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Don’t hate the Gansta, Hate the Game
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“A pretty funny riff on rap.”
Steve Heller, The Daily Heller

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“Somebody Hire This Guy…”
Alissa Walker, Unbeige

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“Pure genius.”
Nate Voss, Be A Design Group

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“Stupid, yes, but still quite funny.”
Jeff Croft

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“Pretty funny.”
Von Glitschka, HOW Forums

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Original Design Gangsta, Kyle T. Webster.

In case you have been enjoying the Summer playing outside instead of taking in the General Surgeon’s recommended daily ingestion of design blog surfing, the latest Golden Link or Hot Embed is the above video, Original Design Gangsta, by Kyle T. Webster, a North Carolina-based illustrator and designer. With more than 41,000 views on YouTube, over 400 tracked links on Technorati, and a devoted following of e-mail forwarders the video has become the Summer’s sleeper design hit, influencing designers to break out their lamest hip-hop dialect — using z’s where ause’s should be and replacing er’s with a’s — when referring to the video. Perhaps, by now, you have realized that I am turning up the volume on the sarcasm knob, and I am about to balance it out with some snobby treble. So let me get to my point: I find ODG to be the least bit funny. I didn’t crack a smirk, not even an approving nod, much less any tapping of my feet or bobbing of my noggin’ to the beat as I watched it. I wanted to join in the harmless fun and be supportive of the rarity that is design humor, but I couldn’t make myself jump unto the bandwagon. My first reaction was to ignore it and move on — and this might answer anyone wondering why I even bothered with this — but I have to admit that my tipping point was seeing it on The Daily Heller, the hard to reach enclave of Steve Heller, where he faintly praised the video. Seeing it everywhere made me reconsider: a) Maybe I just don’t get it and I’m missing something, b) Steve Heller’s humor is easier to tickle than I thought, and c) Perhaps I have turned into the ultimate design grouch. As I thought about it, I happily landed on option c, the one reason I could actually cope with.

I don’t know Mr. Webster and I can’t vouch for his gangsterness, but I can tell, from his web site, that he is a talented illustrator and designer and that ODG was a fun project for him. So, in advance, I send my heartfelt compliments with an A for effort and initiative, but as design humor this barely cuts it. The first thing that comes to mind, after seeing this design/rap mishmash is this Spring’s blockbuster hit, Make it Bigger, the design/heavy metal ditty that managed to extract one of the most frustrating requests in our profession and take it to an extreme and improbable execution to hilarious effect — punctuated by awesome guitar riffs. It took a design cliché and turned it into absurdity. ODG simply regurgitates design clichés without a new spin. We’ve all made PMS color jokes, wether it’s PMS 187 for blood or 462 for poop; joking about designers wearing black on black is a painfully outdated notion; yes, Macs are expensive, ha ha; and so forth. Surprisingly we are spared from any Comic Sans jokes. There are a dozen details in the video that I pick apart in my head and dispose, but I admit that some of these come down to personal preferences and start to straddle the nether regions of subjectivity — i.e., K10K and DiK as bookmark faves?

Granted, what is funny to me may not be funny to some and (obviously) vice versa, and I’m willing to engage in some doubt benefitting for ODG, but I do find it worrisome that lukewarm design humor would get so much hype. This is a minor concern in the bigger scheme of things, but are we perhaps losing our edge when it comes to graphic design humor? Is it as simple as holding up an outdated mirror of ourselves set to rap music? How do we replace the perverse humor of Tibor Kalman? The comedic spunk of some of James Victore’s earlier work? Where is the follow-up to John Bielenberg’s mock IPO of Virtual Telemetrix? Has design become too serious? Now that everyone and their 5-year-old can make a funny video on YouTube, what can graphic designers do to stand out? Hopefully something better than Rosweood.

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3 Funny Counterpoints to ODG

Forever Studio for D&AD/AMV BBDO.

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Designer//Slash//Model, Digital Kitchen.

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The Critic, Mel Brooks, 1963.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 3742 FILED UNDER Review
PUBLISHED ON Aug.16.2007 BY Armin
WITH 73 COMMENTS
Comments
Steven’s comment is:

I don't think it's any secret that the majority of the design world takes themselves way too seriously. And I am not sure what graphic designers have ever done to "stand out"—aside from in the realm of other designers.

Sure this video uses a handful of stereotypes, but it's nice to see someone having some fun and poking fun at his own profession.

I see this as a direct byproduct of the JibJab and YouTube phenomena… and on that level I think it's a job well done. But I only watched the video expecting a lighthearted jab at both rap and graphic design.

To take the "whatever happened to Tibor and Victore humor" stance seems to be counterproductive to the idea of humor in the first place.

On Aug.16.2007 at 12:19 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

The humor is in the absurdity of this bag of clichés you mentioned wrapped in the form of the posturing rap. The details—the shoutouts. It's really pretty light fare—a good few laughs and harmless self-promotion.

You ARE justified in reacting to the hype and it indicates the dearth of humor in our business. You might also be grumpy, but so am I and I got a good chuckle. Maybe because I DO live under a rock and saw this in a hype-less vacuum.

Cheers,

On Aug.16.2007 at 12:41 PM
Kyle T. Webster’s comment is:

I have to echo Steven here and just let folks know that this was purely an exercise in escape, for my part, into the lightest and fluffiest realm of humor. Nothing in this vid was meant to be high-brow (well, obviously) and I merely wanted to spend a couple of days playing around instead of working on something billable! I hope nobody takes it seriously. On the other hand, I am incredibly flattered that this kind of entry was written in response to my work - if my ridiculous video actually kicks off some more lofty video or audio responses, some essays, or anything else worth looking at, then I'm really proud to be a part of the process. Thanks to all for writing, and I appreciate the post. Cheers, Kyle

On Aug.16.2007 at 12:56 PM
Derrick Schultz ’s comment is:

I know I'm the curmudgeon that always has to go ruining other peoples fun, but I have to say that the increase of "designer raps" has really incensed me.

