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Alan Siegel  

Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Siegel+Gale and Champion for Simplicity

Over the past four decades, Alan Siegel has become one of the best-known figures in the branding business and a driving force behind the plain English movement in the U.S. and abroad. He has achieved the stature of both pillar of the establishment and provocative iconoclast, while building a leading brand consultancy, Siegel+Gale, devoted to positioning global companies for competitive success. As consultant, author and teacher, Siegels influence extends to advising such organizations as Xerox, American Express, the National Basketball Association, Caterpillar, 3M, US Air Force, Dell, The Girl Scouts, Phoenix House, the Legal Aid Society, Carnegie Mellon University and the New School; creating best-selling guides for The Wall Street Journal on understanding financial markets, and serving on the boards of numerous business, cultural and professional organizations.

During the 1980s he popularized the concept of brand voice. And in the 1990s, his firm championed the Internet as a powerful expression of brand strategy. In all he does, Siegel is known for the plain speaking he demands of clients and for the excellence in individual and organizational communications that his own firm has come to embody.

Siegel pioneered the development of plain English for complex legal documents for business and government in the 1970s and is considered one of the countrys leading authorities on business communications, bringing clarity to insurance policies, bank loan notes, mutual fund prospectuses and all types of government communications. Siegel was the director of a project for the Internal Revenue Service to simplify U.S. individual income tax forms.

He has written extensively on branding and simplicity for The New York Times, Across the Board and The National Law Journal and has appeared nationally on TODAY, The McNeil-Lehrer Report and CBS and ABC News, CNN and the TED Conference.

One of the first graduates of the management training program at Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, a leading advertising agency, Siegel was a senior account executive, served as secretary for the agencys New Products Development Group and helped establish the Communications Design Center, which handled corporate identity, packaging and sales promotion projects. He subsequently held executive posts at Ruder & Finn, public relations consultants, and Sandgren & Murtha, marketing and design consultants.

Siegel served for six years as president of the Advisory Council for the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University. He was an adjunct associate professor of law at Fordham University Law School for seven years, where he developed an innovative legal drafting course, Writing Contracts in Plain English. He also served as an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he taught, conducted research and was a founder and co-director of the Communications Design Center, a multidisciplinary graduate program focused on simplifying complex processes and communications. Siegel served on the executive committee of the Document Design Project, which was funded by the National Institute of Education, a federal research agency. The National Endowment for the Arts appointed him to its Advisory Panel on Federal Graphic Design, and he has served on the editorial board of The Design Management Journal since it was founded in 1989.

A graduate of Cornell Universitys School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Siegel also attended New York University Law School, the School of Visual Arts and Alexei Brodovichs Design Laboratory.

Currently, Siegel serves on the boards of the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University, the American Theater Wing, where he is a Tony voter, The Authors Guild Foundation, Inc., Laphams Quarterly, the Nathaniel Wharton Foundation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Business for Diplomatic Action, Turnaround For Children, Hamptons International Film Festival and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Formerly, Alan served on the boards of the European Chamber of Commerce in the United States, the Museum of Arts and Design, the Aperture Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art Photography Committee, the International Center of Photography, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the Design Management Institute and Girls Inc. (formerly the Girls Clubs of America).

Siegel is the author of an extensive series of personal guides for The Wall Street Journal, including the best seller The Wall Street Journal Guide to Money and Markets (Lightbulb Press), as well as Writing Contracts in Plain English (West Publishing) and Simplified Consumer Credit Forms (Warren Gorham & Lamont). He is also the author of One Mans Eye: Photographs from the Alan Siegel Collection, which was published by Harry N. Abrams in October 2000 and Step Right This Way: The Photographs of Edward J. Kelty, published by Barnes & Noble in October 2002. Currently, Siegel is writing Simple is Smart with his long-time colleague, Irene Etzkorn. In addition, Siegel is a featured columnist for The Huffington Post.

Speech Topics

Attacking the Crises of Complexity

In the wake of the recent recession, the American people have lost confidence in our major institutions. Confidence and support for the president, congress, government agencies and corporations have reached an all-time low. This can, in large part, be traced to the failure of these institutions to communicate with simplicity, clarity and transparency. It’s hard to generate trust, loyalty and support for a health care bill that is incomprehensible; to have confidence in a bank that issues credit card agreements, installment loan notes and notices that require a legal degree to understand; or to do business with a wireless phone company, cable or utility company that issues impenetrable contracts and billing statements. Siegel demonstrates (with many compelling examples) that it is possible to make these complex communications simple, clear, transparent and usable by the American people. His research emphatically reinforces that bringing clarity will play a large role in restoring trust and support for corporations and government and proposes a call to arms by the American people to use their leverage to demand simplicity.

Using Simplicity to Gain Competitive Advantage

Research clearly demonstrates that people are so bewildered by too many choices that they are unable to make a decision. Many banks, insurance companies, wireless providers, brokerage firms, etc., provide incomprehensible take it or leave it contracts, billing statements, privacy notices, installation instructions and fine print disclaimers on medical inserts or aggressive ads. Some leading businesses are differentiating themselves by simplifying their products and business processes, providing clear, transparent, user-friendly communications that enable customers to make informed decisions and understand their rights and obligations. These corporations have secured the loyalty, trust and active support of their employees and customers, have cut down on customer turnover, and increased cross-selling programs and generated increased market share from customers’ positive word of mouth in the marketplace. Siegel offers a series of case histories to shed insight into what’s involved in using simplification to gain penetrating competitive advantage as well as a blueprint for how to implement a program.

Creating a Distinctive Brand Voice

Alan Siegel introduced Brand Voice over 30 years ago as a solution to uncoordinated and fragmented communications that lacked clarity and often delivered conflicting messages. Since then, he has developed over 100 instantly recognizable Brand Voices that conjure up memorable images and associations, establish the tone of a company’s communications and fuse language, design and content to convey a company’s distinctive personality and culture. With the advent of the digital age, when the messaging environment increased exponentially—where speed, novelty and customization rule—companies must recalibrate their voice to find the right pitch, the proper tone and ideal volume. Siegel provides an invaluable guide to building a clear, unique Brand Voice that emanates from a company’s values, history, people and vision.

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