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The instantly-recognizable Jazz aesthetic is quintessentially ‘90s. And the company that owns the cup design doesn’t want you to enjoy it.
What is the Jazz Solo cup design?
The Solo Jazz Pattern is an iconic turquoise and purple sketch pattern on waxed paper cups. Sweetheart Cup Company originally manufactured these cups in 1992.
It looks like a combination of crayon and brush strokes, but the medium was charcoal — random yet perfectly intentional, jagged yet rhythmic. And the particular shades of purple and blue are well suited for a zip-up windbreaker (also very ‘90s).
Though almost anyone who was alive in the ‘90s would recognize it, the pattern has a particularly devoted online fan base. It later experienced increased mainstream popularity after a 2015 Reddit campaign sought to find its designer.
But with so many other recognizable patterns and logos out there, you may be wondering:
Why is the Jazz aesthetic such an iconic design?
The cups may be disposable, but the design itself remains popular, even decades later.
For many, the design is reminiscent of childhood birthday parties and family cookouts, but the nostalgia doesn’t stop there.
One of the most iconic bands of all time, Nirvana made a significant mark on ‘90s culture. Their MTV Unplugged set continues to be a highlight of their career and of the series itself. And you guessed it; there’s a Jazz cup appearance with none other than frontman Kurt Cobain.
It’s not just that the cup is recognizable — the context is fun and memorable. Unlike red Solo cups’ association with college parties and drinking games, the Jazz cup represents an all-ages, nostalgic view of a simpler time.
Where is the Jazz design used other than on cups?
It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen one of these cups in the wild. If you’ve seen the design at all, it’s likely in the form of a Photoshop mockup or a meme. Try finding a Jazz design phone case or t-shirt online. Even sites notorious for knock-off designs like, Redbubble and Amazon, rarely have products available for purchase. At least, not for very long after going live.
No products found.
The design’s elusive nature could explain why so many are interested in it. But why would such an eye-catching, nostalgia-inducing visual be so hard to find, especially when ‘90s aesthetics inspire many recent TikTok trends?
That, friends, is where the story gets interesting. Let’s just say that the cup runneth over with delicious, scandalous tea.
What’s the story behind the Jazz design?
In 2015, Reddit user /u/mcglavin posted the following in /r/AMA.
And like Reddit famously does on the regular, it found the designer. Not only that, but members of the community behind the proliferation of Jazz Photoshops spoke out about their own role in its popularity.
“So, I was a part of a community of artists on the internet that helped appropriate the Solo Jazz design back in 2010 or 2011. We created a series of templates of the design, including vectors, and put it on everything we possibly could. We made a facebook page, we made a tumblr, sold shirts, and eventually, one of us decided to contact Solo Corp. about the design.”
Solo wasn’t supportive. But let’s backtrack a bit to the design’s inception.
Who created the Jazz Solo cup design?
With a solid string of evidence and after speaking to her, the internet and local media concluded that Gina Ekiss created the Jazz design.
In response to Reddit’s findings, the Springfield News-Leader interviewed Gina to hear her story.
Stephanie Miller has contested this story, saying that her work is what the design is based on. The company’s feedback was that it was too “forward-thinking,” a hilarious observation in retrospect.
Collectively, there is more evidence that Gina created the design, but we may never know for sure. A Solo representative agreed with this sentiment.
“At this time, our best assumption is that a former employee named Gina created the design, but we are unable to confirm whether this is accurate or not.”
Gina was never paid a single dollar of bonus or royalty for her work, which is interesting because…
Corporations Gonna Corporation
Through various acquisitions (by the Solo Cup Company, which Dart Container acquired), the ownership of this design has traded hands a few times.
Similar to the aggressive tactics of companies like Disney or Nintendo, they just really don’t want you to use the design. Anywhere. Even if it’s just for memes, not profit.
One artist, Christopher Locke, was selling the Jazz design on ceramic mugs as a commentary on the wastefulness of disposable cups.
No products found.
Maybe they’re sensitive to commentary. Maybe they’re simply defending IP. But, as Locke said, it comes off more like “corporate bullshit.”
The company had official merch for sale at publication time of Vice’s article. It is currently a blank page with the URL slug “password.” Like media piracy, one could argue that not even attempting to offer your IP in an official capacity compels people to rip it off. What else would they do?
Unfortunately, it seems they have a love-hate relationship with the Jazz aesthetic.
“Many times Solo has often pondered removing it but customers demands and feedback have kept this cup around,” said one representative.
They don’t seem to have a particularly high regard for parody or fair use. They shut down various Instagram pages and a Facebook fan page. Content was also removed from Tumblr. It’s not even like they took official control over the Facebook page to moderate it. They just deleted it.
Oliver Tree’s music video for “All That x Alien Boy” featured the design on a monster truck and clothing as recently as 2018. Solo wasn’t happy with that, either.
Will we ever understand the rationale behind killing off free advertising?
Jazz, Jazz, and More Jazz
The Jazz aesthetic is more than a cup design — it’s an enduring cornerstone of ’90s culture.
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Last update on 2023-11-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API