I know its parody, but theses "riff(s) on rap" has at many times crossed over into what I consider culture bashing. I don't think I have to prove that a majority of designers are middle-class, white folks (myself included). And while I will never claim to represent poor and black, these music videos always seem to act like representations of specific things don't have value in Rap culture.

Let me put it this way, if these design songs were in some way making fun of Arab culture, I don't think we'd be all claiming how wonderful they are. Just because it resides in America doesn't mean its still your culture. I know its "all lighthearted," but it still stinks of cultural ignorance in many ways to me. I'm not claiming its intentionally agressive, but I do believe it provides a message of "look how funny those (mostly) black people are for attaching value to objects!"

Also, can we try to at least appreciate the art of rapping? I wish these guys would at least step up your simile and double entendre game.

On Aug.16.2007 at 01:41 PM
Kyle T. Webster’s comment is:

Hi, Derrick,
I would be interested to see if any black designers view my video that way. I just felt that the musical style that is farthest removed from the world of graphic design is hard core 'gangsta' rap. And, I thought this would be the funniest way to deliver some ridiculous rhymes about our insulated community. AND, finally, this style of music was definitely the easiest to produce quickly on Garage Band! Anyway, you make an interesting point, but I am again pretty surprised by how seriously people are taking my video. No offense was meant, other than to Adobe for discontinuing Freehand. And really, I don't care about that too much either! (Just thought it would get a laugh)
Cheers,
Kyle

On Aug.16.2007 at 03:07 PM
Greg Scraper’s comment is:

Wow. I think we've officially run out of things to be upset about. Maybe Poynor had something.

On Aug.16.2007 at 03:48 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Wow. I was wondering who was going to play the race/culture card. The only real cultural reference I find here is a POP cultural reference. This is a parody of current happenings in design mixed with a pop culture backbeat… I don't see it as being anything more. Kyle seems to have chosen the medium best fitted to his objective.

What would be the response if this came from Weird Al?

On Aug.16.2007 at 04:09 PM
Matt Hunsberger’s comment is:

I thought this was about a million times better than "Make the Logo Bigger".

On Aug.16.2007 at 04:54 PM
Matt Hunsberger’s comment is:

I thought this was about a million times better than "Make the Logo Bigger".

On Aug.16.2007 at 04:55 PM
Derrick Schultz ’s comment is:

Steven,

I was wondering when someone was going to play the Weird Al card, so we're calling each other shots I guess.

While I'm not a huge fan of Weird Al's (everyone should probably tell by now that I lack a sense of humor, so feel free to discredit me for that alone), I see his art as being based more on a respectful parody of a single work, whereas this is a rather unfocused parody on a culture or style. Weird Al (and im using the reference of one or two songs I can recall with confidence) also extends his parody into every aspect of his songs. Kyle's (though he's not the only one to do so and to single him out as being sole perpitrator would be unfair) simply replaces lines for lines. It also doesnt help that Kyle claims it was the easiest thing to produce in Garage Band—a claim that I fear is attributed to the believed simplicity of rap music (which, believe it or not, has hints back to the idea of slave songs as a simple and stupid music).

In effect, Weird Al is a much "deeper" artist (something I'm sure Kyle would agree to). He also seems to a have a deep understanding of the particular art each artist uses in their songs, matching cadences and infelctions. So I would it is just out and out more convincing.

As Rick Potnor points out, strong design writing has both the design component and the writing component. We should probably hold design parody (or music parody), "lighthearted" or not, to the same standard.

Kyle,
You're correct. A black designer's view would definitely matter more than mine. And believe me, I'm not angry. I'm simply asking that we, as designers, become more serious in everythign that we do—not serious as in not funny, but serious as in going the extra distanee to truly understand what it is we're doing.

For instance, what seperates your work from the 86th annual ADC poster that ? Is it the image of an actual black person being exploited? Was it that the ADC poster lined up with the more well-recognized symbols of racism (blackface, etc.)? Or is it just that Steve found this funny, and didn't find the ADC poster amusing? I'm all for being wrong if it means that someone has taken the effort to really explore how we view cultural "sampling" in ou era. When is it ok and not disingenuous, when is it over the line? Yes, it takes time (its taken me 45 minutes to write this response over and over), but —to me, at least—this is where we have to go to really begin to see where our work fits into the big picture.

I hope you don't feel like you're being solely lambasted. I'm guilty of it too, but I'm hoping this particular thread helps us create more knowledge than it would if these topics were not brought out. And for that you should be proud.

I'm getting preachy (I think it's a symptom of my hunger), so I'll leave it at that.

On Aug.16.2007 at 05:10 PM
Derrick Schultz ’s comment is:

Yuck,

I need to preview before making such long posts. Sorry, that huge pargraph of linakge should read:

For instance, what seperates your work from the 86th annual ADC poster that Steve Heller took to task? Is it the image of an actual black person being exploited? Was it that the ADC poster lined up with the more well-recognized symbols of racism (blackface, etc.)? Or is it just that Steve found this funny, and didn't find the ADC poster amusing? I'm all for being wrong if it means that someone has taken the effort to really explore how we view cultural "sampling" in ou era. When is it ok and not disingenuous, when is it over the line? Yes, it takes time (its taken me 45 minutes to write this response over and over), but —to me, at least—this is where we have to go to really begin to see where our work fits into the big picture.

