That’s Intriguing #118: Did You Know GOLDFISH Have Longer Attention Spans than Humans Do?

Book Cover for "Got Your Attention?"

Book Cover for “Got Your Attention?”

“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  pioneer Steve Jobs

I agree with Steve Jobs.

That’s why, as soon as Intrigue Agency Project Manager Mo Sahoo discovered a startling statistic from Harvard Business School researcher Nancy F. Koehn, that goldfish YES GOLDFISH, have longer attention spans that we do (9 seconds to our 8), I knew it was, somehow, going to be featured on the cover my new book.

Why?  Because it illustrates the idea of the book.

Here’s what I mean.

Do you know the intriguing back-story behind the iconic cover of the book Jaws?

Bantam Books President Oscar Dystel rejected the original cover which simply depicted the word Jaws in white text on a black background.

Dystel was afraid readers would misunderstand and think it was about a dentist.

He ordered his design team back to the drawing board with the admonition, “I want to see that fish.”

The designer came back with the famous image of a woman swimming in an ocean, unaware of the huge shark lurking beneath her.

That eye-catching image proved to be so enduringly popular, the film studio used it for the movie poster. It may have been years since you’ve seen that cover art, but I bet you can still picture it in your mind.

That’s the power of illustrating your idea with an image that tells its story. Not only is it more likely to POP! off the page or shelf and capture people’s attention, it gives your idea staying power.

Would Jaws have grossed more than $470 million dollars and be one of the “Top Ten Most Successful Movies of All Time” without the memorable cover art that told the story in a single glance?  I don’t think so.

That’s why I couldn’t get that “goldfish statistic” out of my mind.  I knew it would “show” the premise of the book which is “We’re suffering from INFObesity and Attention Bankruptcy and the cost of our chronic impatience is catastrophic.”

I woke up in the middle of the night and sketched a cover with a huge goldfish saying “Got Your Attention?”


I sent it to Scott Ritter, Intrigue Agency Marketing and Operations Director, who deskstop-published a draft cover and sent it to our publisher. Diane Platner, Head of Creative Services at Berrett-Koehler, took the cover to another level.

After months of trying to come up with a Goldilocks “just right” title and cover … it all came together.

We’re thrilled with it, and we were even more thrilled when this week’s episode of the new CBS hit drama Madame Secretary featured the dialogue, “”It’s not her fault the public has the long-term memory of a goldfish.”

Much to our delight, the goldfish is becoming the (ahem) gold standard – the poster fish – of our shrinking attention span. It is becoming part of POP! culture, part of our Zeitgeist.

Are you trying to come up with a Goldilocks title, cover, logo or graphic design that illustrates your idea?

What an image that gets across its essence so people see what you’re saying?  How can you support your verbals with visuals and show people the fish so they get what you mean and say, “I see now.”

1 Comment
  1. It works.
    I’ve been on your site for under a minute and the goldfish stat and picture got my attention first.

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