This post, which I offered with tongue firmly in cheek, reminded me of an article I read almost two years ago, in which:

Graphic designer and artist Johnny [Kid Tartan] Plaid … envisioned a drastic update for the iPhone 6.

The iPhone 6 hadn’t yet become available at that point. But Kid Tartan’s design did suggest some questions were in order:

  1. Where the hell was Apple?
  2. Did Kid Tartan work for Apple?
  3. If not, did Apple have the rights to sue the virtual shorts off of Kid Tartan and/or Business Insider?
  4. When did popular, consumer brands become fair game for the imaginings and re-creations of the Kid Tartans of the world?
  5. If Kid Tartan and Business Insider can choose to play with the Apple brand, can they do it to our brands?
  6. In light of the bawdy bastardization of the Wendy’s brand, it’s only fair to wonder: Is no brand sacred — or are we free to distort and depict at will?

I don’t mean to be a stick in the mud. By all means, let’s have some fun. But let’s pull up short of demeaning, shall we? Let’s err on this side of compromising a company’s ability to have its commercial and creative endeavors taken seriously, let alone accepted lucratively.

It seems rather odd that in this age of diminishing free-speech rights, we seem to be witnessing the dawning of free-graphic-representation rights, in which we’re free to demean any brand, as long as it purports to be “good, clean fun” and/or to “advance” the design of a graphic mark or a consumer product. Whatever happened to hands off?

And I’m not insinuating brands necessarily should be sacrosanct. They are at bottom, and in a ruthlessly realistic sense, manifestations of commercial artifice. They exist as elements of attraction and persuasion, as enticements to buy. Nevertheless — for as long as we remain in business and for as long as our businesses are not volunteer enterprises — they  do remain our most valuable assets.

Out of respect for those assets, we shouldn’t trifle with them, nor should we permit them to be trifled with. If we allow them to be trivialized, they will be. And if we allow our target audiences to perceive them as trivial, our target audiences will oblige us.

Letting the Kid Tartans of the world under-value our brands is out of bounds. Let’s not stand for it. Let’s treat our brands — and insist they be treated — with the reverence they deserve.

Otherwise, we’ll have designs on disaster.

By Zorro2212 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.