On Aug.16.2007 at 05:15 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Derrick,

I can definitely see your point and, for the most part, we are on the same page. However I don't think that the appropriation of popular culture makes this particular video in any way—intentionally or otherwise—racist. If guilty of anything it may be that this video perpetuates stereotypes already perpetuated by pop culture.

There are several white artists within the field of rap, from the beastie boys to eminem. Their contributions and talents vary depending on who you talk to, but they have nonetheless secured their respective places in history. Are they racist for delving into rap? Is it racist to say true rappers can't be white, hispanic, indian?

Hell, the fact that this video has even started this discussion should be testament enough to the fact that it is indeed on par with much of todays good design writing. Intentional or not.

On Aug.16.2007 at 06:12 PM
Derrick Schultz ’s comment is:

it was probably a bad move on my part to interject race into a few sentences early on. Moreso than black or white, I do view it more as a culture than a race issue (I avoided the use of the R word for that reason). But it should be mentioned that most white rappers are given more prominence by the most mainstream of media and (no surprise) white audiences than they usually are by other groups.

Its hard to call rap drectly of pop culture—it certainly has been appropriated, but in my opinion its appropriation has little to do with its development in urban and poor areas (though of course its acquaintance with pop culture now does influence it). Its appropriation also likes to focus on the more materialistic images available in the lyrics (which again is either a symptom of capitalism or the new subtle undermining of the a group predominantly poor and black), but they tend to gloss over exactly what that meterialism means in the culture, as well as the many other aspects that make rap one of the more unique musics in the world.

On Aug.16.2007 at 06:57 PM
ed mckim’s comment is:

being the only poster to make it known that they have actually met Kyle, I can definitely say, there is no way I'd view this as anything more than Kyle having some fun. I did cringe a little when I watched this because, hey, white guy rapping.

what the fuck is design humor anyways? Is that different from layman's humor? Is it just humor that only designers get, or is it just humor which is at everyone else's expense?

On Aug.16.2007 at 07:12 PM
Devin McKim’s comment is:

I thought this was about a million times better than "Make the Logo Bigger".

THANK YOU

i'm willing to bet that you guys only liked that song (MTLB) because it made fun of the client instead of the designer

i love this video, it's well made and clever. great work, dude

also, i'm glad this came out of NC :-D

On Aug.16.2007 at 07:26 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Derrick,

I agree—the appropriation of rap is less than ideal. However you must admit that in the past decade rap has perpetuated its very own stereotypes quite shamelessly. Certainly there is some validity to the experience of the artists—however a great deal of what we call rap these days is simply business… and they know very well what sells.

I consider rap to be a huge part of popular culture. Mainstream or otherwise it has had a massive impact on the tone of todays culture. And for better or worse it has also had a huge intra-racial impact.

On Aug.16.2007 at 07:27 PM
Michelle French’s comment is:

Kyle,

When I saw this last week I laughed so hard that I cried. Thanks. We all need to laugh more and take ourselves a less seriously.

On Aug.16.2007 at 11:57 PM
Kyle T. Webster’s comment is:

Thanks, Michelle - that is definitely what I was going for. I'm glad you liked it -
Kyle

On Aug.17.2007 at 12:08 AM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

I'm not responding to any of the comments, just Armin's post. My apologies if this annoys anyone.)

Spot on Armin. Thank you for creating this post.

When I first saw the link the other day (on Quips, I think) I let it load for 3 seconds, saw the bobbing head, and had my doubts. I saw Rosewood swoop in and I quickly closed the window. It looked cheesy and amaturish from the get-go.

Then a co-worker sent me the link yesterday. I decided to go ahead and watch it. I did chuckle a few times, and I tapped my foot through the whole thing, but when it was over I felt a little dissappointed. It was shallow, not making any real or significantly clever references that would have made any real ODG give props to the video. Scher? Yeah we all love her. Sag? Still over-rated. k10k? Please.

But once I hit his site I was much more impressed. You can get a better idea of his skills and talent at this point. So I at least half-heartily still enjoy the fad and I might even buy something from the ODG store.

For what it's worth though, David Werner's video makes much better design references.

On Aug.17.2007 at 02:50 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

1. The video is silly. Sometimes it's good to be silly and not worry about whether or not something is Humorous. I would go so far as to say that sometimes it is important to be silly. Well done, Mr K Dub

2. Aren't there enough serious white rappers about that it's safe now for a white guy to do a joke rap without people getting uptight?

On Aug.17.2007 at 05:59 PM
Devin McKim’s comment is:

would you prefer THIS?

On Aug.17.2007 at 06:33 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Derrick,

The ADC poster took a phrase that was not specifically racial ("pimp my ride") and racialized it in a manner reminiscent of a minstrel show. It was not cultural appropriation; it was racial stereotyping.

Kyle's animation was only questionable cultural appropriation to the degree that we assume that black people constitute a separate culture that owns gangster rap and that the music and/or the culture is a precious and delicate thing to be protected rather than a crass commercial form generally exploited for self enrichment.

Are pop-cultural reference self-promotion ads on YouTube any more or less crass than the self promotion ads that most commercially-successful rap is? I don't know but I can provide several eye witnesses who will confirm that Kyle is really, really white.

On Aug.17.2007 at 06:56 PM
Kyle T. Webster’s comment is:

Gunnar - thanks for chiming in and I still need to get your fantastic book back to you. Your interview was very interesting, by the way.

Jeff - you certainly 'got' my video. It was never meant to be anything more than something silly for designers to chuckle at.

