Sammy Nickalls
June 19, 2015 7:56 am

We’ve all sipped a drink from a paper cup that boasts *the* design. You know the one, the thick teal-ish brush stroke, accented with a thin violet squiggle. It’s very ’90s, very Saved By the Bell. This fabulously retro motif is so commonplace, so normal, so part of our daily lives, and has been for so long that we’re willing to wager not many of you have thought about it before — even as it occupies the cups we drink from, the plates we eat off of, the paper goods we use on the regular.

What many don’t know is that that paper cup design actually has a name, a fan base, and a designer responsible for its presence on this here planet. The design is called “Jazz” and the fans are very legit: You can buy shirts with the design, there are cars with the design, and even a Facebook page with several thousand likes. But who birthed this quotidian masterpiece? Redditors took answering that question into their own hands, and went on a hunt to figure it out.

It all started 10 days ago when the Redditor mcglaven submitted a request for an AMA with the designers of Jazz. “Google searches turn up nothing about their identity; perhaps the crowdsourced brain of Reddit can help,” mcglaven wrote. The Redditor then asked the mystery designer five questions about how the designer has been compensated, his or her feelings about the success of Jazz, and his or her overall career.

One Redditor, pdschatz, responded: “I was part of a community of artists on the Internet that helped appropriate the Solo Jazz design back in 2010 or 2011 [after it had existed for years]. 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.”

The Redditor further explained that the design was created by a designer named Gina who worked for the Sweetheart cup company in Springfield, Missouri, during the ’80s and ’90s. “. . . I hope you guys can find Gina,” pdchatz wrote. “I really like her design, but I also doubt that she understands the emotional impact the cup has on children born in the ’80s and raised in the ’90s.”

That’s when writer Thomas Gounley from Springfield’s paper the News-Leader became interested in the story and started doing some digging, determined to find the designer (apparently from his town) who had so deeply influenced a generation. Thanks to the majesty of Twitter, and good sleuthing skills, Gounley found Gina Ekiss (nee Gina Boyd-Burgess), a 50-year-old woman who back in 1991 came up with the design.

Gina was one of 32 artists who competed in a contest to come up with a new company stock image. Since the design would be printed quickly and on so many things, Gina explained that they needed something that wasn’t *too* detail oriented. Something “that if it misregistered [sic] slightly, it wasn’t going to matter,” Gina told News-Leader. Each artist submitted three or four ideas.

“They came back and said that [mine] was the one they wanted to go with, and what did I call it,” Gina told News-Leader. “I had no idea. So I had to come up with a name for it, so we just called it jazz.” Why did she choose teal and purple? Because they were her two fave colors! Aw!

Oh, and she did answer one of mcglaven’s questions, which was: “What does it feel like to have something you designed become a part of ’90s culture that will be remembered for generations?” SERIOUSLY. We will always remember those infamous purple-and-teal cups!

“I’m not sure how to answer that,” Gina laughed, according to News-Leader. “It just seems so insane to me.”

Insane, indeed! Either way, this story is totally fascinating. How could we have not considered the origins of Jazz before? Gina is our unsung ’90s heroine. We’re so glad to finally sing her praises.

To see the full coverage of Gina and Jazz, check out News-Leader‘s interview with her here.

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[Images via, via, via]

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