Motivation, reconsidered

Posted by Rob Walker on March 24, 2008
Posted Under: "Good Design" (Tyranny of),The Designed Life,Work

Were I ever to organize an exhibition of stealth iconography in American life, I would be sure to include that poster of a kitten clinging to a tree: “Hang In There.” You’ve seen it.

I think it’s fair to count such posters as an example of the “motivational” genre. You’ve seen other examples of that, too. Posters exhorting you, basically, to do a better job, in settings as diverse as cubicle farms and the factory floor. These are the kinds of posters we are so used to seeing that we no longer see them.

Which makes it a form ripe for re-visiting.

One re-visitation strategy is the parody. Just the other day I was reminded of Demotivators, a line of posters and products by, “Increasing Success By Lowering Expectations.” It’s funny stuff. I wonder if an endless recession-speculation newsloop helps their business? I would think so.

Another strategy that’s popular in many categories is basically: update, modernize, reinvent in a way that’s more in-line with today’s taste standards. Given that motivational posters are among the most vapid forms of communication ever devised, I assumed that this approach simply could not apply here. However, these Alternative Motivational Posters (encountered this weekend via Ffffound) have proved me wrong. Some of them actually look pretty nice.

Will I be buying any? Well, I only have one employee, and I know he’s way too much of a malcontent to reach with this sort of thing, because he’s me.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

OK, I remember the poster, but I thought it was a Koala.

Written By E on March 24th, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

Every other page I stumble these days seems to be a ‘funny’ version of these motivational posters…there are literally MILLIONS of them floating about in cyberspace. Some of them are quite humorous, many others are wigada wigada wigada whack!

That was my tribute to Kris Kross, the greatest hip-hop act ever! YES, EVER! Haha!

Written By Josephine on March 24th, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

E: Google image searching indicates that it’s mostly kittens, but there are other variations. I didn’t see a Koala, but did see a frog, and some other, fuzzier animals. Also Pooh bear.

Josephine: You don’t have to explain kris-kross references to me of course, BUT, I am interested if you mean the satirical style like the Demotivators? I did not know there were lots of examples of that. I’ll look into it, but if you have any tips you care to share, please do!

Written By Rob Walker on March 24th, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

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