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Anal Queen infant onesies, gang-related German beer steins, and the future of design
May 2, 2012 8:43 PM   Subscribe

"I first started seeing them in Google Image searches; the most random queries were returning pictures of t-shirts, trucker hats, and especially ties that were truly uncanny." Spam-erican Apparel: a profusely illustrated essay on the deep -- and perhaps prophetic -- oddness of Zazzle. (by Babok Radboy)
posted by neroli (29 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
For a design company seeking to conjure the random and uncanny, they put a lot of focus on mocking black people...
posted by eurypteris at 8:49 PM on May 2, 2012


For a design company seeking to conjure the random and uncanny, they put a lot of focus on mocking black people...

Those are user-submitted. Poe's law in effect.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 9:07 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I Believe In Butter!
posted by hippybear at 9:08 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I Believe in Adhesive Ducks was the one that got me.
posted by Edogy at 9:11 PM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


@ferdinand

I retract my previous comment. Zazzle, my apologies. Zazzle customers, please stop being giant turds.
posted by eurypteris at 9:23 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just really, really want a lot of those shirts.
posted by FeralHat at 9:26 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The weirdest thing Zazzle has ever tried to sell me was a hoodie emblazoned with the names of fictional 15 year olds I'd kicked off of my fictional soccer team's even more fictional youth team for sucking too much. Honestly, even a hoodie with the names of fictional soccer players that I hadn't cut would be pretty weird. Anyway, godspeed, Rolland Gary, Token Fernandes, and Doyle Bobo. You were too pure for the fictional world, and also had very low potential ratings.
posted by Copronymus at 9:27 PM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I like random german t-shirt designs better.
posted by palbo at 9:29 PM on May 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hey, I sell on Zazzle! That is, I think I've sold about 3 items in the last 5 years...
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:36 PM on May 2, 2012


Zazzle, the Cafepress for people late to the internet.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:42 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


palbo, thanks to you my wife just bought a t-shirt that says "Tomato Girl of the Apocalypse," with a stick figure of a man holding a spear next to the text.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:31 AM on May 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


ShroudedLake is awesomely surreal:
Gort, Klaatu barada nikto.
WTF happened to my shirt?
Oh yeeaaahhhh, security cam!
posted by metaplectic at 12:39 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


My campy favorite: Judge People!
posted by Goofyy at 4:21 AM on May 3, 2012


I would seriously buy and rock this one exactly as depicted. Although it does kind of make me think of Li'l Sebastian. Sniff.
posted by emmtee at 4:47 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would wager that these aren't designed by bots. It would be possible but frustrating to create a bot capable of manipulating the Zazzle shirt creation interface.

It's much more likely that they're feeding images and text produced by a bot to Mechanical Turk, and asking Turkers to create Zazzle designs.
posted by honest knave at 5:29 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's something about this that I find deeply unsettling, but I can't figure out what.
posted by windykites at 5:46 AM on May 3, 2012


I Believe In Butter!

So does this lady. I know her and she's pretty cool, though I am not much of a blog reader.
posted by Foosnark at 6:18 AM on May 3, 2012


Well, to be fair, eurypteris, if somebody builds a giant, omnidirectional, rapid-fire turd catapult in the middle of a public park, then says "We need turds! Please bring us your turds! As many as you can make! Turds, turds, turds!" And people do bring them turds by the thousands, and they proceed to launch the turds all over the place, randomly, in every direction until the whole park is covered in shit, there's plenty of blame to go around.
posted by Naberius at 6:29 AM on May 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


I just don't understand. Are the people just making shirts of public domain images profiting off this? People spend real money for a shirt with a close-up image of parsley?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:31 AM on May 3, 2012


Look upon the Bestsellers and despair.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:44 AM on May 3, 2012


There's something about this that I find deeply unsettling

It all makes me think of Gibson's Cornell box-producing AI, if the AI were a spam-bot and Cornell boxes were junk mail.

I Believe In Butter!

So does this guy. Hm. Maybe I can get that mug on a mug ...
posted by octobersurprise at 6:55 AM on May 3, 2012


My one and only Zazzle purchase, solely because Zazzle 'banned' it for copyright infringement, then brought it back, then offered it for half-price as an apology.
posted by pupdog at 7:04 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just really, really want a lot of those shirts.

I found it deeply ironic (I think? right? ironic? or maybe just disappointing?) that when Zazzle (a t-shirt company!) took over the sponsorship of the 100th SF Bay to Breakers (an event with a rich cultural and graphical history!) in 2011, the official t-shirts were boringly, fuckingly ugly.
posted by psoas at 7:09 AM on May 3, 2012


Amazingly almost everything they make is amazing.

Amazed.
posted by mippy at 7:37 AM on May 3, 2012


Interesting that the top image looks remarkably similar to a design sold by MeFi's own Amorphia Apparel. (Which itself is derivative, I know. Might be simultaneous invention. Maybe.)
posted by adamrice at 7:54 AM on May 3, 2012


MetaFilter: a giant, omnidirectional, rapid-fire turd catapult in the middle of a public park . . . there's plenty of blame to go around.
posted by The Bellman at 8:40 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could've sworn that the picture in this anonymous AskMe post originally linked to Zazzle since the poster didn't know about Tinypic or other free anonymous image hosting. I guess a moderator changed it, but it was sure weird seeing that dude's neck hair on a mug mockup page.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:00 PM on May 3, 2012


Wow - some of these are brilliant.

How is money made here? Are they living off accidental clicks and "nearsighted grandmother" purchases like the amazon web scrapers? Or, are they actively pitching for those of us who thrill to discord?

If the later, it's brilliant. I'd never heard of the site before this post, but I've already seen more printed T-shirts I'd actually want to wear in these bot stores than I have in every other store I've ever seen, combined. There's no irony like accidental irony.

The only problem is sorting the wheat from the chaff. There's got to be some cheap, crowd sourced way to distinguish between interesting chaos and boring chaos. That is, other than waiting for Babok Radboy to do it by hand. . . which works pretty well, but isn't exactly scalable.

As far as outsider art goes, a second-rate, public-domain-image crawling web-bot is pretty far outside.
posted by eotvos at 10:22 PM on May 3, 2012


you guys are thinking wrong. For each one sale per thousand generated, that is one sale. It cost nothing to run the bots, and that is basically free money.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:08 PM on May 3, 2012


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