food for selfish thought

food for selfish thought:

biased observations that you may not agree with

a supreme clusterf**k

Let's talk branding.

As I sit here and stare at Adobe Illustrator, pondering masthead designs for my magazine I can't help but think of Supreme. A skate brand founded in 1994, Supreme is quite an interesting case study on branding and merchandising. If you know anything about Supreme, it would be their famous logo, recognizable from five hundred feet away. A red rectangle with Supreme in Futura Heavy Oblique written inside it. 


I want my magazine's masthead to have this kind of recognizability. That logo is so simple and so powerful, and if you have no idea that Supreme is a skate brand, it doesn't really have any valence—something I am also striving for in my masthead. Their logo is so iconic, in fact, that much of their merchandise takes advantage solely of slapping it onto whatever product they're releasing. This has to do in large part with their schtick on consumerism, which I will write about in another post. Take, for example, their classic box logo tee. Every time they release a new one of these, it is so hard to get your hands on that the resale prices are absolutely mind-numbing.  

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They are infamous for their ridiculous accessories, which also take advantage of just slapping a logo onto something made by somebody else and then selling it. Here's an example from their latest season this year, an official Fender Stratocaster that is now a Supreme product because of that tiny but instantly recognizable red box logo. 


If the thought hasn't already crept into your head by now that this logo looks familiar, you should know that this logo isn't exactly original. Supreme has received heavy criticism for ripping off Barbara Kruger, an American conceptual artist credited as the originator of using Futura Heavy Oblique type on red backgrounds. Now, plagiarism is not the debate or point I want to raise in this post, but it is only appropriate to address it. This explicit "inspiration" on Supreme's part falls right into that gray area that so much of art inspiration/plagiarism does, but where critics say they really crossed the line was when they attempted to sue Barbara Kruger to protect their logo, essentially asking that she stop creating her artwork.

Now, like I said, I don't want to get wrapped up in this debate when my real focus is being inspired by Supreme's recognizable box logo. But, if you would like to know how Barbara feels on the whole thing, here are some parting words:   

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Wade Burton