“A pretty funny riff on rap.”
Steve Heller, The Daily Heller
“Somebody Hire This Guy…”
Alissa Walker, Unbeige
Nate Voss, Be A Design Group
“Stupid, yes, but still quite funny.”
Von Glitschka, HOW Forums
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.
Designer//Slash//Model, Digital Kitchen.
The Critic, Mel Brooks, 1963.