-Kyle

On Aug.17.2007 at 07:03 PM
Derrick Schultz ’s comment is:

Gunnar,

Thank you, your explanation was one I was more or less looking for in understanding everyone else's view of it as humor. However, I guess the crux of your argument relies on your assumption of what rap is (your second paragraph), and mine falling in the "or" category leaves me more concerned than most, which I can live with.

On Aug.18.2007 at 04:14 AM
DYoung’s comment is:

I have to say:

1. the only mildly funny part was the chorus or "hook" as it were but designer/slash/model: brilliant
2. i love it when middle-class white males discuss racism. hilarious.
3. lighten up, dang!

ps. i'm a black designer

On Aug.18.2007 at 09:38 AM
josh’s comment is:

Nice Rosewood jab. I've been sick of that face for 2–3 years.

The design raps are mildly amusing, but they belong in the same comedic bin as tossed off puns, cliches, and meek cultural observations. I'd love to see some real biting, subversive design humor.

On Aug.18.2007 at 10:10 AM
Christina W’s comment is:

He's making fun of himself, how could that be offensive? and honestly sometimes I get tired of biting, subversive design humor. Ooh, we're so edgy - look at us cut things down. (Sorry Josh, this is a beef beyond your post).

"Kyle's animation was only questionable cultural appropriation to the degree that we assume that black people constitute a separate culture that owns gangster rap..."

On an FYI note, First Nations culture here in Canada (and the US of course) has appropriated rap music among its youth - there are a lot of similarities to urban black culture, especially now that there is a large and growing urban FN culture, which tends to be demographically poor and young.

NDN Rap and its bad rap

War Party

On Aug.18.2007 at 10:55 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Just watched ODG again. It's even funnier when I think there are a bunch of designers out there being serious, grumpy and incensed about it.

On Aug.18.2007 at 11:49 AM
Dave Werner’s comment is:

Nice work Kyle - I laughed at the Freehand and apple + Z references. It was a quick and fun promotional piece, and gets the job done - I enjoyed going through the solid work on your site.

I would pay money to watch a regular Daily Show-esque video take on the design industry, with reviews of crappy logos, casual interviews with designer guests, and general sarcastic commentary. Hmmm...I guess I just want to see Speak Up on video.

On Aug.18.2007 at 11:57 AM
N. Silas Munro’s comment is:

As a practicing black graphic designer and YouTube aficionado it's hard not to feel conflicted about ODG. Derrick I think you did a good job of articulating the (on Kyle's part unintentional) cultural watering down of his creation. I did laugh at it. I did find it humorous, but after reading what you have to say about it I find that doesn't hold up so well.

When I encountered the link I was view it through the lens I use for other YouTube videos. One that is not a keen eye for scrutiny. And I think Kyle designed it for that context quite well. I watched it once, and found it amusing enough to forward to others. Of course in the context of a sophisticated cultural critique (Armin's and the thread of commentary that is nested with in that critique) it doesn't pass the smell test.

It's great that it makes us designers laugh, or even question what it is we do, and who cares what we do (usually other designers). It might give visibility to what we do to non-designers (that's how I got the link). I do think it is a simplistic rift on rap culture (and for someone from North Cack-a-Lack he doesn't have much flow), but I think it's unfair to compare it to Mr. Heller's criticism of the 85th ADC call for entries which is just muddled thinking and poor judgement getting out into the world.

I would have to also say that visually and sonically ODG is in poor taste, but that's the point. That's what makes it funny. A graphic designer spouting half-baked rhymes with half-baked graphics is funny. And in the context of YouTube it's right at home. On the other hand if you are a design curmudgeon, like Armin, Derrick and I you have to ask yourself:

Why make the ODG when you can make this?:

On Aug.18.2007 at 03:00 PM
Barry A. Smith’s comment is:

The video's clever.
Humorous.
Pedestrian.
Entertaining.
Timely.
Low quality.
Enjoyable.
Blog fodder.

The video isn't
profound.
Well executed.
Worth discussing beyond the surface.

Not all design executions require debate, analysis, or otherwise.

Regardless if designers take themselves too seriously or not, many find this video is funny. It grabbed me for about 5 minutes of my life, and I'll likely never think about it again.

The fact that I can hear about and then see the video instantly, then read all these laborious posts afterwards, is what I find so fascinating, valuable and promising about the environment and circumstances we, as communication designers, strategists and contributors find ourselves in.

On Aug.18.2007 at 03:07 PM
Barry A. Smith’s comment is:

The video's clever.
Humorous.
Pedestrian.
Entertaining.
Timely.
Low quality.
Enjoyable.
Blog fodder.

The video isn't
profound.
Well executed.
Worth discussing beyond the surface.

Not all design executions require debate, analysis, or otherwise.

Regardless if designers take themselves too seriously or not, many find this video is funny. It grabbed me for about 5 minutes of my life, and I'll likely never think about it again.

The fact that I can hear about and then see the video instantly, then read all these laborious posts afterwards, is what I find so fascinating, valuable and promising about the environment and circumstances we, as communication designers, strategists and contributors find ourselves in.

On Aug.18.2007 at 03:08 PM
ed mckim’s comment is:

Just watched ODG again. It's even funnier when I think there are a bunch of designers out there being serious, grumpy and incensed about it.

I personally believe that there are times when designers just want to crit something that was not meant to be critted. who cares if it's not successful "design humor (whatever the hell that is in the first place)?" I feel like if Kyle likes it, and it doesn't aim to offend anyone, then it should be left at that.

I feel like this, along with the thread on DO about wikipedia's graphic design page, are just people who are reacting to it with a fear that it somehow makes designers look bad, stupid, simple, or in the case of the wiki page, ambiguous.

