What's the history of the demotivational poster?
March 6, 2009 11:46 AM   Subscribe

What is the origin of the "demotivational poster" internet meme?

I'm looking for a history of the demotivational posters popularized on 4chan (I think).
Here are examples from the company that the Wikipedia says popularized them. A search on Encyclopedia Dramatica returned nothing.

Where were they started? And by whom?
posted by hpliferaft to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I thought Despair, Inc. came up with the idea, which was then popularized by 4chan et. al.
posted by xbonesgt at 11:48 AM on March 6, 2009

This is the relevant ED article, which also claims Despair is the originator. I wasn't writing things down or anything, but that does seem correct to me.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:51 AM on March 6, 2009

You are, I assume, familiar with the motivational posters upon which they're based? I think those are just a natural object of parody--I doubt any one source could be identified, though there will likely be multiple claims of "I did it first."
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2009

The true origin of the meme lie in the office posters sold by Successories. [Wikipedia]

I concur that Despair, Inc. were the first out of the gate with parodies.
posted by eschatfische at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2009

Despair started running them as spoofs to the once omnipresent (and imho saccharin) motivational posters from successories and others.

Some people take comfort in aphorisms like "Eagles Don't Flock" or "Don't Wait for Your Ship to Come In; Swim Out and Get It!"; others take more pleasure in lampooning them (them being both the signs and the people).

I don't know exactly when they started, but I had a calendar from Despair as early as 1998.
posted by mr_felix_t_cat at 11:57 AM on March 6, 2009

I wasn't aware that this was an internet meme. These posters have been around since the early days of the net -- and I first saw them off the net. I'm pretty sure that Despair, Inc. started them, too, and at least by 1998, if not earlier.
posted by jdroth at 11:59 AM on March 6, 2009

as all have said, despair, inc. my dad use to show me these and jack handey's deeper thoughts when i'd go to his office when i was in high school - so 96-98, i'd think.
posted by nadawi at 12:41 PM on March 6, 2009

Definitely Despair. It's funny, because this "meme" has come full circle now. There was a question on Ask a while back where someone linked to a Despair poster with a comment to the effect of "how did a company accidentally print a fake motivational poster? Did anonymous pull that off?"

I just realized today that my boss' boss (the one I'm still not sure if I can tell a joke to) has both a motivational poster and a demotivational poster hanging in his office. I think that means I can tell him jokes.

posted by niles at 1:54 PM on March 6, 2009

I love the fact that the Successories prints come in frames fitted with "shatter-resistant tempered glass". There must be a cadre of employee who attempts to protest against them with less refined weapons than parody.
posted by rongorongo at 4:31 PM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just a me-too post, I do recall visiting www.despair.com what I assume was pretty soon after it launched and being thankful for a counterbalance to the saccharine of Successories (which seemed to show up all over in the mid 90s). Can't remember the exact year, but 97-98 seems right.
posted by meinvt at 5:10 PM on March 6, 2009

Despair.com is indeed correct. I worked for them for seasonal employment a few years ago. Great people. I highly recommend "The Art of Demotivation", chairman's edition, if you have the means.
posted by skechada at 6:46 PM on March 6, 2009

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