I Want You (Not!)

The recent July 4th promotion for Ted (the movie, not the multimillion-dollar conference and video series) shows the faithfully lewd bear created by Seth MacFarlane in a familiar pose. The “I Want You” cliche began in a 1914 recruitment poster showing Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, declaring he “Wants You.” In the war of words and pictures, it was copied by the Russian artist Dimitri Moor in support of Bolshevik forces against the whites; James Montgomery Flagg supporting American involvement in World War I; as well as by German and French propagandists.



Since then, the Flagg version has been reused for subsequent U.S. army recruitment campaigns, as well as in parody, satire, and illustration. The “I Want You” trope is such an easy cliche to appropriate, its revival occurs once every 35 days (estimated). So, please, I WANT YOU—designers, illustrators, art directors, creative directors, Mad Men, clients, secretaries, gag writers, copywriters, and anyone else with creative pretensions—to STOP using this cliche!

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For more Steven Heller, check out his book The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?—one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.

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