Bear Markets and Beyond demystifies jargon with animal art and a little Attenborough

Unicorns, narwhals, yaks, cows and civets. What have all these creatures got to do with your hard-earned cash? Well, far more than you would think at first glance. They are all beasts in the global economic ecosystem, popping up as warnings, messages, signals and useful analogies to help us navigate what can sometimes be a confusing, closed-off world.

Equally helpful is Bear Markets and Beyond: A Bestiary of Business Terms, an illustrated book in which BBC journalists Dhruti Shah and Dominic Bailey guide you through the confusing world of business jargon with a bold, graphic bestiary.

"It all started in 2016 when the BBC's Business Unit had hired me to help them improve the way they tell their stories on social media," Dhruti tells us. "But business and finance isn't my background at all. I would go to meetings in the morning and sometimes feel a degree of imposter syndrome among these amazing journalists who understood economics and the business world. But the lightbulb moment was when animal phrases would be dropped into the conversation, and we'd hear about how the Chancellor was a Hawk or that there were eyes on the next Unicorn. What did that all mean?"

"I started researching these business beasts and began doing sketches on the commute to work and realised this was fun and made business less scary. I spotted Dominic drawing animals on Instagram, and I liked his sense of style, so I sent him a message. We hadn't really worked together before, but we gelled straight away. I would do a lot more of the deep-diving into the etymology and try to create something witty, while Dominic did more of the illustrative work. But it's very much a joint project."

"It was quite a leap from doodling and sketching to creating in Illustrator," reveals Dominic. "But as my confidence grew, I was happier creating from scratch in it with images of animals in various poses as a guide."

"The main approach was to produce images that worked like the TV series Catchphrase. 'Say what you see! It's a squid with fangs... Vampire Squid!' Hopefully, the image will stick in your mind when you hear the phrase again and remember what it means. After all, it is a book about business and economics, so making it as fun as possible was key."

Dhruti's favourite image is for the cute and squirrelly word of Hamsterkauf, which means 'hamster purchase' and became known globally as the coronavirus pandemic hit.

"There were so many images of empty shelves as people were stripping the supermarkets of toilet roll and pasta," she says. "I think Dom really hit the right tone with the sketch of the hamster stuffing its face with toilet paper while sitting in a shopping trolley. It does make you stop and think about human behaviour and the absurdity of it."

The book has already made its way into school libraries, on university reading lists and Business Insider's recommended list. It also comes with a quote from none other than the animal king himself, Sir David Attenborough.

"That's a highlight!" says Dhruti. "We sent him a copy of the book not expecting anything, and he sent us a handwritten note back; I've got the original framed at home as we're so super proud. We knew that our book is unconventional, but we also knew that it's not just for business people. It's for families and anyone wanting an easy way to get into a closed-off world. To get the Sir David Attenborough seal of approval is the best feeling. He's one of the most famous naturalists in the world, but even he said he was sure he would 'benefit from this field guide'."

Bear Markets & Beyond: A Bestiary of Business Terms by Dhruti Shah Dominic Bailey is published by Portico and out now.


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