On Aug.18.2007 at 03:21 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

DYoung,

While I share your reaction to some degree, I wonder whether we want to promote a world where white, middle class males don’t talk about racism. Should they (make that we) also avoid thinking about racism or is silence on the topic sufficient?

On Aug.18.2007 at 03:34 PM
Joe’s comment is:

Derrick, do you really feel that you need to take so much time typing out and defending your philosophical views on this video? :-)

On Aug.18.2007 at 04:25 PM
Barry A. Smith’s comment is:

Sorry 'bout the double post, y'all.

On Aug.18.2007 at 04:55 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Joe,

I don’t know what you are suggesting to Derrick. That his position is illegitimate or somehow not worth the effort to write or read? Or that he types slowly?

On Aug.18.2007 at 08:13 PM
AM’s comment is:

Twinge-
tired cliches wrapped in irony are a bit tougher swallowing these days. Thanks for being open to feedback. I agree, people are too serious. I try to frame these sort of good natured attempts at stereotype humor like this- Irony! Stress release from serious designers stuck in a stuffy PC world. Yet and still, I cant help feeling serious. Like I ought to know better and as inquisitive minds who help shape pop culture, we might easily do better. I really wonder if the best part of this lighthearted sideswipe at Gangsta Rap music in 2007, is simply the naughty feeling that we can still get away with it safely and ride that line between a sort of willful, knowing "wink wink" ignorance and call it ironic? Ask no questions, I'll give you no answers. It's all good pointless humor. It isn't meant to be serious is it?

What I do find funny and ironic about this is the disturbing feeling that Gangsta rap music in so many ways has much common with the graphic design industry than it appears upon first glance. Aside from the small percentage of deep, meaningful, cutting edge and timeless design. The vast majority of work is created to be as disposable, easy to repeat and immediate with minimal effort to engage an audience critically in any way that doesn't rely upon trends or style. Gangsta rap is trend. And if that wasn't enough. It also occurs to me that much design I see is performed by committee involving a wide range of assorted stake holders, heavily reliant on statistics and market research data. Isn't this practically the same as the system used to generate major label Gangsta rap today? Isn't Gangsta rap like design often ideally suited for mass manufacturing and mass consumption? How ironic... Seriously!

AND, finally, this style of music was definitely the easiest to produce quickly on Garage Band!

Seriously? I feel strongly about the assumptions being made here. Though it is indirect, there is a subtext that reads 'compared to rap music, all other styles of music are much harder to execute poorly despite some surprisingly sophisticated audio software'. Like say for instance R&B, Jpop or no chord punk or ambient trance without drums or singing/rapping/vocals or sequencing to speak of?
WTF man?
Maybe it's got nothing to do with production and everything to do with Gangsta rap being uber pop today? When we believe in the strangest things, it's hardly a stretch. Gangsta rap is a perfect spoof right? It still feels alien and even sounds like alienation but to North American designers Bling Bling no longer requires any translation. It's like foreign currency but common knowledge. Fun time.

This piece looks like a tonne of work. Even just for fun. How would the same concept translate if it was a piss take on Pop-Country or Deep House or Goa Trance, or Speed Garage! Imagine, designer as Shania twain? Perhaps not. It's sorta serious.

Maybe my perception is tainted? I feel like this thread is treading in and around the culture, race and music phenomenon and I'm not convinced music has a color or even a race but it's easier to talk, black music vs white music. Yellow vs red music and brown vs mauve music. And what if music starts integrating or mixing? What then? Will black and white music start to come out as 50% cool slate music? This is supposed to be fun- it's just me, I know, I'm too serious.

Great discussion though.

The sentiment coming off this thread is reminding me of a segment I saw on Youtube recently-

Race and Humor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCoEjtnihOY

On Aug.18.2007 at 09:30 PM
Yael’s comment is:

I saw the video, and Armin - I do agree. It's not really funny. But, I'm not into rap either so I guess I don't get the stylistic references (although as pop-culture music, I can tell it's supposed to be rap.) Still, Kyle is a smart designer in that he has really created a good amount of buzz by putting this video (good or not) out there. Many designers don't know how to self-promote. Kyle is not one of them and I give him smarts-credit for that.

On Aug.18.2007 at 10:21 PM
Joe Moran’s comment is:

The video by Mr. Webster is what it is or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the ODG.

Ha!

Carry on.

VR/

On Aug.19.2007 at 01:36 AM
Kevin M. Scarbrough’s comment is:

I am confident that my sense of humor is cracked enough to enjoy damn near anything. ODG does not fail to amuse.

On Aug.19.2007 at 04:17 AM
Kyle T. Webster’s comment is:

AM's comment in response to my statement: "AND, finally, this style of music was definitely the easiest to produce quickly on Garage Band!"

Seriously? I feel strongly about the assumptions being made here. Though it is indirect, there is a subtext that reads 'compared to rap music, all other styles of music are much harder to execute poorly despite some surprisingly sophisticated audio software.

My response: AM - you (and some others) are choosing to read too much into what I said - nothing 'extra' need be inferred from my comment, as it is meant quite literally. Please allow me to explain: 1) I don't sing very well. 2) My rapping is even worse. 3) A video of myself rapping is therefore funnier to me. 4) Garage Band's hip-hop loops and beats are easy to combine and I can throw them together quickly and then rap over them. 5) That's it.

I never said rap is a less sophisticated form of music. Making a shoddy rap was the quickest and funniest (in my opinion) solution to my design humor project. In addition, the posturing and boasting in my lyrics wouldn't fit any other musical style. And before I get another angry response to that(!), I'll quickly say that I am NOT suggesting that all rap music is just a bunch of people posturing and boasting! But let's be honest- much of the commercially successful rap music today is exactly that.

