You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Pittsburgh’ tag.

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I was going to show you the new blossom monsters I made to celebrate the annual blooming of the cherry tree in my back garden in Brooklyn, however, when I looked at the date on the calendar, I realized that today (April 25th) is World Penguin Day! Considering the threats faced by our black and white friends down under, I am going to keep the monsters in the hopper for tomorrow and dedicate today’s post to penguins.

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The Mascot for the Lincoln Children’s Zoo

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Anonymous “Off-the-rack” Mascot from China

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by BiorgnSea9. Designed and Created by Jemm3 of Deviant Art

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Theta Phi Alpha’s Penguin

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The Pittsburgh Penguins Mascot

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Now I could write about actual penguins (for their lives are intense and interesting) or I could write about literary penguins, or about penguins in zoos. Yet, it seems to me that some of the most instantly recognizable penguins are mascots and corporate logos. I don’t need to write a natural history treatise on penguins or call your attention to Anatole France in order to make you love penguins.  If you are a good-hearted person, you already love them (if you are a hard-hearted monster who hates our flightless friends, what are you doing here? You need to stop reading and reexamine your life from bottom to top).

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Tuxedo Sam

So here is a gallery of penguin logos and mascots for you to enjoy.Linux and Penguin Books are among the more noble corporate entities out there, but there all sorts of other mascot penguins of all sorts.

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I have hundreds of penguin classic books!  I love this logo! But what about the classic cover design?

There are more penguin mascots than you could ever imagine. I have spared you from the thousands upon thousands of designs, costumes, and logos I have found and just put up a few of the highlights.  One thing the World Penguin Day mascot hunt has taught me is that people like penguins more than we even know.  We need to work harder to protect our elegant little feathered friends.   If they start going to be extinct we are going to be shockingly sad.

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If you are looking for poison control center and have arrived here by some dreadful search engine mistake you should call 1-800-222-1222 (presuming you are in the United States).  If you are not in the United States here is the World Health Organization’s interactive map of worldwide poison control centers.  Quick! Don’t wait around here!

OK, now that they’re getting the help they need, we can delve into today’s post which concerns the ambiguity of iconography–more specifically this is the history of poison control mascot, Mr. Yuk, an icon of Generation X childhood.

Since at least the nineteenth century, chemical manufacturers have used skulls, skeletons, and crossbones to label poisonous compounds.  In fact for a while toxic substances were sold in cobalt blue glass skulls (which you can probably still find at an antique shop).  By the twentieth century, the skull and crossbones was almost universally known as the symbol for poison—and it still is—well, except in Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh had a problem: their famously up-and-down professional baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, were inextricably linked to the Jolly Roger an age-old symbol of pirates.  The Jolly Roger is basically a poison label, but it was plastered all over all sorts of Pirates merchandise.

Dr. Richard Moriarty, a Pittsburgh pediatrician and poison center pioneer, saw the skull and bones everywhere in Pittsburgh and was worried that children would be confused.  Even beyond Pittsburg, the world is filled with pirate themed Halloween candy and Long John Silver’s marketing and thoughtless graphic art.  Moriarty proposed a new poison label which would speak more directly to children.

The art for Mr. Yuk was created by Wendy (Courtney) Brown, a grade school student who won a drawing contest.  Wendy’ original conception was altered somewhat to make the character more vivid–the stick figure body was chopped off and only a grimacing head remains.  The poison control team chose acid-green as the color for their mascot by finding which color least appealed to children.  One young study participant described the overall effect as “Yucky” and the name stuck.

Today “Mr. Yuk” is the exclusive intellectual property of Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, but they no longer release sheets of stickers (which were omnipresent back in my childhood).  Times change, and a new crop of market researchers have shown that kids are drawn towards Mr. Yuk stickers simply because they are stickers.  Plus a few restless generations of toymakers and marketers have demystified the green color and the sour face.  Even Mr. Yuk’s name conveys less force in a multi-cultural world—maybe he’s just Tibetan or something.  Of course the skull and crossbones still has problems too.  Since the 1970’s there are even more pirate teams running around (to say nothing of the computer pirates and Disney pirate-theme franchises which have burgeoned since then).  It’s a real problem: what should the personification of poison be.  How does a toxic mascot stay toxic as our symbols and color change meanings?

Um, Don’t eat this poisonous sword-flag?

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