Design can be flashy and attention-grabbing, and when it is, we all take notice. But sometimes the best designs do the exact opposite, simply blending into the fabric of culture in such a way that we take them for granted. That has long been the case for the ubiquitous blue and purple paintbrush stroke design on disposable paper cups you’ve likely used dozens of times over your life without even thinking about. This Tumblr has a collection of all the other places it’s turned up over the years as well.
A couple months back some curious sleuths on Reddit wanted to get to the bottom of the iconic design. Their search, as Thomas Gounley, in the News-Leader reported, over turned enough clues that eventually the unheralded artist behind it was eventually revealed. The design, known as Jazz, was, it turns out, created by a woman named Gina Ekiss, working for the Sweetheart Cup Company in Springfield, Missouri back in 1989.
Ekiss submitted “three or four ideas,” and other colleagues did the same. The decision was made in 1990 or 1991, she said.
“They came back and said that was the one they wanted to go with, and what did I call it,” she said. “I had no idea. So I had to come up with a name for it, so we just called it jazz.”
The story about Gounley’s search for her, delving into the history of paper products is worth reading in its entirety. She was asked how it feels to have designed something that’s become so recognizable, and such a distinct marker of a specific period in time.
“I’m not sure how to answer that,” she said. “It just seems so insane to me.”