How far is too far?

muddy tire

With the recent clamor over the “mud flap” girl from the Wyoming Libraries, I began to muse over just how far is too far in library marketing?

The mud flap girl, to me, was an interesting use of an American cultural icon designed to highlight an auto repair database. The library took a chance in customizing a sexist symbol of a woman into something that would grab your attention and probably even make you chuckle. This sort of marketing is smart but can often be a double edged sword, as the original connotations of the edited symbol may overshadow the intent of the message. Do I think they should be ashamed to call themselves librarians for this concept? No.

Yes it is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the clever addition of the book and immediate connection to the symbol’s original mud flap origins, make this concept rise above being just derogatory. Some of the comments about the idea have called it “tacky” or “trashy” but the appropriation of this image is nothing short of ingenious. The most appropriate question raised so far has been:

I think it might get them talking, but it won’t get them reading.

Comment by Hannah 09.21.07 @ 3:30 pm


If that is the case, how do we bridge that gap between attention grabbing edgy marketing of the new “cooler” library and cleverly nudging the lapsed patrons back into perusing the stacks? One thing to remember is that when making a bold statement or utilizing something that you can immediately recognize the avenues for negative press; you must be ready to respond with your rational and decision making process. Every designer has that moment where the concept makes perfect sense to them, but is a mystery to everyone else.

It is important to also know your audience and make designs that make sense to them. For our libraries’ summer projects I designed a poster and concept referring to the Transformers movie released in summer 2007. Because of the nature of our library community and relative proximity of the projects start date and movie release; I thought this marriage would be a novel idea. It was met with some resistance but eventually went through and the concept took hold. The concept, concerning a reclassification and renovation of the libraries, was entitled “Transformation” and utilized a similar font to the that of the movie.

Personally I would be in favor of any type of clever marketing campaigns that realize the scope of their influence and find ways to be “edgy” without being blatantly offensive. As some artist friends of mine used to say: “If you can’t make it good- make it big. If you can’t make it big-make it red.”

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