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Left, Intel’s print ad campaign. Right, a Harper’s Weekly illustration of slaves working a cotton gin.

a dangerously, uncontrollable, powerful physical specimen.

copy is centered and set in all caps in a sans-serif meant

In the nineties, this is beautiful. When something is

to evoke technology.

thought of as beautiful, it is considered sexy. In this case, the sexually charged black male remains.” With itscirculation of more than 1.1 million subscribers with an average annual income of $68,667, Vogue

Looking at the intended visual metaphor for an instance, it’s hard to see how this new processor will be fast, because once the starting gun goes off, the sprinters are going to run into each other. If the sprinters had been placed next to

should strive to be more thoughtful when it comes to repre-

the manager, with their heads raised, then perhaps the ad

senting race. (

would have read differently.

Intel In 2007, Intel launched a poster campaign for its Core2 Duo Processor that showed a white man standing in the middle of office cubicles with his arms crossed and a satisfied smile on his face. He wears khakis and button-down blue shirt. He is flanked by two rows of African-American sprinters who appear to be taking their block-start positions. They are dressed identically and their heads are bowed. The copy at the top of the ad reads: “Multiply computing performance and maximize the power of your employees.” The connotative message that the company is trying to get across is that its chips possess the speed of these top

The ad was pulled and Intel apologized for running it: “Intel’s   intent of our ad titled ‘Multiply Computing Performance and Maximize the Power of Your Employees’ was to convey the performance capabilities of our processors through the visual metaphor of a sprinter. We have used the visual of sprinters in the past successfully. Unfortunately, our execution did not deliver our intended message and in fact proved to be insensitive and insulting. Upon recognizing this, we attempted to pull the ad from all publications but, unfortunately, we failed on one last media placement. We are sorry and are working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again” (Bhagat). 

sprinters, and that a single man can harness this power. But the ad’s denotative meaning supersedes the original intent and brings to mind a time when blacks were slaves and white men their masters. That the sprinters are all dressed alike reinforces this model as each man is no different than the other and therefore only exists as a machine meant to serve. The design is symmetrical with the exception of the central figure, who stands slightly to the right. This position partially blocks the view of the last sprinter and creates a visual tension that immediately draws the eye. The main


Think Before You Type | The Persistence and Evolution of Racial Stereotypes in Contemporary Design

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm  
Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm  

Think Before You Type by Nancy Palm. 2012 Thesis