THE NEW YORK TIMES "A striking visual design by the book packager Joost Elffers, lays out 17 principles that Ms. Caspersen described as “a practical and action-based way of unpacking conflict so that we can see it as a series of manageable decisions about what we do.”
PSYCHOLOGYTODAY.COM "This intriguing book covers a lot of ground. The basic themes of communication, respect, curiosity, and willingness to consider alternative points of view can get you through many of life’s toughest moments with the people who matter most to you.”