I'll finish by again saying that I am flattered (and certainly surprised) that my mock self-promo video has started any conversation at all. Whether people love it or hate it, it's nice that thoughtful points are being made and the discussion has headed off in new, interesting directions.

Thanks to everybody for their comments,
Kyle

On Aug.19.2007 at 02:48 PM
agrayspace’s comment is:

While I value taking a critical look at things, I think this conversation feels as tired as the humor in the video. Then again I deplore the "its just silly" argument. Do things not have to be done well, even when silly.

I certainly would have appreciated more truly interesting jabs at our profession and our overly serious and critical nature (appropriately illustrated in this discussion).

I am in the grump camp, and found very little of this charming at all. And I certainly don't think, appropriating rap music is racist. Everything within the cultural Zeigeist is fair game for satire.

On Aug.19.2007 at 05:24 PM
Drake Whalterson’s comment is:

Well, I don't consider myself a designer, animator, or critic, but, it goes without saying that everyone has an opinion, right? Fair enough. I don't see any problem in over-analyzing a video like this. Say what you will; I still read everyone's comments. I think what this ultimately comes down to is whether or not you liked it. I, personally, watched the entire thing and appreciated his endeavor. I didn't laugh, but that's OK, right? Again, I don't consider myself a designer, but for the most part I knew what he was poking fun at. If anything, I immediately checked out Mr. Webster's site. Very impressive.
When all is said and done, kudos to both Armin and Kyle, and everyone else here who stated, and defended, what they felt about the video. But really, isn't it a matter of personal taste? I don't think it matters that I just happen to laugh at both the Designer//Slash//Model and The Critic videos. Did they intend to do that? Eh, I don't know. Humor can be a tricky thing.

On Aug.19.2007 at 06:41 PM
Kyle T. Webster’s comment is:

On the subject of grumpiness:

I think my (our) job is so fun. I can't imagine a better word to use when describing my job, really - I mean, design is fun! Drawing is fun! Solving problems creatively, playing with type, etc. - hell, it's all really fun! When I look at what some of my buddies from school (business majors of various sorts) are doing now from 9-5, I am reminded just how fun it is to be working in this field. Some of them are making buckets o' money, but boy are they bored, tired, and just plain sick of it all. But designers? Why so grumpy? I'm just curious. If any of the self-proclaimed grumps in this post want to explain what gives, I'm all ears! Aren't you enjoying your work? And, do designers always have to be taken so seriously? Where's the fun in that?

On Aug.19.2007 at 07:23 PM
AM’s comment is:

Hello again Kyle,

thanks for keeping the line open here. Do not worry. I'm curious, not upset and I want more discussion not less, so I won't go around raking people over coals due to misconceptions arising from this project. I'm beginning to like this thread actually. It feels like design with a spine. Taking a little more ownership of our opinions and by extension our craft. I see design as subjective. I also feel we are all in this game together. That tells you where I'm coming from, hopefully it frames my voice and my opinion for you a little better.

Watched it over, I still sense something odd about the ODG humor. No lie. It's a bit sinister in some ways. Allow me to separate you from your work.
You really do seem like a friendly person. Definitely not someone out to degrade sub cultures or spread nastiness toward others. I realize that I don't need to read any more into ODG but the sub text I mentioned is there all the same. It was a feeling. I didn't have much expectation either way, good or bad. It was intuitive. I will try not to read too much into your post. In fact, if I remove some of your words, my concerns might come across even better.

never said rap is a less sophisticated form of music.
This is true, you never said rap is a less sophisticated form of music.
My issue is that this is what was being suggested implicitly. Even if it wasn't intentional I'm just pointing it out. I actually think you like the idea of rapping or else you could have just as easily chosen some other basic beat to loop in garageband like Adult Contemporary Rural Banjo or Nordic Keyed Fiddle (actually a pretty cool sound!). When I see stereotypes like wads of dollar bills in hand, grills and bling and swagger posturing combined with intentionally bad rapping and the reason given that it's the quickest and funniest when it doesn't feel quicker or funnier than any other combo of beats and loops and genres to produce, I just start to ask why come?
Is it funny because it is more alien to design culture than the keyed fiddle?
Is it the people too? Don't they appear funny in those roles doing that music? Or is it funnier if it isn't those ppl but other ppl in the same role? Now it's even funnier?

I am NOT suggesting that all rap music is just a bunch of people posturing and boasting! But let's be honest- much of the commercially successful rap music today is exactly that.

Ok. I am not suggesting that ALL (insert noun) is just a bunch of (descriptor)! But let's be honest- much of the commercially successful (insert noun) today is exactly that.

Again, you don't seem malicious in any way whatsoever but there's clearly implicit meaning in abundance here. I'm not suggesting all country music is a bunch of people preaching and posing (honestly, I LIKE a bit of Country. Good ol Hank Thompson)! But, let's be honest- most of the commercially successful country music today is exactly that. What am I telling you about these ppl?

Quite literally, I'm telling you that I am not suggesting one thing only to turn around and imply something else.

I fully agree that you've struck gold with this one Kyle, it's really got people talking. That's not always easy to do.

AM

On Aug.19.2007 at 10:54 PM
Blake’s comment is:

For what it's worth, my first thought upon watching was, "Oh man, white people..." LOL, and I'm white. I don't know... definitely "A" for effort, but even as a goof it feels the caucasian/designer community still trips on itself. It makes fun of our seriousness in design, but... does anyone else feel it is in fact serious itself? In some deep-seeded way, we all love it because we're all this lame?

