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The Graphic Stylings of Ken Jennings
Guest Editorial by Andrew Twigg

With 75 appearances on the nationally syndicated game show Jeopardy, Ken Jennings earned $2,520,700.00 over 74 consecutive wins — all-time record winnings for a television game show contestant, and a tie for most consecutive contestant appearances on a TV game show. Until Tuesday, Jennings’ only breaks throughout his streak were for season hiatuses and special tournaments.

A change in Jeopardy’s rules at the start of the 20th season in September of 2003 allows undefeated contestants to appear an unlimited number of times. Since no one had beaten Jennings, he continued to win money and further engrave his name in the record books. He also had many opportunities to render his name on Jeopardy’s famous blue player ID screen.

Jennings had taken to scribing - make that drafting - his name in a myriad of styles, from scrabble pieces to something that looks a bit like Milton Glaser’s Baby Teeth: Jennings changed the appearance of his name for every game.

Below are a few of the ways Jennings had written his name in his successful run:

Microsoft WordArt Ken

Like-a-Ken-Over-Troubled-Water Ken

I-can’t-think-of-anything-so-I’ll-just-make-a-big-“K” Ken

Scrabble Ken

Baby Teeth Ken

Miss AmeriKen

Swoosh-branded Ken

Optimistic “I’m gonna win $2.5 million on this show” Ken

One-Step-at-A-Time Ken


Spinal Tap Ken

50’s Car/Appliance/Camper Emblem Ken

Balloon Animal Ken

Keith Haring Ken

Star Trek: The Next GeneraKen

With the end of Jennings’ winning streak, this may mean the end of well-crafted names of Jeopardy contestants. One can only hope others will be inspired as they get their go at the blue screen.

P.S. — For those of you dying to know, Jennings lost in “Final Jeopardy” to an answer of “Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal, white-collar employees work only four months a year.” The question was “What is H&R Block?” but Jennings responded with “What is FedEx?” He lost by $5,602.

To hear the defeat of the Jeopardy master, you can click here.

Thanks to Ken Jennings’ Fans’ Journal for the images.

Andrew Twigg lives in Chicago where he teaches and runs envisid, a consultancy for visual media.

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ARCHIVE ID 2155 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Dec.01.2004 BY Speak Up
ben’s comment is:

"You gonna fall in the 4th round, the 4th, don't forget"

Who told him?

wife, jeapordy, himself. it was a quiz show fix.

On Dec.01.2004 at 10:32 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Andrew--this is wonderful and so lovely!

Thank you!

On Dec.01.2004 at 11:08 AM
sheepstealer’s comment is:

Here we have one of the reasons for our (designers’) existence.

Allow me to elaborate.

When I pitch a client I dress in a suit, but my work would still be the same if I was wearing a tshirt. When someone special comes to my house for dinner I put out the matching plates, but that doesn't make the food taste any different. Before I go on a date with my wife I comb my hair, but I'm still the same guy she's been stuck with for all these years. So why bother?

Because at the subconscious level I think we all understand what Ken seemed to understand — that putting extra efffort into appearances has value. (We all know that design is much more than appearance, but I'll save that debate for another day.)

Ken would still be Ken if he just wrote out his name in standard chicKEN scratch. But he deliberately put in some extra effort.

Thank you Ken.

And thank you to the “Ken's” of the world who expended the effort in using the power of design to show the world that appearances not only matter, they say something about who we are. Companies like Target, VW, Fossil, and of course, Apple.

On Dec.01.2004 at 01:18 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>it was a quiz show fix

Man, I totally agree! It was such an anticlimatic loss on such an obvious question. He also missed a couple of big double-jeopardy questions, something he'd never done before. I think he finally said "enough" — he knew that he'd beaten the game. He probably also missed his family and friends—hell, he'd been on the bloody show for almost 6 months, spanning two seasons.

>a tie for most consecutive contestant appearances on a TV game show

I thought the previous record was 42 consecutive appearances, which Ken easily beat. Are you sure?

Fun post.

On Dec.01.2004 at 01:41 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

>a tie for most consecutive contestant appearances on a TV game show

Ian Lygo set a record of 75 appearances on the British game show "The 100 Percent Show." Apparently, he was asked by show producers to step off because viewers were complaining that the show was getting boring.

That's the most reliable information I have, Tan. Google "Ian Lygo" and see what comes up. There are a number of AP sources giving the same information.

On Dec.01.2004 at 05:33 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Both might be correct. The record of 42 was probably for a US show — I think it was Joker's Wild or something stupid like that. I just remember Trebek specifically referring to that number on one show...

Thanks for the geek trivia reply :-)

On Dec.01.2004 at 06:14 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

No problem, Tan.

On Dec.01.2004 at 07:20 PM
monkeyinabox’s comment is:

At one point Ken said they taped 5 episodes a day, so even at 75 shows, that's only 15 days in the studio, 3 weeks. That's not too bad for 2.5 million.

