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Racial Sensitivity in Paper Promotion?

Aka Why Context Matters


I’m such a paper reusing freak that I’m  just getting around to breaking out one of the promotional notepads I got at last year’s How Conference in Bahstun.

So I’m in a meeting with one of our client-partners using said notepad and they exclaim, “what the h@$#ck does that mean?” pointing to the aforementioned notepad. I  look down and read what you see above. I initially didn’t see anything wrong with this. But you have to understand the context in which I was first introduced to it. This was a paper mill’s promo item, given to me along with a whole bunch of other stuff, branded to the hilt and accompanied by supporting messaging. So “Whites for all occasions” seemed like a way to refer to the range of white paper offerings…right?

Seeing it through our client’s eyes though… it definitely has other connotations. Now the client we were meeting with isn’t the type to be easily offended, so there was no harm done, and since then I’ve shown it to a few other people who thought it was hilarious. But the incident made me think… suppose we were meeting with another kind of client, one who didn’t know us as well, or maybe was more sensitive about these things than we are? I have to admit that if I was looking at the statement without knowing the context, it might raise my eyebrow… but what do you think?

Andrew Davies

Drew's degrees in Illustration, 2D animation and Broadcast Design, and his volleyball skillz mean he can get your design done and play well with others at the same time. He’s the Creative Director at Paragon and will call you out if you start hanging out with shady-looking fonts and messing around with whacked-out color palettes.


3 thoughts on “Racial Sensitivity in Paper Promotion?

  1. Burton says:

    In most of my meetings “someone” asks me, “What the h@$#ck does that mean?”

    … But enough about me. The paper company can find a useful synonym for “whites” that would not be open to risky interpretation.
    Harmless shop-talk using industry terms for paper? Yep, but the “whites” word is a slow pitch waiting to be slammed, a set-up waiting for the punch line, and I’ve endured enough cubical minds to steer away from those set-ups.
    Funny stationery though, makes me think about other scenarios…

  2. Yeah, we wondered how a phrase like that got through the rounds of meetings and approvals without someone getting a clue.

  3. Marc says:

    This is likely a case of inside produced marketing. Internal persons are too attached to the industry and it’s jargon, or maybe just worked on a project too much, and certain buzzwords make sense in the context of their internal discussions, but are meaningless to outsiders that weren’t there for the brainstorming session.

    Funny though that they did this and also that you had it for a year and were using it without a thought, it took someone even more outside the loop to recognize it.

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