On Aug.20.2007 at 08:11 AM
Kyle T. Webster’s comment is:

Joe recommended I step to the sidelines now and let the thread grow without my interrupting it. That is really great advice for lots of reasons and I'm complying. I hope people will continue posting to this thread, as it seems some interesting stuff is developing (design humor, pop culture vs. race culture, high brow vs. low, etc.). If anybody wants to talk to me directly, please email me. Thanks to Armin for posting it, and thanks to all for the different responses to the post.

On Aug.20.2007 at 09:04 AM
Armin’s comment is:

There are a few things I would like to clarify, now that the discussion has gone on in a few different directions.

Re: Kyle's intentions
I don't think I questioned Kyle's intentions, I assumed it was clear that it was simple fun for him. And I really doubt he was trying to belittle rap. My biggest gripe, besides not finding any humor in the piece, was…

Re: Air time
…The giddy droning of the video in a bunch of blogs and being pegged as the funniest thing since slice bread. I couldn't help but imagine a bunch of those wind-up monkeys with cymbals attached to their hands, all monotonously clapping at the same thing, without really stopping to think about it.

Re: Lower standards
If, as some people have expressed, the expectations from something like this, a youtube video, are lower, and we just celebrate anything that is put up there, I think eventually we will just water down our ability to create any interesting work in this medium. Granted, this is a notch above a cat playing the piano, but if we are judging ODG against something like that, we are simply measuring up against mediocrity.

Re: Design Humor
Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it. EB White

Despite the above quote, I do think it's important to discuss what design humor is. I can't find the comment at the moment, but someone asked if design humor was only for designers… Yes, on an initial level it should be mostly for designers, specially if it's loaded with design references. So if the idea is to make fun of what we do, it's not about simply saying "look, we buy Macs, and the color of blood, which is red, is just like PMS 187!", there is no real tension between those facts and our attitudes to that. Also someone said that Make The Logo Bigger was funnier to me because it made fun of clients, instead of designers. What makes Make The Logo Bigger is DESIGNERS' response to that request, that we take it as the ultimate insult. THAT's why that works.

Design humor also has to work visually, by taking our mannerisms and obsessions and turning them on their head. That's why any parody of Milton Glaser's Dylan poster works – although I don't consider those to be particularly funny either – because we all recognize the original context and find a new interpretation tickling. For some examples of design humor I point you to Punc't.

Re: Why are designers so serious?
I don't know about other designers, but I do take what I do seriously. Sure, it's "fun" to play with type and image, but it's a business, it's a service and it's a way of making a living. If it's not taken seriously, then why bother? If you want fun, join the circus, and I bet even that would be some serious shit. As far as why criticize a silly, funny video and not just enjoy it? Because, as it's now evident, it opens up the opportunity for interesting insights and views.

Re: My grouchiness
Thanks to anyone that has confirmed this. Here and in other blogs. I like to revel in it.

On Aug.20.2007 at 09:19 AM
Nate Voss’s comment is:

Armin, I think you need to get out of the office more, man. This much analyzation of Design Gangsta can't be good for one's health. It's simple and funny, and it made people laugh. That's enough. No, it's not Monty Python, and it doesn't have to be in order to be valid. You know, it is possible to be serious about what you do without being so serious all the time.

On Aug.20.2007 at 09:37 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> No, it's not Monty Python, and it doesn't have to be in order to be valid.

Nate, I thought it was "Pure Genius".

On Aug.20.2007 at 09:43 AM
Jim Thomas’s comment is:

This is quite possibly the most ridiculous post I have read in a long time. I remember a couple months ago when Rick Poyner was being attacked for his article about Design blogs/criticism need more focus, more professional polish. He was being attacked on this website, the argument being that not everything needs an editor, somethings are just an exchange of ideas. And now, several months later there is this discussion about a promo video as being racist, poorly crafted, unfunny etc... What happened to some things are temporal? Some ideas are just that, an idea, a moment? I seriously doubt the creator of this video was trying to layer in social commentary into a video where he has a large bobble head and hardcore rapping about things definitely not hardcore. I can only assume it was meant for a little relief. A video you make for your friends for a laugh, in this case, his friends were designers. If you don't think it is funny, fine. It isn't everyone's cup of tea, but to analyze it so harshly on its design merit, merit of "design humor" and to imply that it is the least bit racist is such a waste of everyone's time. I can only suggest that we all lighten up a bit and don't be as serious as those Design Observer kids. Or was that this site's suggestion a couple months ago? Kudos for a fun movie, big ol' question mark as to why we are critiquing this thing so seriously. Work hard, play funny. thanks for playing.

On Aug.20.2007 at 10:56 AM
ed mckim’s comment is:

armin-

while i agree that design should be taken seriously, i think the question was whether you (or any/all other designers) take yourself (/yourselves) too seriously. We know you take design seriously, and we wouldn't want you any other way... But when you take yourself too seriously, it makes any kind of design critique almost too personal.


On Aug.20.2007 at 11:11 AM
Jim Thomas’s comment is:

FYI. I am a "Design Observer Kid."

On Aug.20.2007 at 11:17 AM
Nate Voss’s comment is:

Nate, I thought it was "Pure Genius".

Well, I did like it enough to open and close the show with it this week. But that's just how we roll over there.

On Aug.20.2007 at 11:46 AM
darrel’s comment is:

"And while I will never claim to represent poor and black"

I'm not entirely sure the mainstream hip-hop/'gangsta rap' industry--of which these types of videos parody--have any claims regarding representing the poor and/or black either.

We need Chuck D. (also a graphic designer) to chime in...