On Dec.01.2004 at 07:21 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Branding damage control:

"H & R Block got hold of me and they've offered me free financial services for life," he said, grinning as if he had just nailed a question on medieval horticulture. "So that I never forget their name again."The New York Times

On Dec.01.2004 at 10:16 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

> At one point Ken said they taped 5 episodes a day

Can you imagine playing Jeorpardy 5 times in one day? I'd be exhausted. That might make the run even more impressive. I'd probably start drafting my name too if I had to do it 5 times a day for 3 weeks.

On Dec.01.2004 at 10:24 PM
Tan’s comment is:

The site said that the taping of all of Jennings’ shows actually took place in February, March, and April. The five shows a day rate probably was the extreme, not the norm.

But no matter how you slice it, what he did was damn impressive.

On Dec.01.2004 at 10:53 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

That's a great post!

On Dec.02.2004 at 10:04 AM
Schmittie’s comment is:

I-can’t-think-of-anything-so-I’ll-just-make-a-big-“K” Ken

That would look something like this!

On Dec.02.2004 at 12:52 PM
Jessica’s comment is:

i think it is 5 shows a day..every 2 weeks.. because jen said he was flying out every two weeks to tape the show.

or.. something or other.. but 5 shows then a break.

On Dec.02.2004 at 11:31 PM
ben’s comment is:

ken jennings is just making fun of everyone because he is so smart. like writing his name in greek.

On Dec.03.2004 at 11:06 AM
Omar’s comment is:

So now that he's famous...

They should invite him back for celebrity Jeopardy - or at least have him guest host.

On Dec.03.2004 at 04:26 PM
KMcC’s comment is:

Yeah, then he can actually trump Trebek, who only acts like he knows all the answers (ooh, I'm sorry, but we were looking for Jacques Cousteau...)

maybe he can take over when Trebek retires. The Jeopardy crowd will have a familiar name and face and it will be easy for the announcer to get it right every time.

On Dec.04.2004 at 09:48 AM
Art Fleming’s comment is:

The fix is in!! That truly was such an obvious question I can't believe he didn't get it.

I'm glad he lost. I was getting tired of the Ken Jennings Show. The only reason I tuned in the few times I did was to see if he lost. I think that's the only reason other people tuned in as well. It was a false victory. I don't mean to disrespect his vast knowledge. But, much of his victory is also due to the fact that after the first few shows he had mastered the buzzer. Ken Jenning's thumb won, not his brain.

On Dec.04.2004 at 11:06 AM
huny’s comment is:

But, much of his victory is also due to the fact that after the first few shows he had mastered the buzzer. Ken Jenning's thumb won, not his brain.

you can't be serious. even buzzing in first can't ensure you'll answer so many right. the man was winning by leaps and bounds on a regular basis...you really believe that's due to the buzzer? that's pretty silly.

as for it being fixed cause the question was SO obvious...perhaps that's what did him in. it was so obvious it eluded him. I had a complete brain fart when the question was asked as well and unlike ken, I get my taxes done at H&R block every single year. regardless, it wouldn't matter what question he lost on, people would still be screaming about conspiracies theories. such is the life of geeks ("not that there's anything wrong with that").

On Dec.04.2004 at 07:09 PM
:: jozjozjoz ::’s comment is:

Thanks for the collection of Ken name art!

On Dec.10.2004 at 11:14 PM
Greg’s comment is:

Great site!

Do you (or anybody) have all 75 stylings of "ken"?

On Dec.28.2004 at 05:38 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Greg, sorry, I think this is all we have. Andrew Twigg who wrote the article mentioned that this is what he could get his hands on.

On Dec.29.2004 at 08:33 AM
Jessie’s comment is:

I think Ken purposely lost because he felt he had won enough ! By the way, did he ever answer the question "How did he prepare for Jeopardy ! ?

How did he know all that stuff???

On Mar.24.2006 at 12:48 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> did he ever answer the question "How did he prepare for Jeopardy ! ?

I remember an interview where he disclosed the top 5 or so topics that increased your chances on Jeopardy. He said if you concentrated on them, your odds would be good. I don't remember them all, but they included:

> US presidents and their history — know their wives, their VPs, their term history, etc. backwards and forwards

> Geography — know every lake, town, and mountain on Earth

> the Bible — it's a very frequent source for questions. Since Ken was a devout Mormon, this ended up being one of his strongest categories.

> Film and television — names, awards, trivia, etc. Ken was also a movie buff and fanatic, which is another reason why he did so well.

> Shakespeare — apparently was the most common literary topic for final jeopardy questions

But what most people didn't realize was that Ken was sort of a professional trivia player. He belonged to a number of national trivia clubs, and spent much of his pasttime training and participating in local and national trivia competitions. He was grand champion of this trivia club, president of that trivia club, etc. He admitted that his goal was to train to become the greatest champion in Jeopardy history — which he accomplished. It wasn't by accident or random circumstance that he did what he did. There's nothing wrong with that.

On Mar.24.2006 at 02:04 PM
Eon Works’s comment is:

This is amusing. Mostly because it shows that nothing will escape human attention given enough exposure.

On Oct.26.2007 at 12:45 PM