On Aug.20.2007 at 03:47 PM
Kevin Hopp’s comment is:

Leave it up to Speak Up, Armin and all his negative-minded cronies to exhaustively beat up a meaningless rap parody.

It's funny to hear Armin talk about low standards...

I mean really, your biggest post this week was some nasty pseudo intellectual banter about some insignificant YouTube video...

...and you want to preach to us about standards? Spare me.

I'm so tired of listening to a half-ass designer preach his negative charm to an equally sensitive and passionate audience.

At this point, I have to say you're acting like an ass-hole. I can only take so much of your daily rain... for all of you other haters out there, don't think negativity makes you look smart, or different, or of anything bigger than an insecure short-sighted kiddish complainer.

On Aug.20.2007 at 05:04 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Kevin, I continually wonder why you even bother to tune in.

Also, I don't insult you, so please keep your blatant insults to yourself.

On Aug.20.2007 at 05:10 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

A brilliant PR move on Kyle's part. Having done video work myself, I know that this piece he put together was no small feat (okay, maybe it took 10-20 hours on his Apple, but hey, that's what they're for).

About Kyle... he'll get noticed, even Ze Frank got noticed. But the question is, Can he turn the notice into something substantial. A career? Sitcom? I dunno.

Design Gangster, don't be a one-hit wonder, dog.

And, word to you, Kyle for representing the big NC. Here's a shout out to y'all from Charlotte.

On Aug.20.2007 at 05:30 PM
ed mckim’s comment is:

don't think negativity makes you look smart, or different, or of anything bigger than an insecure short-sighted kiddish complainer.

oooh the irony.

On Aug.20.2007 at 05:35 PM
felix’s comment is:

sister Armin sunshine,

Nice rain. (read: i agree, dawg).

I saw this vid when it was intially sped thru the e mail circuit a few weeks ago. I found this one to be much funnier. Mainly because a young Matthew Lenning and Marcos Chin make surprise/ debut appearances.

On Aug.20.2007 at 06:31 PM
Kevin Hopp’s comment is:

C'mon now... you can't play the irony card on this.

I directly called out the idea of being negative about something which insignificance inspired the idea to question the post.
Honestly, email me if you're not getting it.

Sure I said it in a blatant way... I mean why is there a need to dance around in rhetoric? You ask, why do I tune in anymore? Is it because I have faith? It's certainly not to call you a dick, jerk. I mean do you think that there's any difference in calling someone a bad name, and using the reviews of our design peers against them and also to bash some whimsical designer guy from North Cakalacki?

His intention wasn't to woo you Armin, nor me or Steven Heller. He's just having some good, clean geeky fun.

As the parodies continue, may there be two times more Kyles than rapping elders and politicians combined!


On Aug.20.2007 at 06:34 PM
Andrew J Klein’s comment is:

I thought it was funny, just out of novelty, it was done by one guy, for free, for fun...

I know we love to critique ourselves, but really, was it that bad?

Overconsideration!

On Aug.21.2007 at 02:06 PM
bruce’s comment is:

I like that this post is not about whether or not the video is funny, but whether or not it is funny enough. Boooooooring.

On Aug.21.2007 at 02:19 PM
Matt Hunsberger’s comment is:

I can't believe how much people are over-analyzing this. Sure is funny though!

On Aug.22.2007 at 10:39 AM
darrel’s comment is:

Kevin...you're soaked in ironic ranting. You might want to towel off there.

On Aug.23.2007 at 09:54 AM
adam’s comment is:

the funny slash ironic part is that the song is done in the "gangsta rap" style. you are atalking about the clichés and whatnot in the rap vid as being outdated and passé, but the whole heavy/hair metal style is soooooo last year. =P

i laughed at the gangsta rap video. i could not even listen to the entire metal "mtlb" song. it was horrendous. i tried cause the premise was good, but the music was shite. and i am not even a fan of rap, more a fan of some good ol hardcore.

On Aug.23.2007 at 06:35 PM
Kevin Hopp’s comment is:

Thanks for the insight, but evidently I don't see the irony in:

Stop being a negative %*&#!

On Aug.24.2007 at 03:34 PM
Eric Strohl’s comment is:

I just am grooving on the NC namedrop.

On Aug.24.2007 at 07:45 PM
Gary Thompson’s comment is:

Wow. Don't you folks have any work to do?
Really?

On Aug.30.2007 at 05:00 PM
Logo Lover’s comment is:

Gary, I love your elephant logo. Seriously, maybe you have some work to do yourself?

On Aug.30.2007 at 09:51 PM
Andrew Bass’s comment is:

Wow....that's what comes to my mind when I read through these posts. My comments are strictly to the initial post...thoughts on the video.

First off, I am a designer who just happens to be black. I saw the video and it's basically a parody of the industry and pop culture. Hip-hop has become pop culture.

Is this video offensive? Hell no.

Is it funny? Depends on who views it...it didn't make me bust a gut but I thought it was ok.

Does Kyle have the right to riff on hip-hop and design? Hell yeah he does.

Folks, get a grip...it's just a humorous take on stuff. Damn, and it is no where in the same league as that BS poster from the "Pimp My Brand" competition from ADC.

Kyle, keep doing your funny parodies. It's all good.

On Sep.04.2007 at 10:35 AM
Rachel Goldstein’s comment is:

:-) Very funny. I thought that your users would like this post about funny graphic design jokes, humor, & parodies - actually this is one of the videos that I have listed on my post - http://allgraphicdesign.com/graphicsblog/2007/10/29/funny-graphic-design-jokes-humor-satires-parody-anecdotes/ - I hope you enjoy.

Rachel

On Nov.20.2007 at 12:15 PM